Posts Tagged ‘Lexington KY’

Steamboat SpringsSteamboat Springs photo by Stacy Taluskie

Winter is coming late to Michigan this year. It is January 10th and we have yet to have much of it, by direct comparison to the blizzards of 2015.

But this morning we got out and about for the necessary things and back home again, fortified for in-door living if the predicted storm arrives.

The snow falling now makes me long for by-gone skiing days of our early adulthood. Both Tom and I enjoyed the cold and frozen temps of Northern Michigan–every moment of them and a bonus was even sometimes getting “snowed in” so that the roads closed and we couldn’t get back to lower Michigan.  Oh darn, another day of skiing. We called in……”snowed in!”

I have a friend from Kentucky, who traded in her days of medical practice as a Physician Assistant, to return to a love of her life — Steamboat Springs, Colorado. She got herself a place to live and went back to work as a lift operator at the famed resort, and is living a life of her dreams. Talk about options!!


Tom and I lived in Lexington Kentucky for the first twelve years of our married lives and became dear friends of Stacy’s parents and family, leaving Lexington to pursue another dream for ourselves when Stacy was just a toddler.

But before we left, we talked her mom and dad, Stan and Sheila, into going on a cabin snow vacation with us up to Northern Michigan.

And……we offered to teach them how to ski.


So that went well, but I don’t think either of them became fans of skiing.  Super bundled up, they both looked almost like the young toddlers with snowsuits where they can barely move their legs and arms. But they were game.

Tom and I taught them the basic snowplow, and assured them they could slow down, turn a bit, and even stop by employing that technique in varying degrees.

Then came the first run. Sheila skied successfully down one hill with Tom closely behind her, issuing verbal and calm directions, which she followed to the tee. She said if she didn’t hear Tom say to do it, she didn’t do anything.

I, on the other hand, took Stan to another hill, and we started off and practiced the snowplow at the top of the hill. That was fine until…..Stan’s skiis started to tilt downward with the gravity of the hill.


Maybe Stan should have had some of Stacy’s headgear, for he started straightlining down the slope. I picked up speed behind him, shouting (for I am never the calm one), “turn, turn, turn”….. to which Stan replied,  “how, how, how”.

Then he went straight off of ski run and flopped into the fluffy, deep (thank God) snow piled in the out-of-bounds area, with trees ahead of him.

I was between laughing and fright when I arrived beside him, and he lifted up his head from the snow bank, and the snow broke off around his eyes and mouth and mustache, and we corrupted into duo laughing.

He survived and I coaxed him down the rest of the slope. The next day, while Tom and I returned to the snowy slopes, Stan took to roasting the turkey and Sheila sat by the fireplace with a good book and a hot toddy!  Yet they survived, and if they haven’t told the tale, I am doing that right here.

TaluskiesTaluskie’s at home, Stacy on the slopes

Happy New Year and Anniversary Stan and Sheila. Happy Birthday, Sheila. Hi Steve, Shari and Sandi.

Tom and Sue Christmas tree

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What are the odds? No, not today in the 2015 running of the Kentucky Derby. But what are the odds that Tom and I are just a couple months away from celebrating a life and a love that was united in marriage fifty years ago on June 19, 1965?

Some might say it is a long shot. I might even say that, given some of the challenges we faced. But whatever odds we overcame, we are being rewarded with a magnificent family life. We are enjoying relatively good health and mobility. And if there is a secret to long-term marriage success, I might say for us it is just……that we never fell out of love.

In the Kentucky Derby of 1965, Lucky Debonair was the winner, followed by Dapper Dan in second and Tom Rolfe in third.

Tom’s first job out of college was with IBM in Lexington, Kentucky the heart of the Bluegrass.  We began our married life in a furnished apartment (with maid, which I would never tell my mother), moved to a rented duplex awaiting the arrival of our first born daughter, Laura the following June. Then a couple years later, we were settled into our first purchased and built home on Sandra Court and soon after that, we were given the gift of our second daughter, Kathleen.

Ours was the first home, around which grew the most fantastic neighborhood. Neighbors Bob and Carmel, Martha and Joe, and many other surrounding ones made for a vibrant, alive and friendly place for us and our children. We have never been in a neighborhood like that or shared time with others as we did in that one time of our life

Friends, Linda and Tom (our first) and Jude and Lucretia, Dave and Kay, Stan and Sheila were just a short jaunt away. We were rich in friendships, fun and play.

