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.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Victoria and Albert's Song

This afternoon I closed out 2009 by seeing one more film--The Young Victoria, the story of Queen Victoria and her great love Prince Albert. I loved everything about the film, but especially the lush musical score. Here's Victoria and Albert's theme song, Only You, performed so movingly by Sinead O'Connor. Enjoy:

Happy New Year, everyone.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fun Monday at the Movies

Our host for this week's Fun Monday is Gattina and her assignment is to share our favorite Christmas ornament. I fear I must bend the rules this week Gattina, because the only sign of Christmas in my home is a lovely stack of Christmas cards and greetings from friends near and far. I did, however, receive an unexpected gift that is timely and most appreciated. That's this gift card from my friend S's mother--and my new BFF--to our local cinemas. Timely because many of the 2010 Oscar contenders are just now being released and most appreciated because:


As you can see from this 2009 ticket stub collage, I get excited about going to the movies. I want to see all the films that have been nominated for Golden Globe, Film Critics, and Academy Awards. There's Milk , The Reader, Frost/Nixon, Australia, Doubt, and Rachel Getting Married which earned Academy Awards in March 2009.

After the March Academy Awards this year, I started seeing the contenders for Oscars in March 2010. There's my favorite so far, An Education which is the 1960s tale of an Oxford-bound young girl who get entangled with an older man. Then there's the comedy Julie and Julia about a young blogger's mission to cook herself through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And let's not forget director Jane Campion's artful English drama, Bright Star, which was a fascinating love story of the frail, penniless poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, his 1800s Project Runway wanna-be.

So, some time before the March Academy Awards show I'll take this gift card and my retired self to several matinees to see these films, either because of the actors or the subject matter:

Up in the Air -- George Clooney in a "serious" comedy, 'nuf said

Inglorious Basterds -- just to hear Brad Pitt say "Yes, Yes, Yes" to Hitler's "Nein, Nein, Nein"

A Single Man --Colin Firth as a serious, conflicted college professor with Elvis Costello glasses

The Young Victoria --love, love, love British romantic dramas

The Last Station -- Helen Mirren as Leo Tolstoy's unbalanced wife--fabulous!

The Hurt Locker, The Messenger, and Brothers -- we must not forget about the human costs of war

Invictus -- the great Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela

It's Complicated --Meryl Streep as middle-aged comedian caught in a love triangle with Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin. I hope I can get the image of a naked Alec Baldwin hiding behind a Mac laptop out of my head. . .

Crazy Heart -- it's been too long since Robert Duvall's role of a down and out country singer in Tender Mercies

Throughout the year I'll be on the look out for other films that are just plain enjoyable or challenging, even though they didn't create that much awards' buzz. In 2009 I'd put the following films in this category: Amelia, Angels and Demons, Wendy and Lucy, Soloist, Easy Virtue.
And, I've decided I need this handy Ticket Stub Diary to hold all my 2010 movie stubs and a one sentence review of the film. Unfortunately it's on back order until Valentine's Day. Hint, hint. . .
Now before all the holiday decorations get packed away, head over to Gattina's place to check out the favorites of Fun Monday players.

Happy New Year and I'll see you at the movies!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fun Monday-I've Got Holiday Mail

I'm hosting today's Fun Monday. And, since it's just five days before Christmas, I thought it would be fun to share some of your holiday "snail" mail. Now I realize that a lot of people don't get into writing and mailing out holiday greetings, especially since we can be in contact with friends and family 24/7 through technology--phone calls, texting, twittering, facebooking, blogging, e-mailing, videoing. But, for most of us it's still a treat to see a holiday envelope mixed in with the bills and junk mail in the mailbox, especially if it's a handwritten message.

You may not know this. I did a bit of research and learned that the first Christmas card was mass produced in England in 1843. Henry Cole, a publisher and printer, grew tired of the Victorian custom of writing notes and greetings to friends and family for Christmas and the New Year. So, he commissioned his friend, the English painter John Calcott Horsley, to make the first hand painted lithograph card. The card above depicting both the celebrations and caring for the poor was the result. It caused a bit of controversy in Victorian English society because a child is shown sipping from a wine glass. One thousand copies of the card were printed, ten survived including this one to a Mr. Thompson, a friend of Henry Cole's.

