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.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ungrateful Jewish Grandmother

(Our hostesses for this week's Fun Monday are Margaret and Stephanie over at Mamadrama . They want us to share a funny, trivial fact that we remember even though we probably should have forgotten it a long time ago. Well-l-l, most of the time my mind is filled with trivia, funny and not so funny. This week, however, I couldn't come up with a single good example. So, I'll tell you my best Jewish grandmother joke. It's been a favorite for about 40 years.)

I loved the northeastern boys that came to my college in eastern Kentucky in the 60s to escape the high tuition and, probably, the more stringent college entrance requirements of states like New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island. They had names like Levy, Nusbaum or Ackermann. In contrast to the local guys, they lived off campus in dumps that we loved to get invited to on the weekend and drove junk heaps that no self respecting southern boy would be caught in, dead or alive. In contrast to the common Scots-Irish, English faces on campus, these guys had the dark hair, prominent features (translate big noses) and dark complexions of their eastern European ancestors. They loved the southern girls because we were pretty and sweet--or at least pretended to be. We loved them right back because they were so different from the usual fare.

I was lucky enough to live with Coach Hamilton's family for four years of college. Coach Hamilton was very popular with the northern boys because he coached the Morehead State University baseball team and also pitched for the New York Yankees. Northern boys love baseball, especially the New York Yankees, and welcomed a chance to sit at Coach Hamilton's kitchen table with the family, sharing some good southern home cooked meals, baseball stories, and Jewish humor. This was my introduction to Jewish humor with it's play on the insecurities and foibles of a people who used humor to tell their stories of family persecution and survival. My appreciation for Jewish humor grew when I had an opportunity to hear some of the great comedians live in New York and New Jersey where we spent our summers.

Somewhere along the way I heard this Jewish grandmother joke that never fails to make me laugh. In fact, I can't get to the punch line without cracking up, but here goes:

A little Jewish grandmother is sitting on the beach at the Jersey shore in one of those legless beach chairs. She's wearing a new flowered one piecer with clever slenderizing shirring across the tummy. Her freshly done hairdo is protected by a big hat. She has a big aluminum sun reflector propped on her tummy to capture the rays.

Her only grandson is playing in the sand by her feet. Lo and behold, this HUGE wave
washes in and carries the boy straight out to sea!

Grandmother Yetel heaves herself out of the no-legged beach chair and raises her arms
to the sky in supplication. "Oh Lord! Help! What will I tell my daughter-in-law has happened to our only grandchild?"

In answer to her plea, another HUGE wave washes on shore and deposits the boy and his sand pail right back at Grandmother Yetel's feet. She looks at the boy and then turns a sad eye to the heavens again, saying in an aggrieved voice, "He had a hat."

Bonus Joke:

What Mona Lisa's mother probably said on viewing Da Vinci's painting of her: "With what your father paid for braces, you could have tried a little harder with that smile."

Well, that's it for trivial humor for me tonight. Head on over to the other Fun Monday spots to fill your head with lots more fun trivia facts so you'll be the hit of your next social gathering.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Can We Talk?

(Our host for this week's Fun Monday is Lisa over at Lisa's Chaos . And, what an opportunity she's given us with her assignment. We get to ask readers of our blogs the BIG QUESTION. Perfect! I've needed to know your answers to this question since last January when I started participating in Fun Mondays.)

My question to you: "Why do you blog?"

This sculpture by the Ha'Penny Bridge on Liffey Street in Dublin is the perfect illustration
for my answer to the question, "Why do you blog?" To quote a Dubliner, "the oul wans are havin' a chat" on a bench outside one of the city's landmark retail therapy spots, the Dublin Woollen Mills. The sculptor(unfortunately, couldn't identify the artist--can anyone help?) who created the piece called it "The Shoppers". However, like many other sculptures around the city, the irreverent Irish renamed it "the hags with the bags."

I found this sculpture by googling "good conversation". The main reason I blog is to have good conversations with longtime friends and new people from around the world who may want to share ideas, opinions and insights about everyday life. I have stories to tell and am also totally interested in your stories. I blog in hopes of having the good conversations that will help us learn about each other.

For a long time I've thought about conversations I have with friends and acquaintances. And, have been discontented, even sad at times, at the lack of depth and feeling in our communications. How do we get beyond the "So, what have you been up to lately?" I love knowing that about my friends, but after 20-30 years in each others' company, I want to know more about them and for them to know more about me. What are their childhood stories? What do they want out of life and are they getting there? What are their interests and passions? What troubles them? What makes them happy?

