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Poison Oak
Clyde Pack

Ring out the message

When the tipple was idle, and no sound of any consequence was present on those long ago Sunday mornings, the familiar clear, rich peal from the bell tower of the old Free Will Baptist Church echoed through the little community and bounced off the surrounding hillsides. It was like even the dogs stopped barking and birds stopped singing long enough to listen. I don’t know how far the sound would reach, but you could sure hear it loud and clear at our house.  
Along about the summer of my tenth year, I was fortunate enough to become part of the bell-ringing ritual as I proudly accompanied Dad, who was one of the church’s deacons and whose job it was to ring the bell thirty minutes before services were to begin, then again just as they were ready to start.
He’d never let me pull the long seagrass rope that was looped around a large nail just inside the entrance.  So, I’d stand next to him and stare at the ceiling to see the movement that sent out the four-or-five minute message to the whole community.
I’d then park myself on the top step and watch to see if anyone had gotten the message. Without fail, in a little while, folks would start to drift, one or two at a time, toward where I was sitting. The women, some of the older ones having donned a clean apron,  all emitting aromas of fresh powder, Juicy Fruit gum and Evening in Paris perfume, usually led the way. Often, they had with them a youngster or two, all scrubbed behind the ears but who obviously would rather have been anywhere else in the world. They quickly entered the building and took their seats, more often than not, the same pews they occupied week after week.
The men, on the other hand, would loiter outside, maybe waiting until the last minute while they smoked one more cigarette or gave one more chomp to the chaw of Red Man in their jaws before spitting them into their hands and tossing them aside.
Somewhere along the way, I heard someone say that the big bell that alerted worshippers to the little white clapboard church house -- and still rings in the far recesses of my mind -- had at one time been part of a steamboat that, in the late 1800s,  navigated the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River which, not more than a mile from where I sat on the church house steps, quietly made its way to the Ohio near Catlettsburg.  I guess I always pretty much accepted that as fact since I’d also heard that riverboats were certainly bountiful on the Big Sandy half a century or more before I was born.
Anyway, when I was “helping” Dad ring the church bell, I was of the opinion that it was indeed the ringing of the bell that caused people to come to church. Without the bell, I was certain the preachers would have had to deliver their fire and brimstone sermons to empty pews instead of dozens of worshipers, including a row or two of squirming boys and girls sitting with their mommies and being convicted by the fiery words.
I’m sure there are still many old country churches in Eastern Kentucky whose bell rings an invitation on Sunday mornings. And although I no longer believe that my helping ring the church bell nearly seventy years ago had anything to do with filling a dozen or so pews, I believed it then and still enjoy the memory.


Smile Awhile
Labor Day angst

This past weekend I managed to make two fashion gaffes at the same time.  That’s right, folks.  Actually, I really only made one mistake, but just missed by one day of making it a double.
Maybe people were just too polite to mention it or they simply didn’t care (which I tend to think it’s the latter) but I wore fake eye brows to the PHSAA’s Distinguished Alumnus Dinner on Saturday night at the Ramada Inn in Paintsville.
For those of you who are not aware of it, I lost my eye brows and most of my eye lashes and vision in the war on eye cancer 17 years ago.  Since I prefer to wear bangs most people don’t notice I’m nearly browless, but I know and that’s who matters when I’m looking in the mirror.
Ronnie bought me the box of eye brows for my birthday and I was elated.  He lost half of his eye brows to the war on old age several years ago so he feels my pain.
Not only did Ronnie buy the lushness for me, he also had to apply them.  On his first attempt he got them too high.  His second attempt was more accurate, but they were too dark.  On his third try I just combed my bangs over them.
The kit comes with an applicator that is very similar looking to a ‘paid’ stamp you use in a business  office.  The definition of the brow is determined by the pressure applied by the applier.  I left the house not knowing whether I looked like a hoot or an owl.
The other fashion faux pas I managed to escape was the wearing of white pants.  It was the Labor Day weekend, so I didn’t wear white pants after Labor Day thus averting a real couture catastrophe with 48 hours to spare.
When I was growing up adults used to whisper about women who wore white shoes or dresses after Labor Day.  In some circles it was considered tasteless and/or vulgar.  Today you can wear white all year round and nobody even notices.  In fact, you can wear your bra on the outside of your clothes and nobody notices.
As Ronnie and I were leaving the house to attend the function I asked him, “Do I look fat in these eye brows?”
“Honey, you look great,” he answered, “you always do.”
Ronnie always says the right thing in these situations and it’s a good thing since he’s never going to make a living as an eye brow applicator.
The following evening a friend sent me a picture she had taken of us with her iPhone  and I had a uni-brow.  I took it in stride because now everyone will just think I forgot to pluck.
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile!


