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, February 28, 2010

Corner Room in Thompson Hall

Memories of school year friends is the Fun Monday topic for March 1. Our host is Wendy at Wendishness who comes across in her blog as a very good friend indeed. Wendy asks that we share some stories and photos of friends we had many years ago. Do we still keep in touch with them? I'll use some scrapbook pages to tell you about three college freshmen who shared the corner room in Thompson Hall women's dormitory at Morehead State University in 1964-65.

This is a photo of me at our shared desk looking out from our corner room. The scrapbook caption reads: "Faye reading a few lines from you know who or what."

They did not want me. Claude and Sharon had gone through elementary and high school together. They planned to set up this little cozy home away from home in Thompson Hall. They managed to snag a second floor corner room where they could supervise all the comings and goings in the front of the dormitory. Then they got the notice that one more person would be assigned to the room. I was the interloper, and an odd one at that, I'm sure. Claude and Sharon came from stable middle class families in a small town. I was country with country ways. They made a secret pact to make life miserable enough that I would move out.

In these photos Claude is the one on the far left. She always got up early to study in that fetching print robe and fluffy pink roller cap. Sharon is the pretty one hunting for Claude in the bathroom. I'm the Irish washerwoman in the bottom photo. Our rooms didn't have showers so I always got up early in the morning in order to have some bathing privacy down the hall.

In the scrapbook these photos are labeled "dorm life". Moving clockwise you see the vending machines, source of chocolate french pastry cakes that fueled our late night studies. In the next photo I'm asleep between classes in the top bunk. The outsider got that bunk. The sink was by this bed so every morning Claude threatened me with bodily harm for brushing my teeth too loudly. Moving on around there's our shared desk. Each of us had a shelf. We didn't share many classes since we each had different majors. I do remember having a folk and square dance class together though and helping each other avoid dancing with the nerdy guys--in the 60s you wanted to dance with the "tough" guys. The lower left photo was our neighbor's room across the hall. Ours was the same size and there were three of us to share. No wonder Claude and Sharon didn't want me in there.

I roomed with them for two semesters before deciding to move out of the dorm and live with a family to help with college expenses. By that time we were great friends. I loved spending weekends with Claude at her home. We circled Frisch's on Friday and Saturday nights with the local boys and went bowling. Claude's parents were strict Baptists so no matter how late we stayed out, on Sunday morning we had to be in Sunday school. We also tried to make one last circle of the boy haunts before heading back to campus on Sunday evening, but had to go to evening church first. We sat on the pews closest to the door so that we could be out of there at the last stanza of "On Jordan's Stormy Banks."

(Embiggen this image if you really want to read a page of freshman earnestness.) Only an overly dramatic college freshman would need to write an epilogue to friendship. This was in my going away scrapbook which they made for me when I left the dorm. As you can tell, we came to accept each others' little quirks and behaviors. They appreciated the extra room, I'm sure. I was happy to live with a rollicking young family in a nice home. But to quote Claude and Sharon, the sentiments may have been "trite" but they were sincere as well.

Claude got married before finishing college, but she went on to become a very shrewd businesswoman in her hometown and rear a lovely daughter. We still stay in touch after all these years. We don't talk or see each other very often, but when we do, it's easy. Sharon married her college boy friend and I lost touch with her. I couldn't ask for two better roommates to start college life with.

Now be sure to check Wendy's Fun Monday sign up to read all about all our old friends.

BTW, I'll host on March 15 if no one else planned to.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fun Monday - Gentle Teacher

Sharing the Love" is this week's Fun Monday topic. Our host is Jill over at Life is Not Bubble Wrapped . Her assignment: describe something nice someone had done for you, an act of kindness you witnessed someone perform, something that touched your heart. Well Jill, last Friday I got these lovely valentines from little Lily and Ryan when they spent a snow day at my weekly pilates class with their mother Julie, my gentle teacher. That makes a share the love twofer!

For over three years my friend Sally and I have been taking a pilates duo class with Julie at the Core Pilates Studio. We were total novices and well on the way to joining the senior citizen ranks when we started the class. Sally and I have always been fitness partners and, at this stage in our lives, we wanted to do everything we could to stay strong and healthy in our 60s and beyond.

