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, February 26, 2008

My Mr. Darcy

Over the past couple of weeks I have been so caught up in the PBS production of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Sure, I read Austen in high school and college English classes--or maybe I just did the Cliff Notes. None were memorable enough to make me even want to see any of the Austen films or delve deeper into her writings. PBS's Pride and Prejudice has changed all that. The film has touched my heart because it reminds me that long ago I had my own Mr. Darcy.

Fitzwilliam Darcy, played by Colin Firth, is a man in conflict. From their first meeting he admires and eventually grows to love the beautiful and intelligent Elizabeth Bennet, played by Jennifer Ehle. This regard for her increases despite his distaste for her coarse, grasping mother, silly sisters, and weak father. Elizabeth is proud, but cleared-eyed when it comes to her family's shortcomings. She sees what they are doing to diminish the family's oh so important social status in an age when rank and reputation was everything. She warns her father that he must check the behavior of her younger sisters before lasting damage is done to the family. In this concern she is wise beyond her years. Sadly, her father's failures to rein in his daughters and challenge his wife almost doom the relationship between Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet.

That relationship had a rocky beginning. Mr. Darcy was distant and proud in his interactions with Elizabeth, although he was impressed with her beauty, intelligence, and social conduct. Their exchanges were between equals. When Mr. Darcy could no longer keep quiet about his feelings and burst into the Bennet's home to propose to Elizabeth it was bad. He essentially told her that neither she nor her family was worth his attention, but he must marry her anyway. Miss Bennet, to her credit, told him to get lost and quit interfering with her family. . .

My Mr. Darcy was complicating my life over 40 years ago. I was 20 years old and a college sophomore when I met him. Like Austen's Darcy, Ed was a dark-haired, handsome man. He was no Colin Firth, but he did share some of Mr. Darcy's more maddening characteristics--distant, proud, judgmental. I, on the other hand, had a definite streak of Miss Bennet in me.

Ed and I were both English majors. He was a year ahead of me in college. We were in classes together, studied together and generally hung out for quite some time. We had great discussions and shared the same sarcastic wit. Neither of us was very easy with the whole dating ritual.

Our living arrangements complicated the relationship even more. Ed lived on campus during the week and went home every weekend--a weekend warrior--to a doting family of his mother and several sisters. I lived off campus with a young family, earning money for college expenses by being a mother's helper. I had a wonderful life, but it was hard to be a part of the college scene without staying on campus.

So, Ed and I attended classes together, helped each other write papers and eventually starting some half-hearted dating. The relationship was hard from the beginning. Both of us were shy and proud, unwilling to go out on a limb by revealing any true feelings that we had for each other. There would be weeks when we would be very distant--no calls, no after class chats. I knew that the interest was still there though. Remember how Mr. Darcy would stand by the window or sit across the room observing Elizabeth? Well, Ed did the same thing. I also worked at the circulating desk of the university library. Ed always chose to do his studying when I was working. He always sat where he could see my desk, always studying alone, taking a break when I did.

Our friends watched us in despair--we were so inept at the relationship even though it was obvious that there was a real attraction between us. This photo is from a 1965 surprise 20th birthday party arranged by my young family. My more socially adept friends, like David and Sharon, were responsible for getting Mr. Anti-social to the party. Unlike Mr Darcy, Ed even danced that night.

Unlike Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet, our relationship remained complicated, although long lasting. Ed graduated a year before me, leaving campus without promising to stay in touch. I was broken hearted but recovered. Life was good at the time. I was busy learning to be a good teacher and living on my own in Kentucky and Florida.

As happens so often, I did meet up with Ed again. We found ourselves together again in graduate English literature classes. I'd be lying if I said that this was anything but hard for me. However, by that time Ed was married--a mistake from the wedding day he said. . .but he had a daughter whom he adored. I remember that we had a cup of coffee and one of our long chats after class for old times sake, but that was it. Too little, too late.

Pride and Prejudice is a great love story with lessons for us all. Willingness to communicate, to set aside pride and act with compassion and grace brought Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet together in the end. Maybe if my Mr. Darcy and I had tried harder our story would have ended differently. . .

