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.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Take a Walk

(Our hosts for this week's Fun Monday are Angela and the Lurchers . They want to go on one of our favorite walks. Why is it our favorite? What makes it interesting?)

My normal walk is quite beautiful at this time of the year with its green lawns and flowering trees and shrubs.--redbud, viburnum, dogwoods pink and white, crabapple, bradford pears, lilacs, flowering almond. And not a minute too soon to show off nature's best finery because next Saturday all eyes will be on Louisville for the greatest two minutes in horse racing, the Kentucky Derby.

The city will be filled with women--and men--sporting fantastical hats and outfits eager to see and be seen at all the celebrations for this annual rite of spring. The city, and the 'burbs where I live, always looks its best for the first Saturday in May, making people want to come back year after year.

Willie the pit bull and I march through this neighborhood every day. I'm working on my pack leadership skills and he's learning to follow. In previous posts I've written about my struggles, and partial successes, in transforming Willie from a willful, aggressive dog to a credit for his breed. I credit this practice of structured walking for our accomplishments. The neighborhood is our classroom and right now it's a beautiful one that includes three small semi-wild parks.

Here's the routine. We get out of bed, not talking to each other. I lace up my walking shoes and tamp down some bad "bedhead" hair with a splash of water. Willie runs to the backdoor and sits to get his slip collar on. I go out the door and gate first, he follows. We book it for a couple of blocks with minimal opportunities for sniffing and leaving pee-mails. I don't wait and he has to keep up. We pass where the two border collies live. . .one chained to a dog house, then by the rottweilers, and the German shepherds behind a privacy fence. They bark. Willie keeps walking. Near the end of the walk we head into the parks. I loosen the leash and Willie gets to go all doggy. If we're lucky his friend Cooper, the yellow lab, will be waiting at the fence to chat a few minutes. When we get home, I take his leash off, look him in the eyes and tell him he's a Good Boy. And, of course, Good Boys always get a milkbone and beggin' strip to enjoy on the sofa while he rests and catches up on the morning news.

Now head on over to Angela and the Lurchers to check out the favorite Fun Monday walks. And, I hope you'll come back to Louisville next Saturday for the Kentucky Derby.

(P.S. I use the dog walking techniques taught by Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer from the National Geographic Channel. If you would like to learn more about the importance of the walk in building a good partnership with your dog and see some photo illustrations go to Dog Walking .)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Well Done!

(Our host for this week's Fun Monday, Southern Doll ,invites us to share a few of our most meaningful life accomplishments. What have we done that was worth doing? What did we learn? Who did we influence? What was the impact?)

Here's the list of five accomplishments that I always think of when I'm in a reflective navel gazing mood. These experiences have helped me understand both myself and others a lot better, in addition to bringing me great happiness and satisfaction.

From 1971-74 I was a Peace Corps Volunteer on St. Kitts, a small island in the West Indies. I was a classroom teacher at St. Joseph Infant School teaching 7-9 year olds in the capital city of Basseterre. My dog Virgil and I lived in a little grey cinder block house on the outskirts of Basseterre by the Caribbean Sea. In the mornings I walked down to the sea to buy fish for us from the fishermen when they brought in their catch at dawn. My teacher colleagues and the women of the neighborhood befriended me, teaching me to shop the open air markets and cook the local foods, and deal with tradesmen. On the week-end I joined other Peace Corps Volunteers and the locals at dances in the country where we danced all night to the insistent reggae rhythms of the steel drums. I learned what it was like to live in a totally different culture and, in that instance, be the minority for a change.

Dog Rescue--for a Fun Monday earlier this year Tiggerlane asked about our Bucket List. I went back and looked at that post to see what I'd said about getting involved with dog rescue. Well, I'm happy to report that since then I've built up a bit of good dog karma by working with several different rescue organizations to transport dogs from area shelters to rescue groups so they can be re-homed. My Toyota Scion xB, aka "bread truck", holds two large crates and a co-pilot if necessary. Since the beginning of '08 I've helped rescue three almost wild Great Pyrenees pups; two border collies; a red heeler; and a geriatric, starving, diabetic toy poodle. Since most of you Fun Monday people are either dog or cat lovers I don't even need to go into how much satisfaction--and peace of mind--I get from this work.

