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, January 25, 2009

Weighty Truce

(Where are we in the weight loss wars? That's the question from Grace over at Mama Rehema's , our host for this week's Fun Monday. In the first month of a new year and after the excesses of more eating and less exercising of the recent holiday season, Graces wants to know about the diets and fitness plans we've tried, or are working on right now. Well, truth be told, we tend to approach the whole fitness regimen--eating right, exercising, destressing, maintaining balance--as an all out war. Many of us win a few skirmishes, but lose the war. But, perhaps I should only speak for myself. And that is, after nearly 60 years of weight wars, I've called a truce.)

Recently I've been preserving old family photos by scanning them into chronological computer files. One file is of my own school pictures from ages four to eighteen. How interesting to study these snapshots of time and place and note changes in appearance and hints to an emerging personality. There's the sweet , almost baby faces with those shy eyes, of the younger years. The years of unfortunate hairstyles and sometimes bad fashion choices--the rhinestone necklace in the fourth grade, the bad haircuts and perms, and that one year when I decided to be a redhead. One thing was consistent though, I have always struggled with my weight. Looking at the faces in these pictures, I see that there were years when I lost the struggle, and years when I won. For example, in this photo I was seven years old and already beginning to be a round little girl.

Growing up in the country in the 40s and 50s it was okay to be a fat kid. In fact, a fat baby was considered a pretty baby. Women who had some "meat" on their bones were desirable. That meant their husbands would not be saddled with a sickly woman who wouldn't be able to put in the long days of farm work and still bear the number of children that a farmer needed for his on-demand labor force. My mother, Bonnie, was such a woman--physically big and the dominant force in our family. Notice how she's holding me in this photo taken in 1946. Looks like I'm already trying to make a break and not getting too far!

That included any attempts at dieting. When I started trying to lose weight to be more like my school friends, Bonnie told me I'd eat what she prepared, lots of cheap, home-raised country food. In her opinion I was just fine. This attitude was such a contrast to experiences I heard about from my friends or read in books. Some children suffer for years trying to live in a home where every bit of food they ate was monitored by a parent, usually a mother, who didn't want the shame of having a fat kid. If you've dealt with this yourself, I'd recommend these two books: Thin is the New Happy by Valerie Frankel and, even more compelling, Passing for Thin--Losing Half My Weight and Finding My Self by Frances Kuffel. Frankel is a former magazine editor and Kuffel a literary agent. They know how to tell a memorable affecting story. If you have been fighting the weight wars--often with family, friends and colleagues as adversaries--then these two women's stories from childhood to adulthood may show you a way out.

But enough about the past. By now you're probably asking yourself, "So where's Faye's weighty truce?" Here it is:

1. At 63 years old, I'm never going to lose the amount of weight that I need to, so I'm going to be content with losing 20 pounds ver-rr-y gradually.

2. Be happy that I'm strong, healthy and active--concentrate on keeping my numbers in the good range (BP, CHO, etc.). Continue to challenge my body through exercise like pilates (still going for an honest to goodness roll up without help) and distance walking.

3. Eat real food, including cake if I want to, not that diet or drive through junk. Work on the portion size.

4. Keep happy and in tune with my body and spirit by daily attention to what I'm doing to ensure that I continue to live a strong, healthy, and fulfilling life.

My ace in the hole for maintaining this truce is this book which I've used on and off for the past year. Those of you who are writers are probably familiar with Julia Cameron. She's written many books on artistic creativity and the writing process: The Artist's Way, Walking in the World, The Right to Write, The Sound of Paper. And now there's The Writing Diet, Write Yourself Right-Size. The premise is simple really:when you feel the urge to take up the spoon and fork, grab a pen instead. Write to figure out why you need/want to eat and is there something else you should do instead? Start each day with what Cameron calls Morning Pages, three pages of stream of consciousness writing where you become more in tune with your own needs and desires, or as she says,"instead of eating, find out,through writing, what's eating you so you can make peace with it." The plan works for me. Last, year, during the three toughest months of my life I followed the morning pages practice and kept a food, exercise and spirit journal every day and lost weight and maintained my sanity. When I go on oblivious pilot and don't follow the plan, I gain back the weight. I'm back to using my pen as a weapon because "the pen is mightier than the fork"!

Now Monday is almost over so be sure to head over to Grace's place for other Fun Monday accounts of the diet wars.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20, 2009

For the first time ever I've had a chance to spend the day taking in all the great and small moments of a Presidential Inauguration Day. Here's just a few of the memories I'll hang on to from this great day:

1. ABC's full coverage of the day--it was not intrusive or ego driven as some of the cable networks where the commentators forgot that the day was not about them.

2. Michelle Obama presenting Laura Bush with a gift of a pen and journal for writing her memoirs when the Obamas "dropped" by the White House for coffee after church. Very classy gesture.

3. Secretary of Education designee Arne Duncan--I know nothing about him, but something tells me he's a good "school man" who will make sure that teachers will have the support and resources to finally make sure that No Child is Left Behind.

