A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Constance Alexander: Aging with grace is a stretch, despite the many claims to the contrary

As the barista leans across the counter with my first coffee of the day, she gestures toward me with her free hand. “Love your necklace,” she says. My fingertips graze the slender silver rope I threw on at the last minute before leaving home, the best I could do to cheer up my dreary ensemble. Top to bottom, eyeglass frames to the toes of my boots, I am garbed in all black. Full ninja. “When...

Constance Alexander: The simple gift of reading brings peace on earth during Christmas season

In Iceland during World War II, foreign imports were restricted and gift options were scarce. Even though paper was cheap, such a small country could not support a year-round publishing industry. As a result, book publishers flooded the market with new titles in the final weeks of the year, thus launching the Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóð. To make the Christmas Eve tradition possible, the...

Constance Alexander: Sobering statistics reveal the stark realities surrounding the lives of caregivers

One in five. At least 20 hours. Fifty-eight percent. The statistics regarding caregiving are stark. To put a finer point on the numbers: One in five adults are caregivers. Thirty percent of them provide care for at least 20 hours per week. Fifty-eight percent are women who manage other household tasks and also assist with varying levels of personal care, sometimes around the clock. Putting an even...

Constance Alexander: Our votes matter, casting them is the least we can do; see you at the polls!

Susan Shea won the poster contest; Kay Williamson and I came in second. We felt gypped. Our entry was better by far. All Susan did was to cut a photo of a blindfolded man from Life magazine and write the caption, “Don’t Vote Blind” in thick black crayon. Kay and I had developed a cartoon-like storyboard that promoted the importance of voting, using a pair of stick figures fashioned from brightly...

Constance Alexander: A lesson in paying closer attention to important things hidden in plain sight

My wedding ring was gone. Amidst comings and goings in a hectic week, I lost track of it. After searching through luggage, pockets, and the usual nooks, I even prayed to St. Anthony, the patron of lost things. Nada. I called the hotel where we stayed and asked them to search the room, but they found nothing. After a week, I concluded it was gone forever. Serves me right, I figured, for not paying attention....

Constance Alexander: Flu shots for all, but especially the old and young, who remain the most vulnerable

Mother was ten when the 1918 flu pandemic hit. One of seven children, she and her parents lived in Brooklyn, New York, and at least one of her older brothers was fighting in the War. Perhaps it was the luck of the Irish, but no one in the Kelly family was stricken. The rest of the neighborhood was not so fortunate. My mother remembered how some families suffered multiple losses. As coffins got scarce,...

Constance Alexander: Calloway County’s WATCH Warriors offers gift of reading to disabled adults

“Who’d like to read?” Julia answers right away. “I can read. Sure. And if I have a problem with a word, can I ask?” “Oh, yes,” the librarian responds. Thus begins the second meeting of the WATCH Warriors, one of the many book discussion groups facilitated by the Calloway County Public Library (CCPL). Seventeen adults gather around a long table, each one with a copy of the book called...

Constance Alexander: Those who make the choice not to read have no advantage over those who can’t

In 1986, the Graves County school district banned the reading of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” based on the charge that it was offensive, obscene, and took the Lord’s name in vain. The ban was later reversed after negative media attention and intervention by the American Civil Liberties Union, but the next year the Faulkner novel was again the target of a proposed ban in Somerset, Kentucky....

Constance Alexander: Author Janice Morgan’s new memoir reveals addiction, recovery are a family affair

Something is out of kilter on the cover of Janice Morgan’s memoir, “Suspended Sentence.” The landscape is a-tilt. A human figure with outstretched arms balances on a thin beam. One misstep and the person will fall. The sky above is partially obscured by tree branches, but there is enough light to keep moving forward. The image presents an apt metaphor for the book, and the copy on the cover makes...

Constance Alexander: FBI historian to share family stories, great moments at annual Easley Lecture

At age four, when the rest of us were playing in the sandbox and learning to tie our shoes, Douglas Charles was paying attention to history in the making. He even remembers the 1976 bicentennial in detail, including a picnic, carnival games, and the blue plastic tri-cornered hat he wore as he watched the fireworks over the local elementary school. His appreciation for family stories developed at an...