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Blog Names and Swag

(The host of this week's Fun Monday Mariposa gives us a two part challenge. One, she wants to know the story behind our blog name. Two, she wants to know about our favorite or most common dish. That's a good thing to ask for now that there are over 50 Fun Monday participants!)

Special Note: recently I've been so happy to receive some awards for my toddler blog. Since tonight we have the Academy Awards show, I thought it would be a good time to thank the award givers and pass them along to other bloggers. Scroll down to the post end for the awards ceremony.

I recently wrote about starting my blog so I won't go into great detail here. Just to re-cap. Last May I casually mentioned to a friend that I may be interested in starting a blog as a way to keep in touch with friends since retiring. I also wanted to build, or get into, a community of writers and readers interested in discussing a wide range of topics including travel, relationships, current events, pop culture, art, music, literature and dogs. The next day she sent me the Blogger web-site.

I signed on Blogger that same evening just to do a bit of research and before I knew it I was signed, sealed, and delivered! Step 1 was to create an account--done. Step 2 was Name Your Blog. Oh shoot,too late to turn back now! I'm thinking like crazy about what my blog should be named. . .well, I live on Summit Court, how about Summit Musings? Done again! Now I'm not crazy about my blog name. It's a bit pretentious and mis-leading. Suppose someone checks me out hoping to read about mountaineering? And, I almost never "muse." My thoughts are a lot more pedestrian--who will win American Idol this year? is Obama going to beat the pants suit off Hillary (I hope not), can I fool Willie into thinking we've already walked today?

So, I'm kind of committed to Summit Musings for now. It's better for me to concentrate on writing better and more frequent posts and learning to navigate around and improve the appearance of my blog page. In the future, when I'm confident that my loyal readers will not lose me, I may change. For now, I hope you'll continue to check me out at Summit Musings.

Now for the requested recipe. I found this one several months ago and make it at least once a week:

Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli
1. Saute 1 Tbsp. minced garlic, 1/2 tsp. pepper flakes in 2 Tbsp. olive oil.

2. Cook 2 cups orecchiette pasta(or any sturdy kind)to your liking.

3. Microwave 16 oz. package broccoli florets (use baby kind) 5 minutes.

4 Drain pasta and combine in skillet with broccoli, garlic and pepper flakes.

5. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

************AWARDS CEREMONY***********

I received this seal of approval from
Laurie .

I'm passing it on to Karen Clarke for her good writing and wicked sense of humor.

And then I received this heartwarming award from Kaycie

It goes on to AOJ and Lurchers for her honest writing and love of four-legged buddies.

And finally for this evening, I received this E for Excellent Blogging Award from AOJ , Rotten Correspondent ,
Kaycie , and Lane

I'll send it on to these bloggers for a variety of reasons:

Caffeinated Librarian for being my first example of great blogging. I learned so much from CL about the blogosphere and youthful pop culture.

Marytree for being such a creative mom for her children--great example of learning through creative play.

Gay, Married, with Cat for his insightful, balanced observations on politics and religion.

Doug & Laurie for teaching me to look at everyday life with a photographer's eye and sharing the occasional photos of my favorite canine eye candy, Boscoe and Riley.

Patience for great writing about living with dogs and helping other dogs who need rescue.

Sauntering Soul for insightful writing about her personal journey, plus great looking blog.

Arkansas Songbird for her thoughtful posts on the influence of music in her life and pleasure of teaching students to love music as well.

Nekked Lizards make me laugh with all their family antics.

Jettie for her enthusiastic and welcoming glimpses into the life of a young farm family.

Since this post is getting almost as long as the Academy Awards show, I'll just encourage you to pass these awards along to other bloggers whose work you admire or want to encourage. And thanks to you all for sending them my way!