4. George H.W.Bush and Bill Clinton greeting each other with great affection before the inauguration ceremony--what a true odd couple. Love H's Dr. Zhivago hat--almost as good as Aretha's!

5. Faces across the world watching the day's events, especially the children in the Indonesian elementary school which Obama attended many years ago.

6. Malia and Sasha coming out on the stage all smiling and confident in their pretty outfits to watch their dad being sworn in. Malia had her camera handy throughout.

7. Aretha's tender, soulful singing of "My Country 'tis of Thee." And what a hat!

8. The Obamas walking the parade route--tall, strong and confident. They make a great team. And later their first dance was so casual and they both looked so modern and with it. Fortunately however, Fred let Ginger lead. . .

9. Obama's serious, almost stern, face as he waited in the wings to be announced and come on stage. He looked like a man who knows he has a job to do--rah, rah time is over. Our country needs a leader who is determined to help us dig out of our economic and morale tailspin. Hopefully he will be our "Sully."

10. The inaugural speech. I loved the way he spoke to not only Americans, but the world. He laid out how we would work with other countries who desire peace, but not tolerate threats to the safety of U.S. citizens. I loved his charge to all of us, both in and out of government, to stop behaving like children and get to work to right our course.

Well, I hope you have many great memories of today as well. Were they much different from mine? And let's all wish Obama a good night's rest and strong pot of coffee in the morning so the work can begin.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Where We Live

(How could we resist posting this particular Fun Monday? On the second anniversary of Fun Monday blogging, Julie, our host over at Another Chance Ranch , gives us a chance to learn a bit more about how other Fun Monday bloggers live, or at least see where they live. She asks us to share a photo of the interior part of our home that we took from the front door.)

Last week if you read my post on quirky things we treasure and saw my hinged coffee table/desk, you got a preview of the view into my living room. I also mentioned that there's not much "stuff" in my home. In fact, it would be a stretch to say that it's even decorated. However, I love well-designed simple rooms that reflect the tastes and personality of the people who live in them. Just this past weekend I noticed the elegant but shabby Warsaw apartment in the WW II movie, The Pianist, with its books, musical instruments, furniture and textiles. I would enjoy living in a place like that.

So, having admitted that I could do a lot better in the home decorating department, I'll still take you on a little tour of my digs and point out some of my favorite stuff:

Here's Willie lying on the sofa--he's welcome to snooze here, if he stays on his end. Next, if you look closely on the end table, there's a favorite brown mug that I got in New Zealand with Maori symbols on the side. On the floor you see my grey "lap buddy" with its handy writing surface and bean bag bottom. Indispensable tool for serious readers and notetakers, and laptop users. Beside the leather chair is a fancy Varilux reading lamp that I purchased about a year ago. Warning: don't waste your money on one, not that great. The library table is a favorite piece of furniture that holds several months worth of magazines to be studied, clipped and sorted. I also stack books that are in the reading queue. The higher the stacks, the better. Over the table is my favorite painting by Jeanne Filler Scott, "The Veteran". Scott spotted this old stray hanging around the fishing boats in Nova Scotia. She said he'd obviously had a hard life with his chewed up ears and battle scars, but he kept on. The underneath shelf of the library table holds photo albums and travel notes from my trips to other countries. Speaking of other countries, notice the world globe on top of the bookcase. It's always handy because I never know when I'll need to check out exactly where trouble is breaking in the world--not the best reason to learn your geography.

In front of the library table is my command center or work station for the living room. This hinged coffee-table is another antique/junk store find.
You can see that it's well used. For how, just scroll down to last Monday's post. Finally, to end the tour you'll notice that there's no curtains at my windows. I like window treatments and actually purchased that striped fabric to "dress" the windows over two years ago. Now that I've actually taken the fabric out of storage, I may be inspired enough to sew some curtains for the living room windows. My neighbors may appreciate that although Willie would have a harder time spotting the mail carrier. . .

Now get out your magnifying glasses and check out where other Fun Monday participants live. It will help explain why you enjoy reading their blogs, I suspect.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Quirky or Just Functional?

(A coffee table is what I'll be sharing with you this week for Fun Monday. Our host, Jan over at The Prytz family , asks us to share a photo and description of the quirkiest thing in our home that we would never give away. Truth is, my table isn't exactly quirky. In fact, after a little googling this afternoon I find that it's not even that original, which surprised me. I do, however, like this table a lot because it's so functional.)

A few years ago I was re-doing my house in preparation for retirement. This work was long overdue because I'm not overly interested in stuff. I keep very few mementos. My living room furniture had weathered over 20 years of dogs sleeping on the sofa and teething on chair legs. I got some fine new leather furniture and was looking for coffee table. I wanted a TABLE--one that would hold all manner of books and magazines, and that would be sturdy enough to prop my feet on to watch TV and read.