This is Julie demonstrating a barrel pilates flexibility and core strengthening exercise. For the record, I have worked on this contraption, but never achieved Julie's example of form! And that's alright with Julie. She constantly reminds us to not measure ourselves against others.

Julie was a registered nurse before earning her certification as a pilates instructor. So she is really tuned into a first do no harm philosophy of exercise. She watches Sally and me like a hawk as we work because each of us has some physical issues that limit what we can do. My spine has a limited range of motion and my head threatens to explode (from high BP, probably) if it isn't elevated when I lie on my back. We have this running joke that if the exercises get too strenuous, I'll just look pained or whimper and Julie will cut us some slack! As I said, she's our gentle teacher. If we injure ourselves outside of class she customizes our practice, as in the time I tried to play tree trimming Paul Bunyan and fell off a ladder injuring my shoulder and elbow.

Julie is tuned into us physically but, more importantly, she is very intuitive about our mental and emotional state. She understands that we may have performance, body image or stress issues that we bring to class. I, for example, hate working in front of the wall mirrors because I feel like a beached whale. Julie stresses that each of us is beautiful in our way and that we should be proud of making the effort to be healthy. Often we bring stress from our lives to class and she helps us calm down and deal with the issues that cause us problems. Julie is also very spiritual and is on her own path of discovery. We have many interesting discussions. And, did I fail to mention--the three of us love each others' company and we laugh a lot?

I often think that, in these shaky economic times when the personal budget may need to be cut, pilates would be the last thing I'd give up. There are just too many positives to keeping with the weekly program. And having Julie as a teacher is the main reason. No danger of her ever being replaced by a Pilates for Dummies video!

I'll for sure be around to check out the other Fun Monday "share the love" stories today or tomorrow.

(Photo Credit for Julie: Core Pilates Studio)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wall Valentines in Verona

Serendipity-the art of finding something valuable and unexpected. In honor of Valentine's Day on Sunday I thought you might enjoy some travel serendipity that I experienced in Verona, Italy a couple of years ago. When traveling in Italy you expect romance. In Venice we rode plush gondolas on the Grand Canal, ate in outdoor cafes served by flirtatious waiters, listened to concerts in St. Mark's Square at night, and explored the shops with the local "beautiful" people. But it was Verona that surprised me with its local treasure--Juliet's graffiti wall.

On a walking tour of Verona's town center, our tour guide led us to a small street that was teeming with tourists wanting to visit the 12th century family home of the Cappellos, or, according to Shakespeare, the home of Juliet Capulet.
They wanted to see the famous balcony from which Juliet leaned out to chat with her forbidden young lover, Romeo Montague. We all know how badly that turned out. Romeo and Juliet lives on though, even in modern times, as the classic tale of star-crossed lovers. As early as 1937 people from all over the world started sending messages of love to Verona, some simply addressed, "To Juliet in Verona." Around Valentine's Day and Juliet's birthday in September, locals begin writing or drawing messages for their beloveds on the doors and walled passageway leading to the Capulet courtyard. Tourists soon followed suit. Now there are messages in many languages covering the walls. And look closely at the statue of Juliet in the courtyard. Notice that her right breast gleams. Visitors believe that stroking her right breast brings them good luck in love!

Here's some closeup shots of the area. First, the street where Juliet lived and the arched passageway to the right:

This is the arched passageway leading to the courtyard. Notice that the messages go all the way up the wall. I saw a woman sitting on her partner's shoulders so she could write her message up high:
Here's a closeup of some of the messages. Some stuck on with chewing gum. At one time there was an attempt to install screens in the passageway for people to write electronic messages. That didn't go over. Kind of like getting an e-card. . .

Here's another view of the doorway with layers and layers of messages.
I must confess that I left a post-it message on the wall myself before heading back to the square for lunch. How could you not take that opportunity? :-)

A final valentine from Italy. Although not Milan, Verona was very fashionable. It's
streets were jammed with fabulous clothing shops, including this one for wedding apparel.