Now be sure to check out other Fun Monday participants' stories about how their blog names came about and add their favorite winter recipes to your file.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Nice Guys

Today we're getting a weather mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain that's significant enough in Kentucky to close schools, businesses, and cancel fun evenings like dinner with friends. Before all the excitement hit, I had a mission to complete. I left just as the sun was rising for a quick trip from Louisville to the Harrodsburg animal shelter and back.
Mac,the first Nice Guy, was waiting for me to pick him up at the shelter. Mac is a three year old red heeler who had been accepted at a cattle dog rescue place in Nashville, Tennessee. I'm familiar with blue heelers, but Mac was the first red I'd seen. What a great little dog he was--so study and utilitarian. And, amusing. He stood quietly in his cage for the hour and a half ride back to Louisville. I suppose he just wanted to be ready in case we should encounter any cattle who needed a heel nipping!
Mike, the other Nice Guy, was waiting for us in the Garden Ridge parking lot back in Louisville. He had agreed to drive Mac the additional three hours on to Nashville and his half-way house at the cattle rescue organization. I had never met Mike. We had e-mailed back and forth about pick up arrangements--for Mac--and potential weather difficulties. He was an ordinary kind of John Denver looking guy with round glasses and a laid back manner. His car was equipped with Mac necessaries and a sleeping bag in case they got stranded on the road. You can see from the photos above that Mac thought he was a Nice Guy too. The two of them
had a brief leg stretch and potty break before getting back on the road. . .

Chances are, I won't meet up with Mike again, but I was glad work with him--another person who loves dogs enough to make the extra effort to help them find a good home. Not a lot of fanfare, just one Nice Guy doing a good thing for another Nice Guy. I hope they enjoyed their drive together today.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Something for Everyone

(This week's host for Fun Monday Sayre asked us to take our camera with us as we go about our daily business, looking for a sign or something else that makes us smile or captures our attention. When we've found it, snap a picture and share with other Fun Monday participants today.)

I spotted this sign for the Blue Grass Cowboy Church last Thursday as I was traveling on the Paris Pike between Lexington and Paris. This is a very scenic highway lined with old dry stone fences and miles of brown and white wooden fencing for the many thoroughbred horse farms on either side of Paris Pike. Wherever you look there are scenes worthy of a Kentucky tourism catalog--beautiful horses in the pastures, barns that would rival most of our homes. Scenes like this:

Central Kentucky ,or the Blue Grass Region, produces the foals that grow up to run and win the great races like the Kentucky Derby here in Louisville. The equine industry is the backbone of our state's agriculture and tourism. Many people are employed on these horse farms and related agriculture operations. A significant number of workers are Hispanic because of the skills they have in caring for, handling, and training the high strung thoroughbreds.

For a horse-centered town like Paris, KY to have a Blue Grass Cowboy Church isn't surprising, if you think about it. When immigrants settle in an area, many community organizations make the effort to serve their need for belonging. Churches would be interested in that role certainly. Many Hispanics work on the horse farms for years, living apart from their families.

So, the cowboy church invitation is to "Come as you are, boots and hats are welcome, and share in a night of down home country worship centered on the New Testament with live Bluegrass Gospel music and fellowship with folks who like the cowboy culture." Something for everyone--even church services at a stockyard.

Now if you're curious about what other Fun Monday participants have spotted on their daily rounds, head over to Sayre Smiles to check them out.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Load O Pups

What better way to spend Valentine's Day than helping two sweet puppies spring the animal shelter and get on their way to finding a forever home? That's exactly what friend Kittyhawk and I did yesterday. We picked up Toby and Taz, two brother border collies, in central Kentucky and transported them to a "half-way house" in Ohio. These babies were part of a litter of seven that had been turned in to the Harrodsburg animal shelter. They are seven months old and had spent their entire lives at the shelter, waiting for a home. We were happy to load them up in the Dogmobile and get them off in a new direction.
Neither knew how to walk on a leash and were freaked out by snow covered ground. I actually don't know if they had ever been out of the dog run to even set foot on the ground. Their fears and behaviors further emphasized the need for people to volunteer at shelters to walk these dogs, play with them and socialize them so that they're more adoptable. For sure, I'm going to make time to do this.

The Border Boys were quiet--and smelly--on the three hour drive. When we stopped for gas I found out why. Both had gotten carsick. Now I'm new to dog transporting, but I had planned for all emergencies--newspapers, an apron coverup, spray cleaner, and--most importantly--air freshner! We were soon re-organized and on our way to Ohio.

