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Smile Awhile
Backseat Driver

Since I no longer drive, I am left to someone else’s devices if I need to go somewhere.  Not having the option of jumping into a vehicle and going to random destinations is quite debilitating.  But, thankfully, my husband has become my chauffeur by default.  You’d think I would be grateful, and I am.  However, being at someone else’s mercy can be a two-edged sword.
When Ronnie and I are traveling he doesn’t carry on a conversation.  Aside from the usual comments like “do you have to go to the bathroom” or “are you hungry” we never speak.
(Actually I talk; he doesn’t listen).  There are exceptions to this rule.  When we exceed the speed of light I might scream out, “Put your trays in an upright position!”  There have been times that I actually think he has reversed the aging process when we hit warp speed.
I know it sounds as if I am complaining, now I assure you I am not.  I appreciate his willingness to pilot me around, but since I am a former driver I do tend to insert my opinions.
Whether men will admit it or not, to them driving a vehicle is a control issue.  Getting behind the wheel of a vehicle gives them “instant macho” status.  They don’t just put their hands on the steering wheel; they fondle it.  And securing their seat belt seems to be yielding to submission.  In fact, Ronnie tunes out the constant “beeping” that alerts you that your seat belt is unfastened like it’s a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young hit.
Despite these small concessions Ronnie drives quite defensively.  Although he drives faster than I prefer, he does stop --- abruptly.  When I drove I would start braking halfway between blocks, approaching the stop sign slowly and deliberately.  Ronnie chooses to stop exactly at the stop sign thus throwing me forward into the windshield.
At this point, you’re probably saying to yourself, “What an ingrate.”  Actually, that might be accurate except I don’t see myself as a “backseat driver” I see myself as a co-pilot. I feel that gives me some leverage particularly if we have passengers.
But Ronnie doesn’t see me as a co-pilot but rather as a flight attendant; the one who unwraps his sandwich and arranges it so he can eat and drive, finds the address for the GPS, and cleans his sunglasses.
Regardless of my complaints, Ronnie always manages to get me from Point A to Point B without a hitch. And as much as we travel, that’s no small feat.
I’m just waiting for that new car that drives for you.  Ronnie says I won’t like because I won’t be able to tell it what to do.  He’s probably right.
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile!


Poison Oak
When there’s giggling in the pew

As a kid, I was an avid church attender. After all, except for going to the show on Saturday morning, or going to an occasional pie supper at school, church was about the only place for a kid to go.
But, as hard as it is to believe now, I was far from being a perfect child. Even the act of going to church sometimes got me into hot water, especially when Mom went, too You see, I had this habit of giggling when things were supposed to be very serious. In a sense, when I’d go to church with my mother, I was under a great deal of pressure. She’d warn me that if I let my “giggle-box get turned over again,” I was in deep trouble.
But thanks to an incident that occurred one Sunday night in March of 1949, Mom got a taste of her own medicine. It was one of those services when we had “special singing,” via The Tom’s Creek Quartet, and a special guest preacher, a “big preacher from town,” who, for soon-to-be obvious reasons,  shall remain nameless.
Mom, as she was wont to do, was sitting between my little brother and me, no doubt hoping that if we couldn’t see or touch each other, there was less chance of our embarrassing the family … again.
The service was progressing nicely. The special singers, as usual, did especially well. The congregational singing was emotionally rendered and one of the deacons had led a brief ten-minute-long prayer. It was now time for the big preacher from town to deliver his message.  
He was a short, fat little feller, dressed in a dark three-piece suit, looking exactly like what you’d expect a big preacher from town to look like. Problem was, just as he stepped up behind the podium, from her angle, Mom noticed something. Although his fly was closed, about three inches of his white shirt tail was hanging from the top of his zipper.
Now, my mother was a hearty laugher. When she laughed, she laughed. Fortunately for her, Free Wills are often very emotional in their worship. So, it was not at all that unusual to see a church member sitting between two young boys, bent forward with her face in her hands, with her shoulders shaking violently.
It took about five minutes, but finally she composed herself and sat back up, tears running down both sides of her face. Unfortunately, however, the big preacher from town, as many Free Will Baptist preachers are known to do, moved around a lot while delivering those fire and brimstone sermons. So, just as Mom looked up, he popped from behind the podium … and she lost it again, this time with an audible gasp. Her head went back down, and again her shoulders began shaking. Eventually, she sat up straight again, but never looked forward. She stared at the songbook in her lap until church was dismissed some hour and a half later.
After that night, she never again threatened me with bodily harm for giggling in church. And, for some reason, when she’d learn that that particular big preacher from town was to visit our church, she always made some excuse to stay home.
Mom was a hearty laugher.