When we got off the ferry from Venice to mainland Italy, a wedding party was waiting on the dock to take a launch out to a cruise ship. Is that romantic, or what? And I wish you could have seen the bride's sandals--tied at the ankles with organza bows. Fantastic! I hope you've enjoyed this little romantic expedition in Italy. Happy Valentine's Day to all of you! And chocolate, of course!

Monday, February 8, 2010

In the Bleak Mid-winter

Fighting the winter doldrums is the topic for this week's Fun Monday. Our host is Church Lady who is currently snowed in in PA. How appropriate that she would be looking for ways to beat the winter doldrums from Fun Monday bloggers.

We are indeed in the bleak mid-winter with seven weeks to go before spring. New snow fell in Louisville over the weekend, covering the dirty melting snow from last week's storm. The sky is low and grey-blue; the sun shines weakly, if at all. Bare tree branches are like filigree against the night sky. And I love this time of the year. No winter doldrums on Summit Court.

Here's a few projects and activities that make me happy this winter:

Scrabble -- can you believe that I've lived over 60 years without playing a single game of scrabble, monopoly, bridge, or trivial pursuit? I mentioned this gap in my education to my good friend Kittyhawk, telling her that I'm concerned about keeping my brain exercised. I was losing my nouns (not good for a writer), feeling that I wasn't exactly the sharpest tack in the box. She dug out her childhood Scrabble game and gave me a lesson. Now every day while I watch NCIS re-runs or bad reality TV, I challenge Thelma and Louise (my imaginary players) to a game of scrabble. So far there's not a lot of strategy involved in these nightly games. We mostly concentrate on following the rules. The final scores are never over 200 and our words are not long on syllables. For some reason Thelma wins a lot. When she gets too complacent, I bring in Butch and Sundance for a foursome. :-)

Movies, Movies, Movies -- as we discussed last week, this is awards season for the film industry. In the fall I start trying to see all the first run films as they're released, especially if they may be contenders for the major awards--Academy, Film Critics, Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild. In January and February I spend many happy afternoons in theaters working on my list of award winners for best picture, actor/actress, director, song, etc. We're lucky to have two theaters in Louisville that play the lesser known, but critically acclaimed, films. What better way to escape the winter doldrums than watching a great screen performance?

Oh, and I can't forget movies on TV. Starting this month on PBS, Masterpiece Classic is showing Jane Austen--a new adaptation of Emma (lukewarm reaction), Persuasion, Northanger Abbey--Return to Cranford, and Diary of Anne Frank.

Reading and Writing -- I'm interested in hearing what local writers have to say about their craft. Recently I heard Dianne Aprile, a former columnist for the Courier Journal Newspaper, give a presentation on the life of a writer--their daily methods for getting words on paper. I had taken a journaling class with Aprile about ten years ago and remembered her commonsense advice on writing in the middle of everyday living, as we bloggers do regularly. I asked her about blogging and she had some reservations about the quality of writing that you see on blogs. I'm still thinking about her answer. Personally, the blogs that I enjoy reading are as well written as any published work of nonfiction or fiction.

In March I'm looking forward to spending an evening with another writer, Tori Murden McClure. McClure is a local hero. In the late '90s she became the first woman to successfully row across the Atlantic Ocean--in a 23 ft. plywood boat, the American Pearl--with no motor or sail. I saw this boat on exhibit and it is truly amazing that she survived this trip in such a small vessel. In 2009 she published A Pearl in The Storm, an account of her solo row across the Atlantic and what she learned about life in the process. Hearing her firsthand description of her adventure will be a great way to spend a winter's evening.

Taize Meditation -- the cold, dark days and nights of winter turn our thoughts inward. Last year near my favorite movie theater I discovered a small Episcopal church which held a meditation service every Thursday evening. I am not much for organized religion, being a Methodist on sabbatical for many years. :-) I am spiritual and try to live as ethically as I can. Anyway, I read about this Taize service and decided to check it out after seeing a movie. A small group of people gather quietly in the darkened, candlelit sanctuary. You are alone with your own thoughts and concerns. There is an opening call to silence; singing of chants--Be Still and Know, the Kyrie Eleison; people's prayer; a sacred reading; silent meditation; and closing blessing. It's hard to describe how peaceful and comforting this service is. Just what we need to help us center. My goal is to make this a regular part of my week.

