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, March 27, 2011

Fun Monday - "Do whatever you want, but. . ."

Here we are at the end of March and the Georgia Girls at In Good Company are closing out their month of hosting Fun Mondays. Their question for March 28 is: "What advice did your mother/father give you that you remember or still use today?" Now what I remember in the way of parental advice may seem a bit harsh, but my parents' words and attitude toward child rearing have had a great effect on how I've met challenges from early on. First, a bit of background. This photo of my mother and me was taken around 1946-47. I was born at the end of World War II, the fourth child, with a seven year gap between my younger brother and me. Recently I read a novel where the mother had her last child very late. Her parents called this little girl their Good Idea. I, on the other hand, have always known that my mother especially did not consider me a Good Idea. I'm sure she thought she was out of the baby business after three children. And who could blame her? Life was very hard at that time. Even the mountains of eastern Kentucky were not sheltered from the Depression and war. I was born at home, a two room cabin/house on a hardscrabble farm. My father eked out a bare living for us farming and working for the Work Projects Administration (WPA--known cynically as the We Piddle Around Gang locally) before going into the coal mines. Growing up I remember that my older sister and brothers looked after me while my parents worked to keep us fed and clothed. From an early age my mother taught me to work. Housework and farm chores came first, certainly before learning or play. Once I learned to read, my mother and I were constantly at odds. I tried to read while doing my chores like churning butter or breaking up beans. This infuriated my mother. To her, work came before education. After all, work was all she knew. This battle continued through high school. By that time I was trying to figure out how to afford college. When I told my mother that I wanted to go away to school her advice was: "You do whatever you want to, but don't expect any help from me and your daddy." This advice was not a surprise to me, nor was it a death blow to my ambitions. I simply found other ways to get what I wanted. There were college loans and kind people who helped me jump through the hoops and find ways to work and go to school at the same time. This pattern continued though out my adult life. When I decided to do something that was beyond my parents' life experiences--education, moving out of state, living in a foreign country--I simply told them about my plans. They never put up any road blocks or resistance. I always say that my mother and father neither helped nor hindered me as I grew up. And, that's not a bad approach to parenting. For sure, it teaches you to stand on your own and that skill has been a source of great freedom and self determination for many years. Good advice, Bonnie!

(Please excuse the lack of paragraphing. For some reason Blogger doesn't want me to write this post in easily read paragraphs. Instead, insists on one big block of text. I surrender!)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fun Monday - Dinner with Luci

The GA Girls at In Good Company continue their hosting duties for March. The assignment for the 21st could turn out to be quite revealing. Their question: if you could invite five people over to your place for dinner and conversation, who would be on the guest list and what would be some questions you'd want to ask? Well GA Girls, I'm one of those introverts who like and appreciate people a great deal, but find being around most anyone for any amount of time a bit challenging. So, if it's all right with you, I'll just invite Luci Swindoll, author, motivational speaker and adventurer.

Do you know of people--or are you that person--whose friends and associates are always trying to help you with your spiritual life? I'm one of them. I've had work colleagues ask me if I'm on good terms with Jesus. I've had people come to my door trying to save my soul like the couple of Jehovah Witnesses who came knocking one Sunday afternoon and asking me if I thought we would ever have world peace. Before closing the door firmly, I replied that I really hadn't planned to deal with world peace this particular Sunday afternoon. I just hoped to read the Sunday papers! And then there's this long running joke among some of my friends. If we're traveling together, they don't want to room with me because if the Rapture should come that night, I'll surely be left behind. They'd feel badly, but they're leaving without me!

I guess to make up for "leaving me behind" one friend from this group gave me Luci Swindoll's memoir, I Married Adventure-Looking at Life Through the Lens of Possibility. Right away I totally identified with this unlikely woman. Her approach to living was so close to my own. From an early age she loved learning, beauty in all its forms from music to art to literature, traveling the world. Luci also had her demons--how could an unconventional daughter please a conventional mother? how would she find work that was meaningful, but still provided enough financial resources to live without fear? how to live single in a married world? how to find peace and contentment as she aged? These were the important challenges I also wrangled with all my life. I felt such a kinship with this woman.

Now here's the ironic twist to this tale. Luci Swindoll comes from a family whose members have always been involved in Christian ministry, including her brother Chuck's radio ministry, Insight for Living. Luci was his VP for Public Relations for five years after spending 30 years in the corporate world as a Mobil Oil Company executive. Now she is a wildly popular keynote speaker and author with Women of Faith Ministries. I heard her speak in Chicago a few years ago and she didn't disappoint. I'd still have her as an honored dinner guest. I'd have questions about faith and soul work, but I'd also want to know about her life adventures and what she was looking forward too.