The idea of mass produced Christmas card really caught on and soon spread to America as well. So, you might say Mr. Henry Cole made this particular Fun Monday assignment possible! Take a look at the cards, letters, and photos that you've received this year and share them. Possible categories: Best All Around Card, Most Meaningful Message, Best Kid/Pet Photo, Best Family Newsletter, Most Humorous Card. And if you don't do holiday greetings by mail, how do you send out your messages?

Here's the list of Fun Monday players:

1. Gattina (Host for Dec. 28)
2. Sayre
3. Cynicalgirl
4. ChrisB
5. Janis
6. Church Lady
7. Gracie
8. Jill
9. Ari (maybe)
10. Pamela (maybe)
11. Stephanie at Mama Drama

If anyone else would like to play and didn't get on the list, just let me know in the comments and I'll update.

The Best of My Holiday Mail:

Best All Around Card -- I loved the simple pen and ink drawing with a bare wash of color of this card. It made me want to draw it, especially the simple little Christmas tree, muffled kid and his dog.
Most Meaningful Message -- "'Tis the season for warm thoughts of you." It makes me happy that friends whom I don't see often throughout the year take the time to let me know that remembering our friendship is an important part of the holiday season.
Best Kid Photo -- meet Colton. He was born on Easter 2009 and how he has grown. Colton is the first child of a favorite former colleague and friend. Even though he's still young, Colton has his own easy chair and enjoys spending Saturday afternoon with his dad in front of the TV watching the Kentucky Wildcats play a good game of basketball.
Best Family Newsletter -- although much maligned, I still enjoy receiving the family updates, especially from friends who live in different states or abroad. However, this "newsletter" just cracks me up because it came from an 80+ year old friend who never forgets my birthday or Christmas. Her letters always contain news articles, stickers and cartoons with her own observations scribbled around: "I thought you might get a smile from my abbreviated newsletter (1 of 20 pages). Ha!"
Best Pet Card -- meet Doozer and his people. Joe was a work partner for many years and now he's just a really good friend. Looking through old Christmas photos I realized that I have the family portraits in front of the Christmas fireplace for many years. The first photo was taken in 2000 when Doozer was small enough that he needed to sit in his mom's lap and hang onto her arm. In the second photo, last Christmas, the kids are all grown up and Doozer is almost an old man. I'm looking forward to receiving the 2009 photo this week.
Well, there you have some of my favorite cards for the year. I hope you also hear from friends and family and that, regardless of your kind of greeting, you do take the time to send out some messages of good cheer, hope and love during this holiday season.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Mail

Fun Monday Sign Up
December 21
Topic: I've Got Mail--Holiday Mail

I'm your holiday host for Fun Monday, December 21. Your assignment, should you decide to play, is to share some of your favorite holiday mail that you've received this year. Possible categories:

Best All Around Card
Most Meaningful Message
Best Kid/Pet Holiday Photo
Best Family Newsletter
Most Humorous Card

Now I realize that I'm asking you to share snail mail holiday greetings. If you've given up on this tradition and choose to communicate with friends and family in a different way to wish them a happy holiday and new year, then tell us what you do in place of those cards, letters and photos. Here we are on December 16th and just tonight I sat down to go through last year's cards and make a list of friends and family that I want to send holiday wishes and hopes for the new year. Most I hear from throughout the year, but not all. Regardless, I want all on my list to know I'm thinking of them during the holiday season.

