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Kentucky by Heart: Highs and lows for 2019 — and learning from things to make a better 2020

By Steve Flairty
Special to KyForward

The year 2019 just ended for me with a procession of highs and lows. Guess that’s quite normal; but, being the analytical guy I am often spurs me to sort out the learnable things and make them work for a better future. First, here’s a recap.

Aunt Mae

It was exciting to release my seventh book, the fifth volume of Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes; along with it, I participated in the Kentucky Book Fair for the seventh time. Definite high points, with it being the first for both in the last four years.

It was a banner year for the family flower beds (ten of ‘em), and that meant that my wife, Suzanne, kept herself happily busy making cuttings that found themselves in parade mode in most every room in our Versailles household. Suzanne has a knack for making them look just right, and the flowers are a joy, as she is.

I cut down somewhat on the number of sub-teaching jobs from what I normally do, but it was an honor and thrill to deliver the graduation address to fifth-graders at Wilmore Elementary School in the spring. Teaching and writing are my two professional passions, so putting together a column that talks about the classroom brings double pleasure.

On the downside of what happened in 2019, Alta Mae Johnston, my dear “Aunt Mae,” of Falmouth, died on March 15. She was the twin sister of my mother, Alma Faye, who died in 2013. Aunt Mae and I lived 90 minutes away from each other, but we kept in regular contact, either by my visits or by phone. The relationship was especially important to me, and, I hope, also to her. It was a true blessing—for six years–to spend time with one who looked like my mother, talked like my mother, and who appreciated me like my mom did.

Suzanne and Steve

Also challenging for the past year was navigating daily life after the death of my dear brother and only sibling, Mike, who left this earth too soon in late 2018. I missed (and always will) our phone calls, his support, and his constant example of a hard-working guy who loved his wife, his children, and his grandchildren very much. He was always there for me, and it gives me some measure of satisfaction that I dedicated my newest hero book to him and included the closing chapter as an authentic tribute to Mike.

We teachers know that we must be learners, too. So, here are some things learned over the last twelve months that I can use to shape 2020, both to better me and others.

I’m afforded plenty of opportunities to write and teach, and even at age 66, I still feel energetic. Why stop now? Both arts are useful to foster others’ lives. And more and more, I’m learning that a life well-lived is primarily one of giving.

Suzanne’s cut flower bouquet (Photos provided)

With Aunt Mae contributing such a special relationship, my hope is to fill a similar need for someone else in my family or circle of friends. It may be one to whom I reach out, or to one for whom I receive their outreach to me. There’s a certain amount of excitement involved in that aspiration.

My teaching experience is mostly with children, and I’ve already started writing what I hope to be a published series of short stories focusing on character virtues. This project is more than partly spurred by hearing and reading so much unwholesome rhetoric from national politicians, especially our current president. Our young people need good role models and they need to hear more positive discourse.

But, so do adults, and this year I hope to speak publicly more in group settings and spread the positive news I write about in the Kentucky by Heart column and the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series.

And perhaps most importantly, I’ll try to follow the example of my brother as a husband and treat my wife even better–as a queen. As good as she is, that shouldn’t be that hard to do.

Looking forward to 2020 and hoping you are, too.

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Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of six books: a biography of former Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and five in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4,” was released in 2015. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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