Constance Alexander: With a little help from their friends, libraries continue to improve communities

Like most friends of public libraries, Wayne Onkst is an unabashed bibliophile. As an author, historian, and advocate for literacy, he is proud of Kentucky libraries. “Kentucky has done a good job of establishing a statewide system,” he said. “In 1950, the legislature passed a law that provided for the neutrality of libraries, outside of county government,” he explained, also mentioning the...

Constance Alexander: Being reminded of what work really is and whether we appreciate it enough

In my New Jersey hometown, the Duchess Diner was the main hang out for teenagers. Next door from the Dairy Queen, catty-corner from the Four Seasons Pool Hall, and a couple of blocks off Main Street, the location was strategic. Our parents hated it. We probably spent more time in the parking lot than anywhere else. We talked with friends, kidded around, boys and girls subtly checking each other out...

Constance Alexander: Six-year old has good advice for those who meet her little brother, ‘just say hi’

Malena Lindberg, six years old, is all smiles until someone gives her baby brother Max the stink eye. Max has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and is considered medically fragile. Unlike his twin brother, Major, Max relies on daily skilled intervention and special accommodation to make sure he is safe and comfortable. According to Malena, some people don’t know how to react when they see a two-year-old...

Constance Alexander: August’s ‘dog days’ revive memories of summers without air conditioning

In the days before air conditioning, every family had its strategies for coping with the heat. In my house, winter’s heavy damask drapes were replaced with fluttery sheers, and blinds were slanted at half-mast to keep the sun from beating in.  Sisal rugs that tickled the bottoms of bare feet were substituted for the orientals that were whisked away to cold storage by the time school was out. Upstairs,...

Constance Alexander: Exhibition celebrates mason’s gift of coaxing stones into telling their stories

Stones are a reminder of our mortality. Beneath their silence lies the possibility of continents shifting imperceptibly for eons, with the potential to reshape the universe in one dramatic eruption. You just never know. When a stone reveals its secrets, a master mason like Russ Dawson knows how to listen and observe. Scott Shupe, who served as a helper on a few of Dawson’s earlier projects, remembers...

Constance Alexander: Forgoing the miracle of Fancy Farm by staying close to home for some reflection

Along with the 19,500 pounds of barbecue served up at the annual Fancy Farm picnic, there is enough hot air to lift the tiny town of 500 aloft. In just one day, the local population balloons to 10,000, and St. Jerome Catholic Church raises enough money to support church projects and finance local improvements. The raucous proceedings are not exactly the kind of thing one might associate with a saint....

Constance Alexander: Beloved Kentucky writer Jesse Stuart will open your eyes; just read one of his books

In 1954, beloved Kentucky writer Jesse Stuart made a presentation to a full house of teachers in Lovett Auditorium on the Murray State College campus. Afterward, as people lined to meet him and praise his works, he didn’t have time for pleasantries. He was in a hurry. His career was just starting to take off big-time, and a chartered plane was waiting to take him to another gig in Southern Illinois. Suddenly,...

Constance Alexander: One small step toward history in the making; now, how about creating a better world

If it weren’t for my brother-in-law, I would have missed the moon landing in 1969. I was spending the summer with my sister Jeanne and her husband, David. They lived in the Bay Area of San Francisco. Haight-Ashbury was hot, Janis Joplin was still singing, and the Berkeley Barb newspaper was the nexus between free speech and free sex. We, of course, were not part of that scene. My sister was a librarian...

Constance Alexander: Historian Jill Lepore’s book chronicles life of ‘Anonymous’ woman named Jane

A few days into my brand new job at AT&T, I was called into the Division Manager’s office for a chat. He complimented me on my taste in clothes and my demeanor, assuring me I would do well in the corporate world if I learned to smile more. He framed his parting words as fatherly advice. “Don’t be one of those women’s libbers.” That was more than thirty years ago, and I like to think...

Constance Alexander: Celebrating a birthday happy, healthy, and blessed and marveling in life’s miracles

Celebrated my birthday last week, July 1, same day as the births of Princess Diana, Olivia De Havilland, Tommy Dorsey, and Esteé Lauder. The day also marked the invention of sunglasses in China in the year 1200, and the start of the bloody Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. In 1898, the Rough Riders stormed San Juan Hill, and in 1916 Ike and Mamie Eisenhower said “I do” in Denver, Colorado. On the...