Here's the beginnings of a list of people who want to play:

1. Janis
2. Sayre
3. Lil Mouse
4. Gattina (Host for December 28th)
5. The Church Lady
6. Cynicalgirl

If you want to play, just leave your name in a comment and I'll update the list on Sunday. Come on Mr./Ms. Mail Carrier, leave us some holiday cheer!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Living Out the Noughties

Who knew that we're three weeks away from closing out the decade known in some circles as the Noughties--as in 2000, 2001, 2009? I didn't until I read our December 14 Fun Monday assignment. Wendishness is our host again this week and she's asking us to share some of the highlights and lowlights of our own lives in the noughties.

In a decade marked by national tragedies, a never-ending war, political change and scandal, 24/7 information and communication access and overflow, energy shortages, and both personal and institutional economic meltdowns, my own life has been--thankfully--pretty calm. Just for fun I tried to go back to 2000 and remember something significant for each year of the noughties. After looking at this list overall, I decided that this post should have been titled "Travelogue of the Noughties" because travel to new places was the highlight of several years. Anyway, here's highlights and lowlights of my life in the noughties:

2000 -- traveled to Tuscany region of Italy to experience its art, gardens, and food

2001-- spent the month of December in cold, snowy Ukraine in Eastern Europe helping farm women's councils set up agricultural cooperatives as a special work assignment though the U.S. government

2002 -- barged through the Alsace Lorraine region of France with a watercolor workshop group

2003 -- completed a wayfarer's coast to coast walk of 80+ miles across northern England's lake district, dales, and moors from the shores of the Irish to North Seas

2004 -- visited the North and South Islands of New Zealand, toured gardens and natural attractions

2005 -- did home repairs and improvements, thought about retiring from Farm Bureau after over 35 years in the workforce

2006 -- retired! Stayed up late, did exactly what I pleased, no schedules

2007 -- started blogging right here on Summit Musings. Great decision!

2008 -- moved my older sister to Louisville and took on full time caregiving responsibilities for her

2009 -- re-united with my favorite cousin and completed a Volksmarch walk of five southern states (TN, AL, LO, FL, GA) with her and my good friend S

So Wendy, there you have what I remember best from the noughties. Be sure to take a few minutes from holiday preparations this week to check out the noughties lists of other Fun Monday participants.

* * * * *
Special note: I will be hosting Fun Monday on December 21. The topic will be "I've Got Mail--Holiday Mail." One of the best traditions of this holiday season is the sending and receiving of cards, family newletters. and photos from family and friends. I'd like you to share the favorites you've received so far this year: Best All Around Card? Most Meaningful Message? Best Kid Photo? Best Family Newsletter? Most Insincere/Humorous Card? Also, how do you display your cards for all to enjoy?

If you want to play on the 21st just sign up in the comments. I'll put up an updated announcement later this week. Also, do we want to take a break on December 28th and have January 4 be the next Fun Monday date? Your thoughts?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nix the Jingle Bells

Holiday music is the topic for December 7 Fun Monday. Specifically, Cynical Girl , our host for this week, asks us to share that one Christmas or holiday song that we would prefer never to hear again. And why does that one song make us sad, get on our last nerve or just spoil the holiday mood in general? For me, it was an easy pick--"Jingle Bells". I actually feel like a curmudgeon even admitting this, but Cynical Girl promises no judging, so there you have it. I especially despise any version that is performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks or barking dogs, like this for example:

I usually associate animal performances of "Jingle Bells" with bad commercials on radio and TV urging us to get started with our holiday shopping by the last week of October. And as the weeks go on leading up to December, the mindless frenzy just keeps building, egged on by barking dogs and chipmunks. This morning I was looking on YouTube for performances of the song that I liked and no luck. Not even a bunch of cute school kids with their guitar playing music teacher. And when you really pay attention to the lyrics, where's the reality? "Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh. . .O'er the fields we go, laughing all the way" Come on! I love the sounds, sights, smells and traditions of the holiday season, but think that we'd all be a bit happier at this time of the year if we had more realistic expectations for what we'll get from the season.