Look at the oul hags. Notice how relaxed and attentive they are, bodies turned toward each other so they can be totally present for that moment. Maybe they're speaking of family and friends, the latest Dublin political scandal, or the bargains they just got in the Woollen Mills. It doesn't matter. You just know that they're having a good conversation and that they'll be happy to meet up with their friend at the same time and place next week. That's why I blog--because I look forward to "havin' a chat" with you each week.

Now head over to Lisa's place and start answering those questions from Fun Monday inquiring minds. Hope I get there first before all the original answers are used up!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Crazy Zack

(Our host for this week's Fun Monday is Angela over at aoj and the lurchers . Angela wants us to share our favorite photograph(s)and why, out of the thousands we have, these photos mean so much to us. I immediately thought of a few old photos of Zack the crazy border collie. He fit all the requirements: a favorite with plenty memories and stories to tell about him.)

In 1983 I was suffering from a major case of puppy lust and specifically thought I needed a border collie. Why, I don't know because I knew nothing about them except what they looked like. And, I lived in a three room duplex with a no pets rule and traveled too much for work. However, one Friday I spotted an ad in the paper for a litter of six week old pups, wormed, shot and ready to go to a good home for $6.00 each. A local farmer's working girl border collie had managed to get an unauthorized "date" with the handsome black lab running loose in the neighborhood. Apparently, he was quite persuasive because Working Girl forgot all her border collie discipline and ended up with a litter of children that combined her intelligence and his good looks. Sound familiar?

Anyway, I rushed out to the farm after work on Friday afternoon to have a look. . .and this little fur ball came up to me and said "Write the check and where are the car keys!" So I did and we drove home.

We had a weekend to bond before I had to leave on Monday morning for a week's work in the far end of the state--beginning the first of many dogsitting challenges. Luckily, I had some very tolerant friends who had two small children who loved the idea of keeping a puppy for a week. So Zack--his name by then--spent his first week playing with the two little ones until he was exhausted.

As you can see, he took bathtime supervision quite seriously. He got a good conduct report at the end of the week except for ripping up some horrid green indoor/outdoor carpeting on the back steps. The border collie in him just knew that fake grass carpeting is just wrong.

Zack the Escape Artist--from the beginning Zack was a frenetic, smart, and challenging dog and I was clueless about what he needed--and suffered the consequences. We lasted only three months in the duplex before getting evicted. I bought us a house, but it didn't have a fenced yard. I couldn't stand him tied, so I used my income tax refund to build him a fence. He repaid this kindness by sitting on top of the fence as the workmen pulled out of the driveway. The only thing that kept him in was a little "goosey wire" strung along the fence. He learned to avoid it and I gave myself a cheap electrical thrill every time I mowed the lawn. Whenever I opened a door to the outside he was ready to bolt. His theme song, Born Free, started playing in his head and off he went through the neighborhood with that gorgeous feather tail flying. The neighborhood kids loved the "Zack's loose!" alarm cry and gave chase. Usually I would find him pinned to the ground by a heap of kids, grinning from ear to ear with tongue lolling.

Zack the Weather Barometer--as is common with lots of high strung dogs, Zack was petrified by storms. He would pace, pant, and drool at the first cloud that passed over. He destroyed window and door screens trying to get in the house and even chewed through a wooden door once when I accidentally left him outside. In his older years he became even more bizarre. It wasn't enough to hide under the bed, he became a water seeker. He'd curl around the sump pump hole or--the best--crawl in the bathtub to ride out a storm. The crazier he got, the more destructive. He chewed through dryer vent hoses and once the furnace ductwork. The repairmen said it was a good thing it was summertime or we would have all gone under from carbon monoxide fumes. After that escapade, he became Zack Kevorkian to me for a time.

Zack the Parochial--like our current president, Zack had little curiosity about the world beyond his neighborhood. In particular, he opposed any international travel on my part. In '93 I was saving pennies for an English horticultural tour and--in a maniac race around the yard--he tore his cruciate ligament, which required about $1,500 in orthopedic surgery to repair the damage. Kiss the Chelsea Flower Show good-bye that year. In '98 when Zack was 15 years old (!) I went on a tour of Ireland and Scotland, leaving him and his three brothers in my sister's care. In his last "got ya", Zack died of old age and heart problems in the middle of the night. My dear friends, Sally and Dan, came to the rescue. At 6 a.m. they came to the house and loaded him in their car trunk and took him to Bob Evans' Restaurant for a farewell breakfast until the vet's office opened. Being new to pet funeral planning, imagine my shock to get a call from the vet to come by and pick up Zack's cremains. He's currently resting comfortably in a heart-shaped box in my closet. As usual Crazy Zack got the last laugh on me. . .

