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Smile Awhile
Sara Blair

The Naked Truth

In the last 15 years, “reality” shows have literally taken over the major networks like wildfire.  The first reality show to air on public television was back in the 70’s called “The Louds”.  The Loud’s was a supposedly typical American family who allowed cameras to come into their homes and film their everyday activities without editing capabilities.  The last I heard, the show went off the air and the Loud’s went in opposite directions saying that when their privacy was breached their marriage suffered irreparable damage.
Since that time many new reality shows have penetrated our air space and we have been subjected to such adventurous broadcasts as “Survivor”, and the  “Kardashians”.  But not until recently was I as “blown away” by reality TV than when I watched an episode of “Naked and Afraid” (my husband’s new favorite show).  Now, I have to admit that when the “Osbourne’s” aired several years ago, I was afraid that at any given time, Ozzie might bite the head off a bat or that Sharon would shout an obscenity.  But I was prepared for that. 
However, I am not prepared for “Naked and Afraid.”
First of all, I don’t like “Reality TV”.  I’m more geared for “tongue-in-cheek” comedy, off-the-wall satire, or intense drama rather than watch a venue that might accidently parallel my own life. 
Ronnie tries to dissuade me from talking bad about this new show.  He claims that since it airs on the Discovery Channel that it is educational in content.  I disagree.  Just because “Playboy” contains word content does not mean it is a literary journal. 
When Ronnie lived in San Francisco he said that he visited the nude beaches.  He told me that it was interesting to watch people walking around in their “altogether” acting as though it was the most natural thing in the world to do. (No, I didn’t ask him if he was wearing clothes or not, but at this point, I don’t want to know).  But even that is less intimidating than being out in the jungle in your “birthday suit”.  People walking around naked in the wilderness should be afraid, very afraid.
I don’t know how much money the people who appear on “Naked and Afraid” receive, but it wouldn’t be enough for me.  I know everyone has their price, but traipsing around fighting off mosquitoes and poison ivy without benefit of a fig leaf is not my idea of a good time.  In fact, if it were feasible, I would wear clothing in the shower.  Even a shower cap gives me a false sense of protection.  I can’t think of a single situation where I would want to see a stranger naked.  Why, it even embarrasses me to see my reflection in a mirror when I’m changing clothes.  Everybody’s favorite funnyman at the Mountain Arts Center, Munroe, seemed it up in a hilarious song, “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore”!”
And, now Ronnie tells me, there’s a new show called “Dating Naked”, where people meet for the first time wearing nothing but their “Birthday Suits”, and after a brief conversation decide whether they want to go out to dinner or to a movie.  But I think they might as well go to a baseball game because now they’ve not only made it to first base, but as Ronnie says, “From a guy’s point of view, they’re already rounding third and headed for home!”
Yes, TV has come a long way, but I think it’s finally gone too far.  (Does this make me an old fogey?)
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile!

Poison Oak
Four things I’ll bet you didn’t know about Van Lear

When I was in the eighth grade, I was thrilled beyond words when I got the chance to participate in a basketball game inside a real, honest-to-goodness gymnasium. Our coach scheduled us to play the Van Lear eighth graders in the Van Lear gym.
I remember nothing of the game. I don’t recall who won or whether or not there were any spectators. For years, all I remembered was what a cool place Van Lear was … the town had its own gym and there were nets on both goals.
 See, we didn’t have a gym at Muddy Branch. We played basketball –a winter sport – outside. It wasn’t that unusual for us to have a basketball game rained out.
But as it turns out, that fancy gym and actual nets weren’t the only things that set Van Lear apart from the rest of Eastern Kentucky.
I just wrote a book about the town. It’s called, The Overnight City, the Life and Times of Van Lear, Kentucky 1908-1947. I went through decades of old newspapers to piece together the story of the town. Some of the stories I’d heard before, but a lot of what I found out surprised me.
·       In 1915, Van Lear’s electric power plant provided power to nearly the entire Big Sandy Valley. Not only were citizens of Van Lear recipients of the plant (that sat near where the Words and Stuff bookstore is now), but also the towns of Paintsville, Prestonsburg, Pikeville, Jenkins and all other points in between were connected.
·       In 1926 its high school football team scored its very first win as the Bank Mules beat the Paintsville Tigers. The score was 19-13. The star of the game was a guy named Red Lynn, who scored two touchdowns. Today, I’ll bet hardly anyone remembers that game, but lots of people remember Red’s son, Oliver. Of course, Oliver was best known by one of his nicknames, “Mooney” or “Doolittle.” He married a coal miner’s daughter named Loretta Webb. You know the rest of the story.
·       The speaker at the graduation of the Van Lear High School’s class of 1927 was Kentucky’s Governor W. J. Fields. It was reported at the time that this was the first time that a Kentucky chief executive had ever made a graduation address in the Big Sandy Valley. It says something about what Van Lear’s stature was at the time that he chose to make the 140-mile trip from Frankfort to Van Lear and not to a county seat like Paintsville, Prestonsburg or Pikeville.
·       In 1946, a group of Pikeville businessmen purchased Van Lear — 2,060 acres of land, 247 homes, a clubhouse and an office building —  for a grand total of $300,000. That doesn’t sound like much money. But when you adjust for inflation, today that would equal about $3.7 million. To put that in perspective, folks in Lexington were talking about spending over $350 million to fix up one building … Rupp Arena. 
If anyone wants one, signed copies of The Overnight City are at Words and Stuff, the Van Lear Historic Society Museum and Paintsville’s Ramada Inn.  You can get unsigned copies from Amazon, or download it from the Kindle store or Google Play.