Asking her questions may be a bit difficult based on this video, but there would be guaranteed laughter:

And yes, for sure Luci and I would have dessert because life is uncertain but always an adventure!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesday - Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Alice Howland is at the top of her game. At just fifty years old she is a highly respected and accomplished professor of cognitive psychology and linguistics at Harvard University. She and her husband, also a researcher at Harvard, enjoy busy professional lives and the satisfaction of watching their three grown children get established in their own careers.

And then the downward spiral begins. Alice loses her Blackberry constantly, she forgets why "Eric" is on her to do list, she becomes disoriented on a familiar run and struggles to find her way home. At first she blames over scheduling and work demands. Then fears a brain tumor or complications of menopause. In short order she is diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer's disease. Still Alice is her story about her day to day struggles to maintain a normal life and cheat this debilitating disease out of one more victim. (Image- Blue Morph's Butterfly by Fran Henig)

Teaser Tuesday is described by its host Miz B over atShould be Reading as a "weekly bookish meme" open to any reader who wants to play along. If, like me, you're always curious about what people are reading or on the lookout for the next great read, then this may be your meme. If you want to play, just click on Miz B's link above for the very simple rules.

Still Alice

by Lisa Genova

"Alice placed her fingers on the top of her sternum and rubbed the blue paste stones on the wings of her mother's art nouveau butterfly necklace. . .She liked being reminded of butterflies. She remembered being six or seven and crying over the fates of the butterflies in her yard after learning that they lived for only a few days. Her mother had comforted her and told her not to be sad for the butterflies, that just because their lives were short didn't mean they were tragic." p. 112

Book Description: Of all the books written about Alzheimer's disease, most deal with either treatment or the care giver's issues. Still Alice is different in that it is fiction and the story is told from the perspective of a person who is young enough to share what it means to be diagnosed with a disease of the elderly. We get a fascinating behind the scene look at the steps in diagnosis, the strategies one woman uses to maintain control of her normal functioning for as long as possible. We also witness what it means to gradually lose everything you value--ability to communicate, to work, make decisions for yourself, be in control.

If you are the care giver for a family member or friend who suffers from Alzheimer's, or you fear the disease for yourself, read this book. It's a fast read because you won't want to put it down once started. For sure you'll understand the disease a lot better. Here's a brief comment from the author about why she wrote a work of fiction about a very real disease:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fun Monday - Red Faced

(Tacky post alert! The Georgia Girls at In Good Company continue hosting duties for March. Their assignment for the 14th is for us to share a most embarrassing moment. Since they're new to the Fun Monday meme, our hosts also give us the go ahead to re-use any posts that fits the current subjects. So this is a re-posted tale about raising Zack the Crazy Border Collie and the many times he was responsible for turning me red faced in our neighborhood. This first image hinted at the source of my embarrassment and makes the tacky post alert necessary, but it was just too good to not use.)

I was not smart enough to raise a border collie. However, when I saw Zack in this litter of six week old puppies rolling around in a dairy barn I bought him from the farmer for $6.00 and brought him home to the no dogs allowed duplex where I was living at the time. We got evicted. I bought us this little house on Valley View Dr. and immediately became obsessed with growing things--grass, trees, roses, shrubs, flowers, vegetables, fruits and berries. I knew nothing about landscaping--hence the white pine planted too close to the driveway--but I read books, watched TV how-tos, and wheedled my backdoor neighbor,who ran an agricultural supply store, into many Saturdays of lawn renovations and digging holes to plant trees and shrubs. I suspect that the rocks for this wall came from the yard because we encountered boulders and rocks every place we dug.

I also raised Zack the crazy border collie here and tried to keep him contained within the backyard fence. Look closely at the fence near Zack's tail. You can barely see the short grey post which held an electric goosey wire--the only way to keep him from climbing over the fence and running away. Zack learned to avoid the wire after a couple of jolts. I, on the other hand, was slower to learn and regularly shocked myself when mowing the lawn. . .