Hospice--two years ago when I first retired after over 35 years in the workforce I was rather numb, just wanting to retreat and get away from all demands on my time and being. That was fine for about a year, and then I decided that I could do a bit better--so I trained to be a hospice family support volunteer. I chose hospice because I knew the service that this organization performs for families as they struggle with end of life issues. I know that I too may need their help in the future with my own family. So, I'm always on call to sit with a patient while the care giver gets out of the house to do some needed errands, take a break, or do something as simple as go to church. Mostly I listen--to the patient and the caregiver and answer sometimes hard questions about the implications of being in hospice care. I have witnessed small acts of love and grace among family members such as with my current family. The elderly husband is caring for his 85 lb. wife who is listed as "failing to thrive." He never fails to kiss her tenderly when he leaves the house and returns. We should all be that lucky to have such devotion.

Back to Basics Fitness Boot Camp--after a lifetime of avoiding all forms of physical exercise, my dear friend Sally and I signed up for a physical fitness program that--no overstatement for me--was life changing. I was in my mid-50s at the time. This class was taught by young woman who was a drill sergeant in the US Army. Sergeant Rouse had seen action in Kosovo and Saudi Arabia and was currently serving in the Army Reserves while working full time and rearing two small daughters.

We met Sergeant Rouse five days a week, rain or shine, from 6-7:00 a.m. at a local park. We came dressed in the regulation uniform. At 6 a.m. sharp she gave the "fall-in" command. We got ourselves in the extended rectangular formation for 30 minutes of hard exercise--push-ups, sit-ups, side straddle hops, mountain climbers, T-bones, squats, lunges to name a few. After about 30 minutes of physical training we ran--speed, cadence, sprint drills, or intervals. Oh yes, if anyone showed up late for class, we all did extra push-ups or running. I have never been healthier, stronger or more in control of all parts of my life than during the three years in Sergeant Rouse's class. In fact, Sally and I were in such good condition that we completed an 85 mile walk across England. Not bad for us, right?

Summit Musings Blog--in May I'll have my first year blog anniversary. Although it's very much a work in progress, I'm very proud of how far it's come, with the excellent tech support of my personal Geek Squad. I love the creative writing process, but have a long running aversion to technology--last hold out at work to get a Blackberry or cell phone for example--but the Geek Squad has helped with all that. Now I'm so interested in the virtual friendships I've made with people all over the U.S. and beyond--like all you Fun Monday participants and others. What a great challenge and diversion to keep building this blog.

Now head on over to Southern Doll and give other Fun Monday participants a "pat on the back" comment for a job well done. I'm headed there now.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Great Dog Gardeners

(The Nekked Lizards are hosts of this week's Double Nickel 5&5 Fun Monday. And yes, we got off easy. They just want us to share five pictures and describe the picture action with five words--period! I can do that and even follow the rules.)

As mentioned in previous posts, I've had a chance to visit some wonderful public and private gardens in several countries. Fortunately, most gardeners are also great dog fanciers, so here's five of my favorite dogs and their gardens:

1. Guarding Villa Gamberaia Gardens Florence, Italy

2. "Violet" at Lakemount Gardens Glanmire, Ireland

3. Alsace-Lorraine Barge Dogs Savernne, France

4. Hortensia House Gardens Yorkie Blenheim, New Zealand

5. Alessandro! Doggone Handsome Garden Designer Tuscany

Well, that was easy. Hope you enjoyed this little dogs around the world tour. Now head over to Nekked Lizards to check out all the other Fun Monday Double Nickels.

(Hint: if, for example, you want to get a close up look at Alessandro to decide for yourself just how handsome he is, just click on the photos to enlarge.)

Monday, April 7, 2008

An Athlete & Gentleman

(Our host for this week's Fun Monday, Jo Beaufoix , wants us to share a celebrity crush--who, what, when, where, and why? This is a great post topic because, hopefully, we're never too old to have a "thing" for someone who's out of reach of our everyday lives. Most recently I could talk about my admiration for Cesar Millan of Dog Whisperer fame. Or, I could travel back in time to the 90s when I watched "An Officer and a Gentleman" with Richard Gere enough times to know the lines. I could also go back even further to the 80s when I loved Neil Diamond enough to sleep outside on the sidewalk all night long in a line to buy concert tickets. Instead, I just happen to have a close association with a true celebrity--New York Yankees baseball pitcher Steve Hamilton--that you may enjoy.)