CarolineCaroline, friend of Laura and daughter of our Kentucky friends, Jude and Lucretia

We lived in the Bluegrass during the amazing years and feats of Secretariat, the last horse to win the Triple Crown. We walked the grasses of Calumet Farms and other white-fenced horse farms with our friends and visitors from Michigan. It was fun to be part of the Bluegrass pride and traditions.


During our twelve years in Lexington, I taught school for a short while and then became an assistant in the Montessori classroom of Joanie Stickler. It was the start up of what is now an extremely successful Community Montessori School through high school level, one where friend Janet Ashby dedicated many years of loving service to the children and adults being blessed by the Montessori methods of discovery taught by Maria Montessori.

Our life changed “on a dime” in 1976, when we left Lexington in search of a different way of livelihood.  For some time to come, it could be best described in a song Neil Diamond would write titled, “It’s a Beautiful Noise!”

Fifty-Fifty is not about the odds on any horse today. In honor of approaching our 50th, I have decided to blog 50 stories over the 50 years of our life together. I have not written Napkinwriter as often this year as I did the first three years, so this will give me a theme to “hang my writer’s hat on”.  There are so many MORE than 50 stories (and they are not fairy-tales). It will amuse me anyway to see which I decide to throw some light upon.

I will complete these stories before Tom and I leave, once again, for a honeymoon in the Smoky Mountains in late June.

Tom and Sue

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Scripture talks in many verses about the eyes. For instance, it does say that if the eye is healthy, the body is healthy. It also says that our eyes are the windows to our soul.

How true that is. It is in the eyes, you can first tell how a person is feeling. I love smiling eyes! I see them before I see the smile on the mouth often. Dancing eyes give off a twinkle and raises the energy around the person. When a person is not feeling well, it shows in their eyes quickly.

Eyes communicate directly with another – without words they can issue a command not to be taken lightly; like a lighthouse they show forth hope and promise to one who needs to be uplifted; when energy is drained, they are the message-bearer that one needs a respite.

Our daughter, Laura, is a Doctor of Optometry. She has served the health of people’s eyes for over twenty-one years now in the practice she started with fresh out of Optometry School.

She is wonderfully happy and blessed in the health profession she has chosen. So are her faithful returning patients over two decades of eye-care. Several of them show their appreciation in delightful ways. She has also been credited with some sight-saving emergency care and referrals of immediate need patients. Her expertise in contact care and cataract attention is known throughout the profession.

Yesterday at the end of a long week, Laura received a gift cake, beautifully decorated in autumn motif colors from a patient. It was from her favorite bakery for cakes. The patient was returning after she had been there on the day the office was celebrating her 21st year, so she just added some extra days on the cake.  She is also the gracious recipient of chocolate from Germany. I think that is pretty special when a patient thinks of their eye doctor while “across the pond.”

Dr. Laura enjoys a community-setting and comadarie among her office staff workers. They have festive brunches on special occasions, and “tailgaters” at the office when big game days are at hand. And pretty great parties offsite too.

It is pretty easy to remember the day she came home from school and said she had seen a health film and she knew what she wanted to be. I think she was in the eighth grade. She wanted to be an optometrist and take care of and heal people’s eyes.

She never changed that idea from the time she had it. We found ourselves quite quickly in the library searching the Optometry Schools in the country. She  focused immediately on Ferris State University School of Optometry in Big Rapids Michigan. So she enrolled in undergraduate school there and the studies began……

We had lots of fun with both daughters as they both chose colleges just north of us, and our second daughter marched in the Central Michigan Band in Mount Pleasant. So for awhile, we put a lot of weekend tire rubber on the road and miles on our car as they both pursued their scholastic and professional dreams. Lots of dorm and house furniture moving, football games, and concerts and it was great being part of it all.

Laura was in school for a  L   O   N  G    time; it seemed like it to her. She did one internship at an Air Force base up north on the eastern shores of Michigan. Then she relished an internship in Lexington, Kentucky where she had been born. She continues to hold an optometry certificate in Kentucky, for you never know when the bluegrass might call to her once again.  We enjoyed giving a party for her in Lexington at the end of her internship, with both our own friends from our first family days in Lexington plus many of hers too.

We saw our “little girls” and their “little friends” all grown up entering the now generation of profession and family.

Laura worked several years before meeting Carl, the love of her life, and a little down the timeline after that, she completed this love with the birth of their daughter, Amy, who is about to celebrate her 5th birthday in a week or so.

This is the good life….good being done…..good being received….good being shared. All this good warms both her parents’ hearts.