Zack was a wild, careening gorgeous bundle of pent up border collie from his puppy days. In order to visit in our home, guests had to submit to either getting feet and ankles spritzed with Bitter Apple spray or cover themselves with a quilt when sitting down. Zack loved to attack any exposed Achilles tendon with his sharp little puppy teeth. Another game he enjoyed was snatching the newspaper, magazine or book out of your hand and flying through the house hoping you'd give chase. Even better when the chase continued out the back door. That was most of the time because having a working screen door cramped Zack's style. He ripped out the screens so he could just jump through the hole and be out in the far corners of the yard with his prize with me hard on his heels. On a good day, he managed to steal from the laundry basket and parade around the back yard with my "delicates" flying from his mouth like a white truce flag. I tried to avoid putting on a show for the neighbors by underwear recovery from a border collie so the Jockey for Her replacement budget was pretty steep at that time. . .

Now this was my first house so I wanted to be out in the yard working every minute, even before getting dressed for work. At night I'd pile sweatpants and gardening shoes on the floor by my bed and then roll out each morning as soon as it was light enough to see to work in the yard. I'd pull on my pile of clothes, make a cup of coffee and rush outside for an hour of digging and weeding before I had to get cleaned up for work. This getting dressed was done in the dark.

On one side of the driveway I planted a bed of peonies that I'd inherited from my Aunt Draxie's garden. She had grown these flowers in her garden for over 40 years, since she was a bride. I was very proud of how well the bed had done in my own yard and enjoyed kneeling on the rock wall to tend them and cut a vase full to take to my office--one of the most pleasant early morning gardening chores.

Now the neighbor just across the street liked to take his early morning coffee on his front porch and watch all the activity in my yard. He was not a gardener and, I suspect, thought I was nuts for working so hard in my little suburban eden. One particular morning I was upended in the peony bed and couldn't help noticing that he seemed to very amused about something. When it was time to quit gardening, I climbed off the wall and called out some pleasantry to Howard. He burst out laughing and said, "You may want to check your pants when you get inside." I didn't think any more about it because he was always teasing me about what low fashion standards I set for the neighborhood.

I get inside and peel off my gardening clothes only to discover that the entire butt of my sweatpants had been chewed out. Apparently a certain border collie had hopped off the bed in the night and helpfully ventilated my britches for me! Howard got plenty of mileage out of getting an early morning moonin' from his neighbor. Zack, I'm sure, enjoyed the joke just as much as Howard.

In closing, my thoughts on the whole embarrassment issue is if there's a good story in it and nothing was lost except a little dignity then it's a small price to pay for some great memories of living with the world's craziest border collie.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Teaser Tuesday - Good Old Dog by Nicholas Dodman

This is my Good Old Dog Willie. We've been family for over 14 and a half years now. Willie is aging well--active, good eater, even keeled. He's never sick, so only sees the vet for annual checkups and shots. As with many older dogs he's getting pretty lumpy-notice the large one on his shoulder. Last year the vet biopsied a lump on his hip and determined that it was malignant. At Willie's age I decided not to subject him to surgery, so we're just going along enjoying life. However, I watch and want to know as much as possible about caring for an older dog. That's why I was so glad to find Good Old Dog by Dr. Nicholas Dodman, my Teaser Tuesday book selection for this week.

Teaser Tuesday is described by its host Miz B over at Should be Reading as a "weekly bookish meme" open to any reader who wants to play along. If, like me, you're always curious about what people are reading or on the lookout for the next great read, then this may be your meme. If you want to play, just click on Miz B's link above for the very simple rules.

Good Old Dog

by Nicholas Dodman, BVMS

"But old age is not a disease. It is a stage of life. Yes, the older a dog, the more challenging the medical treatments. But, as they say, with age, what is lost on the swings is gained on the merry-go-round." p. 4

Book Description: As noted in the book's subtitle, Dr. Dodman and other faculty at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University provide expert advice for keeping your aging dog happy, healthy and comfortable in this last stage of life. The book is organized around actual case studies of dogs treated by the veterinary faculty at Tufts. Each case study is then followed by commonsense, balanced background information so that you, as the pet owner, can make the right decisions for your dog. Some valuable chapter topics include: proper diet, common medical conditions and diseases in aging dogs, dementia, adapting the physical environment, and end-of-life decisions. In my case, I especially appreciated the descriptions of different cancers in dog, symptoms, and treatment options. It helped me know that I was doing right by Willie.

In the last year or two several friends have experienced the pleasure and pain of living with a good old dog. I wish I could have loaned them this book to ease the way. For myself, I've been lucky to have four great dogs--Zack, Frank, Dan, and now Willie--live to ripe old ages. Each of them has taught me valuable lessons about living well and growing old.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fun Monday - Splurge vs Steal

A hearty welcome to our new hosts for March Fun Mondays, the Georgia Girls of In Good Company .

Their assignment for the 7th is for us to identify five things that we're willing to spend hard earned cash on and five things we'd rather steal or that we certainly regret spending money on.