Smile Awhile
Food for thought

Most Americans know what food most states or cities are famous for.  For example, Maine is famous for their lobsters; Wisconsin for their cheeses; Boston for their baked beans; and Baltimore for their crab cakes.  Our own Louisville {pronounced Luh-vul} is famous for their Hot Brown.   But do you know that states have foods that they hate?
According to an article in the August 24th Lexington Herald-Leader each state has its own most hated food as well. Kentuckians hate Hummus.  Hummus is a dip or spread derived from a blend of chickpeas or sesame seeds.  I think it is of Greek origin and it actually reminds me of creamier refried beans.
On the other hand, Kentuckians would be shocked to learn that California’s most hated food is “Chick-fil-A” because it’s one of Kentucky’s favorite fast food restaurants.
Montana folks hate anything with pumpkin spice while Michigan residents hate cold pizza.  (Ronnie’s wary of people who hate cold pizza.)
New Mexico hates another one of Kentucky’s fast foods, chicken nuggets, while Oregon hates any kind of fast food period.  (I’m not sure about this, but I think that’s un-American).
The one that really got Ronnie’s ire up was Georgia’s hatred for tuna salad.  Ronnie has always said if he were a condemned man his last meal request would be a tuna fish sandwich and a piece of pecan pie.  (Well, I guess there goes that trip back to Savannah).
To name a few more state’s most hated foods, Ohio hates pesto; West Virginia, Tofu; Oklahoma, veggie burgers; Mississippi, cilantro; Florida, licorice; and Texas, steaks cooked well done.
But the most outrageous hated food of any state (and I’m sure Clyde Pack would call this sacrilegious) is Minnesota’s hatred for beans, which would include soup beans.
I don’t know about you folks, but I’m ready for Minnesota to secede into Canada.
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile!


Poison Oak
Life before label readers

Had I not been in a bit of a hurry, I probably would have paid little attention as I waited at the grocery store the other day while  a sweet little lady pulled her glasses down to the end of her nose and began reading the label on a can of cherry pie filling. Naturally, she, and her shopping cart, stood between me and my getting on with my life. She had me completely blocked from the item I needed and was so fully engrossed in her reading, she didn’t even know I was in this world.
Although it’s a diminishing demographic, thank goodness there are those among us who can still remember life before label readers. There was a time when you could ask the clerk at the company store for a box of corn flakes or order a footlong Dairy Queen hotdog without worrying about how much saturated fat, cholesterol or dietary fiber they had.
But here we are in 2017 and while I know it makes sense to eat smart, sometimes I wonder just how much value there is in all these so-called “nutrition facts” that appear on boxes and cans that line our supermarket shelves. Now, don’t misunderstand, I don’t doubt that if a company says a serving of whatever contains nine percent total carbohydrates or twenty-five percent Vitamin C, then that’s exactly what it contains. It’s great to be informed, I suppose, but I just wonder, does it really make any difference? Should we really care? Or, are people simply making too much of all these labels?
In the first place, all this stuff has got to be expensive. I mean, companies must have to pay scientists, or whoever makes these determinations, tons of money to come up with accurate measurements before they can list the amount of thiamin, niacin and folate in a box of brownie mix.
And really, how much good does labeling do for the consumer? Personally, if I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, do I really care that the peanut butter was made from selected U.S. roasted peanuts and contains less than two percent molasses? Hardly! What I’m really apt to read -- if I read anything at all--is whether it’s smooth or crunchy.
Yet, with all this concern about which food is and which food isn’t good for us, I think I still notice just as many odd-shaped people wandering around these days as I did before warning labels appeared on everything that tastes good. Some people are still as skinny as broom sticks, and some people are still fat. Or, as my Dad would have said, “Some people are still “heavy set.” I’m afraid that even with the labeling and the ever increasing popularity of TV ads for work-out machines, as far as I can tell, both sexes look about like they’ve always looked.
Guess about the only thing we know for sure is that folks like the lady engrossed in the can of pie filling, are finding more reading material available for shoppers these days.


Education and Common Sense
All Eyes Were on the Skies

Monday everybody in Kentucky, it seemed, had their eyes on the skies. We had not had an eclipse of the sun visible in Kentucky since 1979. My daughter Patti remembered the one in 1979, but I could not remember a vestige of it. I finally realized that in 1979 my husband’s Alzheimer’s disease had reached the point where something had to be done with him. My subconscious mind must have blocked my memory of much of that year.
It was so very hot that I decided not to go outside in the tent our Activities Director Michelle provided along with safety viewing glasses, and elected to watch the eclipse from the comfort of my air-conditioned room via television. I got to see the huge crowds tramping all over a man’s soybean field near Hopkinsville (which was the best place to view the eclipse). I felt sorry about all that hay that was ruined until I heard one commentator say the owner made enough money from renting spots in his field to pay off the mortgage on his farm!
We armchair watchers got to watch the total eclipse starting in Salem, Oregon, and proceeding across the United States.  We watched as the moon moved between the sun and the earth, making the sun into a crescent that turned into a black circle with light sparkles emanating from the sun’s surface. We were told that the halo effect was plasma, which is a hotter than hot entity that I did not understand.
It did make me think about how great God is.  The Universe is so big that we have not yet found the end of it. Supposedly our star (the sun) with the planets revolving around it is one of the smaller groups. I am told that there are bigger stars with more planets. So far, our earth is the only planet that is “just right” to harbor life. Enough air, enough water, not too hot or too cold. A miracle.
The Women’s Bible Study Group at my church a few Wednesday nights ago studied the attributes of God. One was “omnipotence” (all-powerful) and one was “omniscient” (all knowing).  I suddenly realized that if God knows my every thought, He knows every thought of every person on the earth! Mind-boggling as that is, I went a step further. Do you suppose he knows every thought of every animal? Does it get as low as earthworms?
I remembered a song,” It Took a Miracle” that we sang at church a few years ago:
“It took a miracle to put the world in place; It took a miracle to hang the stars in space. But when He saved my soul, Cleansed and made me whole, It tool a miracle of love and grace.”
The more I know how like a fine-tuned instrument the Universe, including life as we know it, works; the more we realize how awesome the Creator of that Universe is.
I’m glad the sun is on the job this morning furnishing energy for every living thing animal and vegetable that is living under the sun.



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