Folk Lore and Herbal Remedies

I know several down home folks who at one time or another have been afflicted by Shingles. As one of the side effects of having had childhood chicken pox, with no other stimulus than a long living, leftover blip of that ailment, it will suddenly flare up, going where it will.
So far, this ailment seems to wax and wan. I myself have not had it. Even so, among the adult populace, no one seems to be immune and I can remember many among my friends and relatives who have been an unwilling victim of this resurgence. Of course, physicians do have medicines which help to make the condition bearable. However, there is always Catnip Tea; a natural remedy for the discomfort of Shingles. I fortunately always grow some of this plant, reseed it ever year from starter plants I buy at a local garden center, Thus I am able to give the leaves to any who ask me for it. I sent some by UPS to my sister in Connecticut, and gave some to one of Walter’s fox hunting buddies. In addition I have given the leaves of the plant to some local parents of a colicky baby, as colic is another thing catnip tea relieves. In support of this, I can only say that for as long as I remember, I have known this, having heard about it from the older women of my family. Of course, as my mother often said, a little is good, to much is nasty, signifying that all things must be taken in moderation. For a baby, a few drops of catnip tea should be sufficient. On the other hand, when grown up people ask me how to take it, I tell them to make a tea of the leaves, strain the lightly green liquid into a clean quart jar, put it into the fridge, and every time you think of it, take a sip or two! Recently, Betty Blanton, who once lived here, called to ask about a relief of the symptoms of Shingles that I had once written about. I told her all that I knew, and she being fortunate that she had catnip plants in her garden, vowed she would avail herself of this old herbal remedy. So far, haven’t heard how it turned out, but I hope to.
Now I come to other and similar things. I speak of wild spring greens that spark our winter weary taste buds. In addition, they cleanse our systems, gives us an influx of minerals and vitamins often missing from the bland, genetically engineered, store bought foods we eat.
I love wild greens. My mouth waters at the thought of poke and watercress, dandelions, speckled britches, lambs quarters, and shoney. I always try to consume one mess of some of these every spring, and not because I am so poor I have to eat them. I eat them because I like the taste, and because I don’t want to forget those things I learned about from the ones who went before me. More than this, I also love wild mushrooms. Every part of the year, maybe except for winter, some kinds of these are available. The only disadvantage except for finding them is that no kind is here very long at the time. This is true of my favorite Morel mushroom that pops up the middle of April, leaves the middle of May.
Of course, after morels are gone, there are other kinds of mushrooms that I know about, and have eaten. I always pass over the very prolific white meadow mushroom that comes up at about this time. I only eat these from a commercial source, those that will have no accidental look a-likes lurking among them. This is important because the familiar white, meadow mushroom looks exactly like the most deadly of all of those delectable freebees, it like playing Russian roulette to try to tell the difference between the two of them. That white mushroom look a-like is called the Destroying Angel, which is a very apt description. To compensate for these I won‘t eat, there are, happily, many other kinds of mushrooms, and I have tried a lot of them. But what have any of these to do with folk lore and natural remedies? Well, most of us know that mushrooms are pure protein, without any calories. More than this benefit, there is one kind of mushroom, fruiting just now, which is called the Hen of the Woods. This has long been thought of as a cure for cancer, which apparently the FDA doesn’t want us to know about. For they have made reference to this be not allowed; it's not profitable then, for commerce.

Education and Common Sense
What makes a good teacher?