We delivered them safely to their half-way house. The Blue Moon Catahoula and Big Dog Rescue group already has foster homes lined up while they find permanent homes. By spring I hope Taz and Toby will be able to run and play in their own yards as all dogs deserve.

Trip Bonus: I got to meet Bear, a full-grown Newfoundland! What a thrill to be greeted by 150 lbs. of friendly dog.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Soul Music

(This week's Fun Monday assignment from Crown Princess is to share the ONE song that most reflects who we are. The song that, wherever it is heard, we smile.)

I was standing in back of the auditorium at Pikeville College nervously waiting to go on-stage to perform in the girl's (yes, it was a long time ago. . .) ensemble portion of the all-state choral competition. My trio would sing "Lo, How a Rose er Blooming" (repeating, it was a long time ago. . .). I prayed I'd remember my part. I hoped no one would notice that the black skirt that I wore was more rusty-red than black. Since I didn't own a black skirt, my mother had helped me make do by dyeing a red skirt black to wear with a white blouse for my costume.

As we waited to go on, the Prestonsburg High School Glee Club walked on-stage. They filled all the risers, looking splendid and professional in their red blazers. And then they opened their mouths and I forgot what they were wearing, what I was wearing, and whether I would remember my trio part later on.

The first soaring a cappella notes of Felix Mendelssohn's "Lift Thine Eyes To The Mountains" from the oratorio
Elijah drifted over the auditorium. I was overcome by its beauty. Right now as I'm typing this I have a lump in my throat. It was the first piece of great classical music that I had heard in a live performance.

I sang the refrain over and over, trying to remember as much as I could. I sang it at the top of my voice, directing an imaginary chorus, while washing dishes. This got me in big trouble with my no nonsense mother who didn't believe in multi-tasking. Eventually, I got to perform "Lift Thine Eyes" with a large choral group. And you know how you'll sometimes drive while singing at the top of you're lungs when you're happy? Well, after all these years, you still may be able to catch me driving down the interstate, singing and conducting My Song.

Now if classical isn't your thing, go over to Crown Princess and check out other Fun Monday participants and their special songs.

(If you'd like to check out the lyrics, just click on sheet music to enlarge.)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Once a Gardener

From the appearance of the yard, you'd never know that a once serious gardener lives on Summit Court. There was a time when I ordered winter hearty roses from Canada, day lilies from Oregon, and dwarf fruit trees from Michigan.

I planned and planted window boxes and containers that looked like paintings with their subtle mixed colors. Out on the deck landing I always had containers of fresh herbs, baby lettuces of all shades and varieties, and flowers at the ready for cooking and color.

These beautiful scarlet peonies were given to me by my 84 year old Aunt Draxie who'd had them in her own yard for over 60 years.

From July through August the Oregon daylilies were in full glorious bloom, massed in sweeping beds of many colors. This one I called Georgia Peach for its soft peachy color.

My idea of a great Saturday morning was to hop in the truck with my neighbor Buddy and pick up a de-thatcher from General Rental. We'd then spend the whole day combimg and raking my lawn until we had a soft green carpet for a wide variety of beautiful flowers, shrubs, and perennials. I was up at daylight and out in the yard working, sometimes still at it after dark by the porch light. I read about gardens, talked about gardening, spent my money on plants and garden tools. Any travel in the U.S. always included visits to the great gardens, especially in the south--the pocket gardens of Charleston, Bellingrath in Alabama, the Biltmore in North Carolina. In New England, it was shopping at the old nurseries like White Flower Farm and Logee's. All the time I was learning about plants and garden design. Then, I tried to apply what I learned in creating my own landscape. Sometimes the student did pretty well, don't you think?
All this was 15-20 years ago. Now my yard looks like the starting photo at the top of this post. The grass is spare and mossy, last fall's leaves cover the ground, branches and limbs from dead trees came down in the recent storms. There are no good foundation plantings around the house and moles have created underground condos all over the yard.