Education and Common Sense
Thank you, Mrs. Raymond!

I was surprised when I started studying for the Sunday School lesson I was scheduled to teach on Mothers’ Day. I grumbled to daughter Patti, who was visiting me because of the special day. “I don’t know why we aren’t talking about mothers instead of work,” I said.
“ I can’t think of anybody who has to do more work than mothers do,” Patti said. “I think a lesson about work fits in well with Mothers’ Day!”
In the class, we did talk some about our mothers, and more about the work we had done in our lifetimes. As our youngest member is 79 and our oldest is 96, we are all retired from any paying job, but some still do some volunteer work regularly.
One of our ladies sewed cuffs on hundreds of shirts a day and made all of her daughters’ clothes, including prom dresses and wedding dresses. She had hemmed a prom dress for a granddaughter this season. We were impressed!
I remembered a poem I had to memorize when I was in seventh grade at Corydon School in 1937. It was, as I look back with my grown-up teacher eyes, a class to give us 13 seventh graders something to do at an odd hour, and Mrs. Raymond, the elderly “Home Science” teacher, a class so she could earn her stipend. We explored different jobs we would like. I remember I checked out becoming a telephone operator. It’s a good thing I did not pursue that occupation. That job became extinct before I was old enough to work it.
I did get one lasting benefit from the class. Mrs. Raymond, a gentle, caring elderly lady (perhaps 60?) had us memorize the poem “WORK” by Henry Van Dyke
I shared it with my Sunday school friends last Sunday when we talked about our attitudes toward our lifelong occupations. This is the poem that has been neatly tucked in my brain for eighty years:
              
WORK
Let me but do my work from day to day
In field or forest, at the desk or loom,
In roaring marketplace or tranquil room.
Let me but find it in my heart to say,
When vagrant wishes beckon me astray,
“This is my work! My blessing, not my doom!
Of all who live, I am the one by whom
This work can best be done in the right way!”
Then shall I see it; not too great or small
to soothe my spirit and to prove my powers.
Then shall I, cheerful, greet the laboring hours,
And, cheerful, turn, when the long shadows fall
At eventide, to play, and love, and rest,
Because I know for me, my work is best.
-- Henry Van Dyke

I wonder how much that little poem influenced my grown-up attitude toward the career I chose? I know I didn’t bad-mouth the teaching profession to my children, and all three of them became excellent teachers.
I am so thankful that Mrs. Raymond, who must have gone to her heavenly reward at least fifty years ago, gave me something of lasting value in that 7th grade classroom eighty years ago!