Crazy Zack has many more stories to tell, but out of consideration for other Fun Monday players I'll save them for another day. I'm headed over to aoj and the lurchers right now to check out other favorite pics--this is going to be a good week!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Netflix Escape

(Our hostesses for this week's Fun Monday are Jennifer and Emily over at Mothers of Brothers . They want to know about the word or words that mean a great deal to us. After all, they say, words can be our building blocks to communication and understanding, our stepping stones, even our salvation. For this time in my life, I'm going with "Netflix". Here's why.)

For last week's Fun Monday I shared some of the challenges I'm currently working though with my older sister's medical issues and loss of her home through a fire in her apartment building. Over the past month I've moved her over 300 miles from her lifetime home to live in my city so I can provide the care and support she needs. She'll live with me for several months, at least, until we can find her a suitable new apartment. I'm so grateful to all of you who shared your insights and experiences in dealing with this all too common dilemma last week. You did indeed provide some pearls of wisdom.

Last week I spoke of living on the fringes of my home and the challenges of nose to nose living 24:7 for someone who's accustomed to privacy and the company of only Willie the pit bull. Willie doesn't demand conversation, need my bed, forget to clean up after himself. Nor does he watch game shows or the home shopping network nonstop. Why he hardly ever demands control of the remote except for Dog Whisperer episodes (he thinks Daddy puts on airs)or Houston Animal Policeon the Animal Planet(he gets misty over a good pit bull rescue story).

Here's where my favorite word,"Netflix", as in Netflix Escape comes in. A couple of months ago I signed up for movie delivery at home service thinking it would get me through the summer dry spell of TV reruns and bummer pilot shows. Even before all the Sis drama came up, I was loving the opportunity to have four great movies lined up at once to watch at my leisure (which is most of the time since I'm retired). Over the past couple of months I've watched over 30 memorable movies--British dramas, all the Jane Austen productions, obscure independent films that deserved more attention, and blockbusters that I missed when they were playing locally.

What you see here is my Netflix Escape spot. When every nerve screams for privacy, I retreat to this corner of my home, and go to another place in the world--maybe even another century by popping a DVD in my computer. If you look closely at these photos you'll see why this place is such an escape. First, Willie always sleeps on his yoga mat under the desk--he'll stay up as late at night as necessary. If I look over my desk, I can see the huge map of the world with places I've been and other places I'm going soon. When I look over to the left, there's some of my watercolors and pen and ink drawings done in a calmer, more creative time.

Stacked on the desk are books that I'm currently reading and favorite DVDs that I watch over and over. There's also photos of some much loved dogs and my current actor hotties--Colin Firth posing as "adorable casual" and Richard Armitage as John Thornton in
North and South who's almost replacing Mr. Darcy in my affections. Yes, this raises some questions about the maturity of this 60+ year old, but I did say it's an escape, right? And, I do assure you that I didn't have to hide fan pics of the Jonas Brothers before taking this photo!

See the big blue pilates stability ball under the desk? It makes an excellent foot prop for leaning back and watching movies for hours on end. And, do you see the two small purple pilates balls to the left? Their names are Paris and Lindsay and are highly recommended to sit on for long drive times--takes the pressure off your "brain", if you're still with me? I traveled over 2,000 miles in a couple of weeks in July and they were lifesavers.

Now here's my five favorite Netflix Escapes from this past month:

1. North and South--an adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel off the clash of north and south in the midst of England's Industrial Revolution. Northern mill owner, John Thornton, and southern parson's daughter, Margaret Hale, wage a major class battle until they come to an understanding, as you can tell from this scene. Do you even need to ask why this one is #1?

2.Veronica Guerin--Irish newspaper reporter fights drug dealers and crime bosses through her investigative stories when no one else dared take them on.

3. Darjeeling Limited--three grown American brothers travel across India to find their mother. They regularly do each other in, but come through in the end to act like brothers. Very, very funny.

4. The Songcatcher--an uptight music professor travels to the Appalachian Mountains in the early 1900s and discovers the purest of English ballads and friendship from the people who shared their music.

5. What a Girl Wants--delicious fluff! 17 year old American girl ,Daphne, heads off to England to connect with her father, the uptight Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth). The chemistry is great between the two and music just makes you happy.

So, for this month my magic word is Netflix as in a handy way to escape from my day to day concerns and let someone else do the plotting, planning and worrying for a couple of hours. Hope your magic word does the same for you. And don't forget to check out the other Fun Monday wise words.

(Hint: if you're like me and are always interested in other people's book piles--or if you need to see the lovely John Thornton up close and without his cravat--just click on the photos to embiggen.)