A visit to Dr. Mommy at work with grama & dziadzia
usually means a ride on the caroulsel.

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Linda Wilson wrote a three page summary of the reflections back on her life and emailed it to me. She is celebrating her 70th birthday and along with the joys in her life, she is also facing some rather large physical challenges for herself and her best friend.

She also sent me these gorgeous photos of her Austin flower garden surrounding her home. You can almost feel the texture and enjoy the fragrant aroma.

I shared a small part of Linda’s life when we were newly married and moved to a whole new environment in Lexington Kentucky. She lived just down the street from where we lived in our first apartment and her husband, Tom and my new husband, Tom, started to work at IBM on the same day.

Linda became my first friend in Lexington. Our first daughter became their “second” daughter and we spent backyard times together and Saturday nights playing cards and eating pizza. It was the 70s with all the crazy going’s on of that time. Amidst changing times and consciousness, the thread of our friendship became a strong cord.

Then, Linda and Tom, moved to Austin Texas with a transfer of his job at IBM. No longer did they live just down the street from us. Actually, our first apartment had been on one side of where they lived, and when we built our first home, we were just “up” the street on the other side of the Wilson’s.

The move to Austin happened to be a good move for both Tom and Linda as they renewed meaningful treasures in their own married relationship. It’s funny how a change in environment can do that. Linda wrote letters to me (no email in those days) with a refreshing sense of newness and new interests and common activities that obviously made her feel more alive and in love with life.

This all came crashing down on her when her husband suffered a severe brain aneurism in his sleep one night and did not awake in the morning. What followed was a long, torturous path of hospitals and travels and unsolved mysteries of recovery that both Tom and Linda suffered through.

Mostly Linda, though, as she had a long path as caretaker; there were no rehabs at that time and Linda was full-time in the home caregiver for a severely affected but alive patient-husband.  She was pretty-alone, and that is very understated.

Linda made her way through this and a long way down the road, it became time to find Tom’s place in a care facility. He was mobile at this time, carried conversation, made jokes, and knew he was going to his new home. He put his slippers under his bed the first night he was there and said good night to his wife and daughter. He died in his sleep in the morning.

He cut the bonds to Earth and traveled on to his new goodness.

Linda traveled on here on Earth as well. She trained and worked as Activity Director in nursing homes and was the Spirit of Life, Humor, and Good Will to many elderly. She inspired them on to form bell choirs, and perform concerts for their loved ones and the public, fully garbed in rich regale.

Finding both a good friend and fantastic piano player in James, they brought love and delight to scores of people. And then, together they taught other Activity Directors how to do this wonderful work too, by teaching at workshops across the country.

They have given much, and now both are in physical need themselves, so I know that much will be given them.  Music is Love and in Linda and James it is obvious it is all ONE AND THE SAME!

I sent the following message back to Linda this morning:

Hi Linda,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my lifelong friend! You are right, Age 70 is a special milestone; Tom is living it this year; I am deciding what I want for my 70th in January and I am leaning toward a WHOLE YEAR OFF of JUST THINGS SUE WANTS TO DO.     I think that is what is going to happen; probably means a lot of reading & reflecting.

This is also very special that you put down in words your own journey in this life. I’ve printed it off so Tom can read it too.
Thank you for the grand blessing of your friendship. With each birthday, we are realizing that within this body, there is a Divine Spark of PURE LOVE that burns forever for us.

So HAVE A GREAT YEAR of feeling and knowing that Spark is a blazing, glowing reality within you asking you to only know how much you are LOVED and NEEDED in this Universe. God loves you so much that, just think, he/she CREATED YOU because the Universe was not complete in HIS (HERS) eyes until you were a part of it

So 70 year old Linda, you are supposed to know that YOU complete God’s Universe. Pretty special, HUH!!!  There are many, many people in Austin that know that is the truth of you and many people who have gone ON as Tom has that know it too. Celebrate the beauty of you.  love, sue

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Actually, this is the beginning of the Montessori story for me. I graduated in the school of Education from Michigan State University in 1965. In my courses,there was no mention made of an Italian woman who was pioneering great changes in the education of young children, and even educationally-challenged children.

My first classroom was a classroom of lively third grade children in a Catholic school in Kentucky.  I loved my teaching experience and I especially liked that age group of children. Near the end of the school year, however, I was pregnant with our first daughter and after her birth became an at-home mom for the next several years.

Lexington was a new community to us when we moved there as newly-weds. One of the things we did to meet people and get acquainted to make new friends was join a study group. Christian Family Movement was popular with Catholic couples at that time.