With the first signs of spring--yesterday I saw the first chevron of geese flying overhead on their return from winter feeding grounds--I'm ready to make Summit Court look like a gardener lives here again. These last dreary days of winter will be a good time to get out the books and catalogs and do some plotting until it's time to start kicking up some dirt again.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

25 Good Years

(Tiggerlane, The Neophyte Blogger , is host for this week's Fun Monday. She wants to know what's on our Bucket List, the biggies on our to do before we die list. Thankfully, lofty is not required. Tigger says to feel free to share the most whacky, bizzare things we want to do before we roll over permanently. P.S. maybe someone along the way today will explain the origins of the term "bucket list" since many of us still need to see the film.)

Are any of you, like me, getting pretty weary of the idea of Oprah being the Grand Arbiter of Everything from literature to weight loss to presidential politics? I still enjoy her show and read the O Magazine from cover to cover, but sometimes she makes me tired. There's one exception though, her Ask Dr.Oz segments with the very winning and informative Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roisen, authors of the YOU series--YOU: The Owner's Manual, YOU: On a Diet, and the latest YOU: Staying Young.

It's the YOU:Staying Young that's helping me with my bucket list. Early in this book, the good doctors provide a formula for figuring out your biological RealAge based on lifestyle and behaviors rather than simple calendar age. I took the test at www.realage.com in about 30 minutes. I found out what I was doing wrong--like I didn't know already--and what I should do differently to extend my warranty. However, if I don't make any changes--likely--they figure I'll live until 87 years old--that's 25 good years left. So, here's my list:

Animal Rescue-- the faces pop up on the computer screen too often. Faces of animals, mostly dogs and cats, desperately needing rescue--from overcrowded, overwhelmed shelters; abusive or inconvenienced owners; lost or discarded animals. I intend to help some of these creatures find permanent, loving homes by being a card carrying, working member of an animal rescue group like the humane society, Best Friends, or other shelters. Since retiring I've had a small part in finding good homes for a few dogs. There's Spencer the poodle who went to live with three little girls, Jo Jo the handsome black lab that my friend and I delivered half way to a training place for companion animals, and the three Great Pyrennes pups that were abandoned by, we suspect, an Amish farm puppy mill. They went to a Great Pyrennes rescue group to be socialized and homed.

Right now I'd love to foster dogs, but that's impossible because Willie the pitbull insists on being an only dog and since he's 11 years old I'm not going to upset him. When the time comes for another dog, I'll rescue a softer breed like a golden who would be all right with us fostering needy animals. In the meantime, I intend to continue trying to match dogs with good owners and work in a local shelter to exercise and socialize dogs so they'll be more adoptable. I'll also continue to work with rescue groups that coordinate cross country drives to get dogs from one point to another so they can be united with adoptive families. Have crates and economy car will travel!

Adventure Travel-- there's a huge wall map over my computer desk with push pins marking the countries I've been lucky enough to visit for pleasure or work. Most memorable trips include: Rocky Mountaineer train ride across Canadian Rockies, long distance walk across England, watercolor workshop on French river barge, horticultural tours of England, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and the United States, and volunteer work in West Indies and Ukraine.

Once you get the travel bug, it's like the nits that a couple of blogger friends are fighting, hard to ignore, much less get rid of. So, in my remaining 25 good years I want to see and experience as much of the world as possible. This year it may be a September train tour of Europe. . .

Watercolor Artist-- I have the perfect space to paint--a room with great light,tall drafting table with brushes, paint tubes and other supplies at the ready, and many art reference books close at hand. More importantly, I have time to paint. I've studied watercolor with three fine artists over the past 15 years. From them I understand that everyone is an artist, but you have to do the work, spending a small amount of time daily painting and drawing. I know this works because there have been periods when I've done this consistently over a full month and been very pleased with my work. So someday I'd like to be able to say "Yes, I'm an artist" and know that I have the work to prove it.

Health & Wellness-- I'm blessed with excellent health, strong body and relatively stable mind (well. . .). In the time that I have, I plan to work hard to stay well and happy so I can check off all the other things on my bucket list. Now, if you're still looking for some wild and crazy things to put on your bucket list, go over to tiggerlane to check out other Fun Monday participants.

(Image Credit: all from google--I really do need to figure out those pesky copyright restrictions to be totally aboveboard.)