So, there you have a small glimpse at this Christmas grinch. But just so you won't totally give up on me, I'll close this post with a video that Kittyhawk sent me last night. I'm definitely against dogs barking "Jingle Bells", but it's okay for them to decorate the Christmas tree if they're as smart as this pack. Now that's being realistic! :-)

Be sure to head over to Cynical Girl's place and check out the songs that make other Fun Monday participants' most disliked holiday music lists.

Fun Monday Update -- I'll host on December 21. Promise it will be something simple since everyone will probably be in holiday prep overdrive. Check back here for the assignment on Wednesday, the 16th. We need a host for December 14. Going once, going twice. . . :-)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sharing Time, Talents, & Treasures

This week it's a Fun Friday, rather than Fun Monday, post because I've been caught up with some dog silliness this past week. If that appeals to you more than holiday giving just scroll down to the previous post "Peggy Flobbins Look Alike". Anyway! Our host for this week's Fun Monday was Sayre . Her assignment asks us to examine our Inner Giver. At the start of the gift-giving season, what are our thoughts on giving? What do we give? Why do we do it? Well, in my mind the perfect gift is one that combines the sharing of our time, talents, and treasures. Most years I don't come up to my own standards, but here's some ways that I've expressed my Inner Giver:

Channeling Martha Stewart--many years ago my small circle of friends decided that we would stop buying each other "stuff". We had all the stuff we needed or, if we wanted something, most of us just went out and bought it. So, over the years we made group contributions to an inner city church soup kitchen where we once volunteered or we contributed to the Kentucky Humane Society. Still, around the holidays I get the urge to make something green and festive. Last year it was evergreen wreaths for everyone. For about two days the kitchen was given over to a wreath making assembly line. Here's an example. This year I'll do the same. Not sure what form it will take yet but it will definitely be fresh greenery and seasonal. Guaranteed to passed Martha Stewart's inspection. :-)

Volunteering with Hospice--this is something that I do all year long. When I retired, I decided to take the training to be a family respite care volunteer with our local hospice organization. I did this for several reasons. The first was rather selfish. I don't have family members that I can count on if I should ever need end of life care myself, so I decided that hospice volunteering would be something I could do now while I'm healthy and able to do it. Kind of a pay forward for the time that I may need the help of this great organization myself. I also thought I could learn more about caregiving since I have that responsibility for my older sister.

The funny thing about this whole experience is that I never had any illusions that I was well-suited for this job. I don't have a lot of tender feelings for people who are ill. Neither am I a "brow wiper." I am, however, practical and patient--and interested in people. So, that's what I do. I work with one family at a time, providing respite care. Right now it's an elderly couple. The wife is in a wheelchair and on oxygen, diagnosed by hospice as "failing to thrive." The husband is full-time caregiver. So, whenever he needs me, I sit with his wife at the kitchen table watching soaps or game shows. We talk about important things like hairstyles, who we like on Dancing with the Stars, dogs--they have one they love--and the frustrations and worries of being totally dependent on someone for everything you need. Meanwhile the husband gets a much needed break away from caregiving to play a few rounds of golf with his buddies or take care of some of his own needs.

Animal Rescue--this is an area of giving that's close to my heart. Last year before I became so tangled up with taking care of my older sister and getting her re-situated, I worked with area rescue groups transporting dogs wherever needed to different rescue organizations. What a great feeling to take a scared, sometimes almost wild puppy or adult dog, from a shelter and get them to the next drop off point--a step toward getting them in a forever home. There were the biting Great Pyrenees pups, Max the red heeler, the puking border collies, Jake the black lab companion animal trainee, and the little old woman grey poodle who was blind and broken toothed but still someone was willing to rescue. In 2010 I plan to get back into more animal rescue. What I'm coming to understand is that once you become a caregiver, it just goes on and on. And it makes no sense to put your own interests and passions on hold while you do the caregiving. You need to do both to maintain some balance in your life.

So Sayre, the areas above pretty much sum up where I am right now as a Giver--take a little bit of time, talent, and treasure; mix well; and then give it out to others. If I haven't made it around to all the Fun Monday posts, will do so today. And, thanks for stopping by to check out my Fun Friday post.