I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains, the daughter of a coal miner and sharecropper, in the 1950-60s. My family could have been the one whose photographs you now see in documentaries about rural poverty. I never traveled further than an adjoining county until I was a senior in high school. I was the youngest of four children and, unlike my older brothers and sisters, desperately wanted an education from an early age. I wanted an education enough to work for it throughout my high school years by babysitting and housekeeping for several good families who took an interest in me and helped me overcome many obstacles to stay in school. I firmly believe that I was born at the right time, the youngest in my family, when there were resources available to help anyone interested get an education.

When the time came to enroll in college, I chose Morehead State University which was about a 120 miles from home. It was the only college I knew about through school counselors and the families that I was working for who helped me jump the hurdles to get in. I took out student loans and moved on campus prepared to work part-time as well. Even then it was a stretch to pay my college expenses.

Before the end of my freshman year (1964) my luck turned. One family that I'd worked for in high school wrote letters to several of her friends who were associated with the university. She explained that this kid was enrolling at Morehead and needed to work--and could use a friend or two. Steve Hamilton, the university baseball coach in the off-season, lived with his wife Shirley and their three young children in Morehead. However, he was away from home for more than half the year pitching for the New York Yankees. They were looking for someone to help Shirl with the children and household while he was away playing baseball. The first time I worked for them I kept the children while Shirl visited Steve when the Yankees were playing in Detroit. From the beginning we clicked. Shirl and I were just ten year's difference in age and shared many interests. I loved the children, especially the baby Bobby.

By the end of my freshman year the Hamiltons had invited me to live with them. During the school year I went to my classes and activities, their children attended the university elementary school. That meant we all had the same schedule. For three straight years, Steve rented a summer house for us near Yankee Stadium--actually just across the George Washington Bridge in Teaneck, Hackensack, and Cloister, New Jersey. Shirl and I packed up the station wagon and kids and drove from Kentucky to New Jersey to join him for the summer.

Those summers were some of the happiest in my memory. When the Yankees were in town, Steve kept a regular schedule, eating an early dinner with us and then heading to the stadium for late afternoon and evening games. We hung out with other Yankee families, attended baseball games, swam and shopped. Steve and Shirl also made it a point to broaden my horizons. I remember especially seeing my first Broadway play, Funny Girl with Streisand, riding a NY subway, seeing the ocean for the first time.

Did I mention that Steve was a true gentleman as well as athlete? This was very fortunate for a 19 year old college girl in his care. Since Steve was considered by Yankee management to be the most steady and upright of the players, he often was assigned to room with the young rookies because he could help them keep on track and not get carried away with the glamour of being a professional athlete. If he thought they were nice and appropriate dating material, they may get an invitation to dinner with the family. A welcome home-cooked meal prepared by Shirl and me and some lively conversation--always when Steve was around--may lead to me being asked out by a grateful young rookie. Gil Blanco, a nineteen year old pitcher from Phoenix, AZ in 1965, fit this category. Perhaps he could have been my second celebrity crush, but we only had two dates that short summer. . .

Steve was a true Renaissance man interested in many things in addition to sports. He played both professional baseball for the Yankees and several other national league teams. He also played two years for the Minneapolis Lakers, one of only two professional athletes to play in both a World Series and an NBA Championship Series. He died of cancer at the age of 63 in 1998. On learning of his death, the great Yogi Berra said of him "He was a big, herky-jerky guy and a fun guy to be with. He kept you loose and everything." I know he had a great deal of influence on me. How fortunate I am to be an adopted family member of the Hamiltons for over 40 years. This photo was taken in the mid-80s---Steve and I are doing something we did often, sitting at the table talking and laughing. Wherever Steve was, there would be laughter.

Now that Jo is no longer under construction, pop over to her web page and check out other Fun Monday celebrity crushes. That's where I'm headed now.