One Saturday a couple of friends and I were searching through Annie's Attic, a little antique and secondhand furniture/junk store when I spotted this table:

I liked the warm wood, it's good solid lines and the spare rope trim. The salesperson saw that I was interested so she said, "The top lifts up if you just grasp the corners." I did and voila! The top raised up on some sturdy hinges to reveal a couple of cubbyholes. It was the perfect height to pull up to the sofa for a work or dining surface.

When I got my bargain home, think I paid about $250 for it, I forgot about using it for a coffee table. The table now sits off to the side in the living room and is my command center. I eat here, especially if it's something like soup that doesn't balance well on a tray. I keep watercolor and drawing supplies laid out so I can do a bit of painting whenever the mood strikes and not have to clean up. I pay bills and do finances here. I keep the table stacked with reference books, magazines and writing supplies. So maybe the quirky part is that I keep it in the middle of the room, not arranged the way a decorator would, but where it suits me fine.
If you look closely at the shelf underneath the library table in the photos above, you'll see quite a collection of photo albums/travel journals of my trips to other countries. I would hate very much to lose them because on these dreary wintry nights I may think, "Tonight I'd like to go back to Ireland." All I have to do is to take out the Irish album and I'm walking through Darena Allen's walled vegetable garden or watching her make scones at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. I would definitely not like to lose these albums or my quirkey/functional coffee table.

Now some time today head over to other Fun Monday places to check out what others are hanging on to, no matter what!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What's on Your Mind Lately?

Several times in the last couple of weeks a great chevron of geese flew across the sky at dusk when Willie and I took our daily walks. First we could hear them calling to each other and then look up to see that perfect V formation silhouetted against the evening sky. This sight got me thinking about a good topic for Fun Monday--which I'm delighted to be hosting this first week of the new year.

Most weeks we have around 25-30 bloggers participating in the Fun Monday challenge, each of us giving our own personal twist to the assigned topic. Our little blog community is like a chevron of geese. We're all busy living our lives as best we can, sometimes relying on others to fly in front while we take a back position where we don't have to flap our wings so hard to move forward. Regardless of where you are in the formation, I'm sure you're thinking about 2008 and wondering how things will go for you in the new year. So, here's your question for this week, answer as briefly or extensively as you like:

"What's on your mind as we close out 2008 and begin
2009? Large and small. What are often your first thoughts the minute you wake up? When you're alone and unguarded? Working? Stuck in traffic? Playing with the children? Walking the dogs? When you can't sleep?"

I am so eager to read your responses to this question. I suspect that many of us will have the same things on our minds. We may live differently, but we mostly want the same things from life--and face the same challenges. That's good to know.

Now, here's what's on my mind lately:

1. Caregiver for my Sister--I'm putting this one first because it meets all the criteria: first thing I think about in the morning, lose sleep over, think about it when I'm walking the dog, stuck in traffic, working--you get the idea. Taking care of my sister, who's nine years older than I, has always been a major concern. Until July of '08 she was living independently, with some assistance from me. Early last year she started having health problems and then lost her apartment to a fire. I moved her in with me for about three months--which both of us hated. In October I got her settled into a nice, safe senior citizen's apartment complex about 10 minutes from my home. She's beginning to make friends. I'm trying to come to terms with my loss of freedom and privacy because of taking on her care. Frankly, I don't see much improvement in 2009. . .

2. Surviving the Bad Economy -- I'm very fortunate to have retirement funds from state teacher retirement system and a very stable organization where I worked for 18 years, plus Social Security. I worry though because I have no one else to fall back on in case of a financial or health emergency. I always said that I'd get a job if necessary, but now know that's not the given that it once was. So, I'm looking at all my expenses and figuring out how to live well on less.

3. Things Undone -- in addition to a "To Do" list, I also have a "Things Undone" list that gives me a lot of grief. I believe that it's important to be productive, even in retirement, but most days come up short.

4. Training for a Walk across the South -- my walking buddy Sally and I are signed up to do a week-long distance walk through several southern capitals in March. I must start training for this, but don't want Willie to know just yet. He would be too excited at the prospects of extended walks every day.

Well, that's a few of the things that are on my mind these days. After you've compared my list and yours, be sure to check out the following Fun Monday participants' lists. And thanks, to everyone who signed up to play this week:

1. Jan (host for January 12)
2. Swampy
3. Ari
4. Misanthrope
5. Sayre
6. Tracey
7. Cruise Mom
8. Karisma
9. Janis
10. Sandy
11. Pitts Academy
12. Molly
13. Pensieve
14. Hulagirlatheart
15. ChrisB
16. Jo
17. Alison
18. Grace
19. Gattina
20. Hootin' Anni
21. Celeste
22. Margaret, Brand New Mama

23. Sugar
24. Julie
25. Mommy Wizdom (sort of!)
26. Pamela

Oops! I gave you the wrong links for Sayre, Tracey, Cruise Mom, Pitts Academy, and Margaret. They're fixed now. Note to self: figure out Mr. Linky before hosting Fun Monday again!