Well, these are just some of my doldrums chasers, but they work. I have some other projects in mind for the second part of this winter: growing unusual house plants again; second try at learning to knit; finishing a quilted wall hanging; sewing curtains; learning to play solitaire. Check back with me on the first day of spring for a progress report!

Now before Monday has slipped away, shovel your way over to Church Lady's to check out other Fun Monday doldrums chasers.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fun Monday Awards Show

It's awards season in filmland so our topic for this week's Fun Monday is right in line. Our host this week is the very clever Sayre over at Sayre Smiles . Sayre's giving us the chance to hand out our own film awards instead of listening to the critics. The only hitch is that our awards have to be for the films that we actually OWN. Nice twist, Sayre!

My DVD collection is quite modest as you can see from this photo (embiggen to read all the titles). That's for a couple of reasons. My TV is circa early 1990s so I have no recording or playback capabilities. Mostly though, I rely on Netflix rentals for my significant film addiction. Those I prefer to watch on the computer. The titles you see here are for films that I watch over and over to the point of having multiple copies of some.

Here are my awards by category:

North and South, the BBC mini series based on Elizabeth Gaskell's novel set in England at the start of the mid-1800s Industrial Revolution, gets my awards for: Best Picture, Best Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress. Yes, I love everything about this series:

Best Picture -- a compelling love story that plays out between two principled people who must overcome prejudices of place and social class to find happiness together. Along the way we get a fascinating glimpse of how lives were changed, for better and worse, by the industrial revolution.

Best Actor -- Richard Armitage as John Thornton the powerful self-made cotton manufacturer in Milton, a northern England mill town. Armitage owned this part in all it's complexities.

Best Actress -- Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale, the proud daughter of a southern parson who is forced to follow her father to Milton to live when he leaves the church. Hale is magnificant as the priviledged daughter of the south who soon sides with the poor workers in Thornton's mill while reluctantly falling in love with Thornton.

Best Supporting Actor -- Brendan Coyle as Nicholas Higgins, a firebrand union organizer who fights Thornton and befriends Margaret. He eventually smooths the way for Thornton and Margaret to work out their differences.

Best Supporting Actress -- Sinead Cusack as Hannah Thornton,the fiercely proud and stern mother of John Thornton. Hannah Thornton tries to protect her son from losing the mill and from loving Margaret Hale, whom she does not think worthy of her son.

Here's a brief trailer for the film so you can see why it has won so many of my awards:

Best Group -- goes to The Complete Jane Austen. I'm learning that most people aren't on the fence when it comes to Jane Austen novels or films made from her novels. It's either love or hate. My good friend Kittyhawk swears that she would rather be waterboarded than read Jane Austen! I, on the other hand, read and re-read her novels like modern day page turners. If forced, I'd rank Persuasion, her bittersweet tale of love lost and found, at the top of the list. Next would be Pride and Prejudice for the epic battle between the proud Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Sense and Sensibility is a favorite for its portrayal of two sisters' disappointments in love when they lose their wealth and position in society. Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey sheds light on how lonely it must have been for children who are forced to live with prosperous family--tales of outside looking in. Emma is my least favorite novel and film because I don't care for the Emma character very much, nor her silly associates. Nevertheless, I need it in the collection.

Best Score -- goes to the 1980 version of The Jazz Singer with Neil Diamond in the lead. Neil played the son of an orthodox Jewish cantor who must defy his father (Lawrence Olivier)in order to pursue his dream of being a pop singer. This was the first VHS tape that I bought. In the 1980s, like many other people (okay, women)I was wild about his music. I even slept on the sidewalk overnight in line at the box office for tickets to a Neil Diamond concert in Lexington. I wore my friends out going to this movie and then bought the VHS tape. All the music from the movie was great--from the Jewish cants and folk songs to his pop songs, but the favorite is still Hello Again:

Well, this awards show has, I fear, run way over time! Be sure and check out Sayre's Fun Monday list for other awards ceremonies.

(Image credit: John and Margaret -www.fanpop.com)