Last week the management of Horizon Bay Retirement Complex, where I live, said we had to move any impediments in the way of the people who were to come to clean out my air conditioner. When I moved a box that was labled “Columns Only” I wondered what those columns said. I wandered for a couple of days down twenty years of my adventures and that of my children which had been delineated in the column entitled “Education and Common Sense.” I found a column I want to share about what my son Steve thought were the attributes of a good teacher. I had discovered a paper he had written in 1984, when he was a freshman at the University of Kentucky. Here is my column, which was published March 24, 2003.

What Makes a Good Teacher?
I was looking at a box full of keepsakes to find materials for a WMU exhibit when I found a paper my son wrote for his University of Kentucky “Introduction to Teaching” class in 1984, when he was 19 1/2 years old. This was typed better than he or I could have typed it, with not a misspelled word or a correction on the three-page paper. I had no recollection of helping him with this paper, and I was impressed that a college freshman was that perceptive.
I sent copies to my daughters, who are experienced teachers, and Cathy was also impressed. Patti has not yet had time to react.
The three-page paper is too long to print in its entirety, but I will share his basic beliefs:
* A teacher should be honest. If the teacher does not believe what he is saying, neither will the students.
* A teacher should be prepared. No one can walk into a classroom and teach without having planned what he is going to teach and how he will go about it.
* A teacher should anticipate the students’ behavior.
* A good teacher should stay calm.
* A teacher should not lock any child into a learning level. Bluebirds don’t have to stay bluebirds. Sometimes they can fly right past the jet planes.
* A teacher should make good use of compliments — not too many or too few, but “just right.”
* A teacher should be enthusiastic.
* A teacher should be aware of his students’ maturation level.
Children hate to be talked down to and cannot understand teaching that is over their heads.
* A teacher should be creative. If students are bored, they are not learning.
* A teacher should like the group he is teaching. Some teachers do not like any age student. These teachers should get out of the classroom immediately, as a basic attitude such as this cannot be hidden.
* A teacher should care about each child.
* A teacher should be a little bit crazy. The unexpected can sometimes jar a wild bunch of kids into becoming a group of motivated students,
* A teacher should be a real  person. The ability to communicate is of paramount importance to any teacher.
Steve Rice EDP 202A (1984)
I called Steve to ask if I could quote the paper in this space and to ask if he was living up to the ideals set forth, since he has been a high school band director for fifteen years.  As he turned 38 last week, he is exactly twice as old as he was when he wrote the paper.
He said he had been trying to live by the rules he set for himself.
“Is there anything you would change about what you wrote?” I asked. “Well, instead of ‘crazy’, I would use the word  ‘unpredictable’, and I wolud add two others:
* A good teacher picks his battles, and doesn’t go to war over every little thing, and
* Someone in the classroom is going to be in charge. If you are the teacher, it better be you.”
I agreed with all his opinions and hope that my sharing the paper will help some good teacher become a better one.
2014. Steve is now 49 years old. He has been band director  at West Potomac High School in Alexandria, Va.  for twenty years, beginning his twenty-first this fall. I asked him if he had any other words of wisdom to add to this message.
He said,” Anybody who has gone through school can teach someone how to take a “bubble” test. The art of good teaching is the ability to make them want to learn what you are teaching. Respect the art of teaching. It is important to be in control of your classroom from the beginning, so there are no power struggles.”
I agreed with those two principles also, and hope that this column will advance somebody’s “Education and Common Sense.”

Poison Oak
Clyde Pack

The big preacher from town
When I was very young, 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 a coal-camp kid could go.  
But since 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 Mom, I was under a great deal of pressure. She’d warn me that if I let my “giggle-box get turned over,” I was in deep trouble. 
But thanks to an incident that occurred the third Sunday night in March, 1949, the pressure became eased a bit. It was on that night that Mom got a taste of her own medicine. 
It was one of those services when we had “special singing” (the Tom’s Creek Quartet) and a special guest preacher, a “big preacher from town,” who shall remain nameless. Mom was sitting between my little brother and me, something she always did, no doubt hoping that if we couldn’t touch each other, there was less chance of our embarrassing the Pack family … again.
The service was progressing nicely. The special singers 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 sermon. He was a short, fat little feller, dressed in a three-piece suit, looking exactly like what you’d expect a big preacher from town to look like. Problem was that just as he stepped up behind the podium, 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, Free Wills are often very emotional in their worship. So, it was not all that unusual to see a church member sitting between two young boys, bent forward with her face in her hands, and her shoulders shaking violently.
In about five minutes, 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 preachers often did, moved around a lot while delivering those fire and brimstone sermons, and 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, but sat staring at the songbook in her lap until the service was dismissed nearly an hour and a half later.
 After that night, she never again warned me about giggling in church, and for some reason, whenever 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 laughter.

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