We met every couple of weeks (I think it was more than monthly) to discuss topics from a pre-printed book of topics for the year. The couples in our group were from several of the parishes in town and that was a good mix.

The thing is: Catholics, who came up in the ’50s were not too rewarded for having a personal opinion on anything regarding to their faith. They accepted most things “on faith”. But this was 1969 turning into the ’70s, and the country was torn apart (wide-apart) by the Vietnam War.

There was one couple, Tom and Martha H., who were very progressive in their thinking about faith, about community and about our country and they always stirred the pot for lively discussion. Most topics pertained to living an active, quality life as a faithful Christian and enhancing family values.

There was always “homework” assignments at the end of the meeting to do before the next meeting.  I don’t remember what the study topic was about on one particular night, but one of the homework assignments was to visit a Montessori Classroom and talk with a Montessori teacher about their method of education. I said I wanted to do that assignment.

St. Peter Claver was a Catholic parish and school in a poor district just outside downtown Lexington. The school had closed for elementary education, but two sisters of Notre Dame took Montessori training and opened a pre-school for 3-5 year olds. Sister Marcia and Sister Cletus introduced Montessori to the Lexington community.

The order of the classroom in general, both materials and children, the quiet focus of independent children at work on “their work”, and the respectful interaction between teacher and student immediately grabbed my attention upon observing the classroom.

The sensorial teaching materials, from sandpaper letters, to cylinders, to math beads, to world geographic maps stuck out to me in their vibrancy and appeal (I imagine two of the qualities that draws an inquisitive child to them to begin to learn from them).

I sensed also Sister Marcia was a person of trust. I would gladly put our own child under her direction and care. She explained some of the basic tenants of Montessori but the whole classroom environment spoke to me louder than she did, for she was a soft-spoken woman.

I wanted Laura in this classroom when she turned three. Now what was the cost? St. Peter Claver was commissioned to operate as a school open to the economically disadvantaged, so there were many inner-city children attending there on scholarship. The rest of us paid on a sliding scale according to family income.

Tom was gainfully employed with the top corporate employer of Lexington, IBM, right out of college, so for beginners we had a quality income for that time — we were an average middle income family. But I remember my mouth drop open when Sister Marcia said, “It will be $25 per month for the first child.” That seemed like about $500 in today’s dollars and I expressed uncertainty that we could arrange that.

Then this soft-spoken woman said words I can still hear today, “Well, I’ve found that people, in general, find a way to pay for what’s important to them.” Well, then ok, done. Put her on the list of incoming!

Laura was an awesome Montessori student and was followed two years later by her sister, Kathleen.  At home, Tom built a beautiful set of shelves, patterned on the ones they have in Montessori school rooms everywhere. They formed the basis of the play-work room we designed for the girls in the basement; small round tables and chairs; an easel for painting and coloring; defined spaces for their toy and game returns; and rolling rugs for their defined work areas. The neighborhood children loved to come and play in this space.

Another independent Montessori school developed by interested parents formed in Lexington that included education from pre-school up to the sixth grade level. Laura continued through third grade level at Community Montessori School in Lexington.

I was fortunate to apply and be chosen to be a classroom aid for Joanie, one of the pre-school Montessori classes. I worked mostly with the three-year olds. I, just like the children, soaked up the Montessori Method and it favorably impacted my own parent skills at home.

Joanie had sacrificed a lot and went to Atlanta to train in Montessori while she and her husband together worked out the child-care of their own two brilliant pre-school children. I thought Joanie was like a miniature Maria Montessori herself — very engrained and believing in the essence of this education — and willing to work at any and all problem-solving tasks to see success in herself and her students. I am grateful for that time and my work there.

Community Montessori School is still a thriving enterprise and has opened through high school level education today. Janet, one of the members 0f the original founder families, still serves her valuable mission there today and possesses one of those genuine Southern smiles and greetings that will knock your socks off.

I have talked briefly with the recently retired founder of The Montessori School (Richland and Kalamazoo) but long enough to understand that the same vision and energy and persistence lie behind the success of this school. And it, too, was a product with a similar history as ours was in Kentucky — founders knew it to be of paramount importance that it did exist; and they made it happen and today many enjoy the fruits of that determination.

Sue, Gary, Judy all are people at the top of my gratitude and admiration pole and it makes me happy just to know that children are walking into their environments every day. My granddaughter, Amy, gives me little bursts of “Montessori” on any given day and conversation and I just love those building blocks in her.

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