Downhomer
Gifts both big and small

This week, Friday, May 19, will have come and in like manner will soon pass away. It reminds me once more of how very swiftly the time allocated to this old planet earth is winding down. Yesterday it was winter; now spring (supposedly) and ultimately summer. Next, as the month of May passes, June will inevitably take its place. Thereby, this year will then be half over. With every day that passes, we see signs of the end of the age. On every side of us, everything seems to become worse and worse, and almost, we could find ourselves saying Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Then we remember those we know who have not yet acquired their ticket to the lifeboat when it comes by, or worse than this, having done so, have relinquished what would be their place on that Old ship of Zion. Knowing all this, and well aware of our need to be prayed up, in our humanness we still have to live our day-to-day life to the best of our ability. Though we might never actually forget our ultimate goal, it is easy to lay aside for a moment or two, day or two, week or two the underlying motif of our lives. For myself, and even when I am in a valley I know God doesn’t want us to forget, nor to go around with gloom and dismay. The joy of being blessed to be here and to see what comes next is reason enough to shout; “Praise the Lord.”
As it is, in sunshine or rain I have learned to take my pleasures in small doses, and to be thankful for all the gifts that come my way, both the small ones and the larger ones, for all is relative. This month, another Mother’s day has come and gone. The usual roses were delivered; the gathering in of some of the family to celebrate with me took place, with them providing the dinner, me being a lady of leisure. The usual phone calls came from some of those who live away, they just checking in to say a Happy Mother’s Day! If by chance you could look at a picture of my family celebration, and then if you should look further afield, you would see such celebrations duplicated all across this down home area. Of course in many of these places there is always some one missing, one who doesn’t call, one not among the rest of us, but one never forgotten, always present in our hearts. Of such is one of the gifts of life, that there is always both sunshine and rain, and hopefully, we will soon get to the days of sunshine! This new week we have hope of a faring up of the season. I think I am so ready for this because the winter months did seem so very long and dreary.
That it was a little less bleak for me this year was due to the spending of the cold months in son Bob’s house, where he has a secondary heat source. I did so love sitting close to that old buck stove Bob kept fired up. We who have central heat and air are up the creek when the power goes off. That this actually did not happen this winter in our neighborhood was a marvelous gift of time and circumstances and location. In addition, during those wintry days the joy of working with my many houseplants was to me a sustaining pleasure.
One aspect of this was due to the display several of my orchids put on. Two of these, a purple, and a white blooming one, faithfully set new sprays of blossoms along their stems all winter. In addition, two of the spider plants and the two mother-in-law plants I recently acquired have done well. However, best of all the pleasure that my other plants has given me has been the show my mother’s huge old Christmas Cactus has put on. When Walter and I went up the road to Bob’s, we left the utilities on at our house. We kept the heat thermostat turned down to 50, and someone was back and forth almost daily to check on things. Because I have so many, I left most of my houseplants at home, and in fact, they seemed to fare well enough just being watered once in a while. As soon as winter temperatures had waned (or so we thought) Walter and I came back home again. During those first ensuring warm days, I hauled some of those houseplants out to the porch, among them the humongous Christmas cactus I had brought with me when I came home from Michigan. Then the weather turned cold again in one of those little winters we always have, and I hauled them all back in. Now the way Christmas cactus works is like this. On the first of December if you place the plant where it is somewhat cold and dark, then as the month passes if you bring it back to the light and heat, it will reward you by blooming for Christmas. As I wasn’t here at Christmas, this cycle of that plant’s dormancy and growth was broken. Then being out on the porch in that period of time when it turned colder, and brought back into the house, it did its thing. Long past its normal blooming agendas it is now covered with the small red trumpet type blooms that closes up at night, opens during the day to become a stunning addition to my roses. I freely admit that seeing these plants and being among them does bring me a lot of pleasure.
However, in addition to my treasured houseplants, there are living flowers that are always at bloom in my garden of life. Always immeasurable in comparison to my inanimate houseplants, how could I ever liken a silent rose to my great-grandchildren Nataleigh and Brantlee Webb who chatter in excitement as they present the Mother’s day cards they made especially for me. Their own mother had let each of them dip a little foot in some kind of paint, and then press it to the paper they used for my cards. In addition to this; that I have my own indoor collection of flowers cannot ever compare with the delight of having little two year old Adalyn Fannin sit beside me on the piano bench as she tries to mimic what my hands do as they move across the keys. A picture lovelier than any flowering plant.
I am a flower enthusiast. I am also a besotted grandmother. I love all my children and my children’s children. Like roses in the garden of life, children and grandchildren, big or small, are to those of us who love them, a God given gift beyond price.


Smile Awhile
Wasting away again in Margaritaville!

omer “wasting away” in the polar north looking for the perfect place to live, Jimmy Buffett has the answer. That’s right, folks! Singer Jimmy Buffett is opening a retirement community outside of Daytona Beach, Florida, calling it “Margaritaville”.
If “living on sponge cake, watching the sun bake” is your idea of paradise, Buffett will make your dreams come true. The homes will cost between $200-$350 thousand dollars, depending on how many bedrooms you desire, and they all will have a beachfront view.
For the generations of people who grew up listening to Buffett’s tropical music, mentally escaping the winter tundra weather to bask in the glow of sunshine while sipping a tequila drink, is surreal.
When I mentioned it to my Hawaiian-shirted husband he laughed at me. “Are you serious?” he asked.
“I’m dead serious,” I replied. “It would be good for my arthritis!”
“Yes, but it would cripple my wallet,” he answered as his pony-tail swayed in the breeze of the ceiling fan. “I think we’re destined to live out our days in the gulag.”
“Just think,” I intoned. “You could be ‘strumming your six-string, there on the porch swing’ while a cabana boy gives me a pedi/mani.”
“You’re delusional!” Ronnie grinned. “The next thing I know you’ll be wanting a brand new tattoo of a Mexican curie!”
A little while later I saw Ronnie putting around the house as if he were on a mission. Having seen him in this mode before I knew he’d lost either his car keys or his sunglasses. When I asked him what was up he stopped in his tracks and sarcastically barked, “I’m searching for my lost shaker of salt!”
To which I drolly replied, “Well, just don’t cut your heel on a pop-top!”
Oh, we so need to go. If we do, though some people will claim, that there’s a woman to blame . . . and I guess it’s my fault.
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile!



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