A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

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...

Constance Alexander: Keeping up with Murray Center for Accessible Living’s Carrissa Johnson isn’t easy

Watch out! Carrissa Johnson, Manager of Murray’s Center for Accessible Living (CAL), is a woman who moves fast. Keeping up with her requires stamina, but every encounter is filled with good information, good humor, and good news. The Center for Accessible Living is Kentucky’s first independent Living Center with offices in Louisville and Murray, offering services across the state. In Murray, Carrissa...

Constance Alexander: Genetic eye disorder leads biologist to alternative ways to see the world

When he was a farm boy growing up in rural Iowa, John Pollpeter was like most kids. He played Little League baseball and golf and was a mid-halfback in football. And living close to the Mississippi River provided adventures in the great outdoors. He was fascinated by animals, mammals especially, and that turned into a lifelong passion. Around the time he was supposed to get his driver’s license,...

Constance Alexander: Veteran Hopkinsville journalist says there is no substitute for shoe leather reporting

“People who leave great footprints in the community do that just by showing up.”  Leaving great footprints starts with showing up So says Jennifer P. Brown, a Hopkinsville woman who knows about getting things done. The veteran journalist illustrates her point by telling a story about an editor assigning a young reporter to the courthouse beat. When the rookie asks, “Do you want me to go online?”...

Constance Alexander: Asking the right questions prepares students for careers that don’t yet exist

A surefire way to ignite a spark of indignation into Taylor Clements’ brown eyes is to call him a “Math Person.” True, he graduated from Murray State University with a major in Mathematics, but he also minored in music, played trumpet in the Racer Band, and was a Resident Counselor in the Commonwealth Honors Academy program. He did not define himself according to his major. He remembers his mother’s...

Constance Alexander: Murray State University’s CHA offers an uncommon wealth of millennial talent

For the past three years, I’ve been honored to be a faculty member of Murray State University’s Commonwealth Honors Academy (CHA), which was launched in 2001. Every year as I’ve watched teens arrive on campus, I have been struck by the differences between the Baby Boomers of my youth and Gen Z post-Millennials. While we frittered our summers away when we were that age, these kids are...

Constance Alexander: Doris Day, a paragon of ‘good girl’ virtue that many young women aspired to be

C. Alexander_Doris Day
When I was growing up, there was no such thing as middle school. In fact, grades six, seven, and eight might have been called Purgatory because those adolescent years were somewhere between heaven and hell. Pre-teen girls were filled with giggles and tears, aching with non-specific longings and precise aversions. We were curious about things the nuns called “near occasions of sin,” but uncertain...

Constance Alexander: AIR program helps small towns strengthen community, economy

I, wife of a coffin maker, have no idea where I will be buried, or even if I want a final resting place. These days, I’m leaning toward cremation, with ashes to be scattered maybe on Cape Cod, or else strewn from the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge. So when a classmate at a workshop I attended this week declares, “From the time I was 8 or 9, I knew where I would be buried,” it caught my attention. The...

Constance Alexander: City’s Quilt shows a testament to Paducah’s planning and community cooperation

As a person who failed Home Economics in high school, I have hesitated to attend the quilt show in Paducah for years. But when my niece drove all the way from Montana to attend the springtime extravaganza, I realized I needed to get over my feelings of inadequacy regarding needlework. It was time for me to see the show. What I expected and what I experienced are two very different things. The day I...

Constance Alexander: Even Jeopardy! champ James Holzhauer would have trouble with this right answer

You know the routine. You forgot your password, and you didn’t write it down because you were sure you’d never forget it. Without a password manager to secure your digital life, you finally surrender, call the 800 number, and subject yourself to answering your very own magic questions to establish your identity so you can get a new password. Answering question #1 is easy. #2, a piece of cake....

Constance Alexander: No application required for one of the best jobs in Kentucky

Jeff Worley’s job history is as checkered as the shirt he wears in the ID he carried when he was a taxicab driver in Wichita. Since those days in the 1970s, he has worked as an offset pressman, folk singer, research magazine editor, and university professor. Now retired from University of Kentucky, a new career opportunity recently came his way, via a phone call from the Kentucky Arts Council. “You’ve...

Constance Alexander: Mark Twain might be pleased with this poetry celebration that’s ahead of its times

When Mark Twain declared, “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Kentucky, because everything there happens 20 years after it happens anywhere else,” he had no way of knowing that one Kentucky community has taken the lead in observing April as National Poetry Month. For the second year in a row, the Calloway County Public Library is hosting a public reading of poems by Kentucky writers...

Constance Alexander: At the end of a long, arduous literary journey, the writer resists ground rush

The Irish Blessing poem begins with the line, “May the road rise up to meet you.” It goes on to hope the wind will ever be at your back, and that the sun will shine upon your face, adding a wish for “rains to fall soft upon your fields.” In other words: May your journey be successful. This little prayer comes back to me as I struggle to finish the last chapter of a novel I have been writing,...

Constance Alexander: A host of golden daffodils tells stories of the past in Kentucky’s Golden Pond

In springtime, daffodils cluster around invisible houses in what used to be Golden Pond. A sharp eye might spot remnants of foundations from family homes, or a pair of maple trees that once flanked a front porch. Random artifacts like these offer silent testimony from the hundreds of families displaced from that close-knit community when the Tennessee Valley Authority created Land Between the Lakes. According...

Constance Alexander: Sharing some of my mother’s family secrets in honor of St. Patrick’s Day

My mother, whose maiden name was Kelly, claimed that her family was definitely “lace curtain” Irish. Asked for further clarification, she explained that her Father’s branch of the Kelly family was refined, genteel, and upwardly mobile. That was a good thing. Lace Curtain. The other end of the spectrum, Shanty Irish, was not a good thing. As if she had conducted a sociological study, Mother decreed...