It's safe to say that what we're willing to spend money on are the things in life that we value, both large and small. Here's my list:


1. Books - I like knowing that the dog doesn't even feel the need to get up and bark when the UPS guy makes his several trips per week with boxes from Amazon.

2. Self Care - regular dental visits and work done to keep my teeth in good shape (no "wooden" teeth here); regular eye exams and top of the line cool eyeglasses; pilates classes; professional haircuts and color.

3. Travel - annual trips to other countries with really good tour companies so I'll feel safe traveling alone. Just booked a trip to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark in August.

4. Pet Care - regular medical care for my old senior citizen Willie.

5. Care Giving Support - I don't do this, but I'd like to be able to afford paying for some help for my older sister's housekeeping so I don't have to worry about running two households.


1. McMansions - I'm quite satisfied with my modest, minimally furnished and gadget free home.

2. Car - the fewer bells and whistles the better--I'm happy with my little breadbox Scion xB.

3. Eating Out - much prefer cooking at home except for the chance to combine a friend's dinner out and some entertainment like a play.

4. Clothes - just a few black outfits and I'm happy.

5. Taxes - well we all feel that we pay too much. I always remember another single friend who was bewildered at her annual tax bill. She just didn't feel that she used that many governmental services and almost never needed for the police to come out on Saturday night and settle her down! :-)

So, Georgia Girls that's my splurge vs steal list. Something tells me it's going to be about the same as everyone else's!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

First of the Month - Sycamore Sky

In January I discovered an exciting blog photography meme started by Jan at Murrieta 365 . This meme appealed to me because I need to work on taking better photos, which do a lot to enliven and illustrate blog posts. Here's how it works:

Jan is calling her new meme First of the Month. Here are her directions: "The goal is to capture one thing repeatedly on the first day of each month. It can be a landscape, a person, an animal, a project; whatever your focus is fine. It can be a record of where you are each first day of the month." Interesting exercise, right?

I decided to photograph Kentucky skies. Every day I'm looking at the sky and taking photos of Mother Nature's many moods. She's been rather surly the past week--rain, rain, rain. Yesterday morning four tornadoes touched down in the area causing a lot of damage from straight line winds. On March 1, when the official photo is to be taken, the weather shifted. All day the sky has been a brilliant blue with not a cloud to be seen. Just perfect to show off the bare sycamore tree, icy white against blue skies.

Even if you know these clear blue skies are temporary, it's still lovely to see them on March 1. A promise that spring will come in its own time. If you'd enjoy seeing some more beautiful photography from all over and on many subjects, just click on Jan's web page for a list of other First of the Month players.

Teaser Tuesday - Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg

On the surface it looked like an accident. A six-year old boy fell to his death from a snowy rooftop in Copenhagen. Smilla Jasperson, the boy's friend and neighbor, looks at the tracks in the rooftop snow and is convinced that the police are wrong. This is the intriguing opening for Danish crime writer Peter Hoeg's Smilla's Sense of Snow and my selection for this week's Teaser Tuesday.

Teaser Tuesday is described by its host Miz B over atShould be Reading as a "weekly bookish meme" open to any reader who wants to play along. If, like me, you're always curious about what people are reading or on the lookout for the next great read, then this may be your meme. If you want to play, just click on Miz B's link above for the very simple rules.

Smilla's Sense of Snow

by Peter Hoeg

"The coffin is made of dark wood, it looks so small, and there is already a layer of snow on it. The flakes are the size of tiny feathers, and that's the way snow is, it's not necessarily cold. What is happening at the moment is that the heavens are weeping for Isaiah, and the tears are turning into frosty down that is covering him up." p. 4

Book Description: At first you think Hoeg has written a straightforward crime novel. A boy falls to his death from a Copenhagen rooftop. Police are quick to call it an accident and try to close the case. However, the boy's neighbor is a mathematician and scientist. And like the boy she is a native Greenlander and understands what is possible in snowy, icy conditions. She pushes and is ordered to back off, threatened with events from her past. She suspects a corporate and governmental cover up that ties both her and the boy Isaiah back to an ill-fated geological expedition in Greenland many years ago.

* * * * *
If I enjoy a book, I'm always happy to know that there's a film adaptation of it. For Smilla's Sense of Snow there is a 1997 film by the same name and it stars some heavy hitters such as Julia Ormond, Gabriel Byrne, Richard Harris, Jim Broadbent, and Vanessa Redgrave. Even better if it's on Netflix Instant Play and it is. Here's the trailer: