Monday, December 22, 2014

All the news that's fit to (not) print (or mail) about 2014

Like many sidetracked baby-boomers, we're trying something a little different this year for our holiday letter. Each year they have gotten later and later, and last year's never made it to the mailbox. Neither did the cards! This year, we've managed to get some cards out, partly because the letter is here. Also on this blog you'll find last year's letter and the one from 2012.

2014 has found us scurrying around to some interesting places, often to Gatlinburg, Tenn., 2014 came in for us at The Gatlinburg Inn where we were able to see the ball drop from the Space Needle without leaving the Inn property (which Al, brother David, their Aunt Naomi Barker and some cousins inherited half of from their Aunt Wilma Maples). We attended a big Gatlinburg fundraiser for the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts with David and Jennifer. A few weeks later, they joined us for KET's Summer Celebration, a big annual fundraiser.

Our biggest trip of the year was to the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors' annual conference in Durango, Colo. Al's uncle and aunt, Glen and Charlotte Miller, greeted us at the Grand Junction airport, where we rented a pickup truck and headed for Durango, stopping at cousin Melanie and husband Dave's Domino's Pizza on the way, then taking US 550, "the Highway to Hell," which Al enjoyed but made Patti nervous (Al was driving). We had a fine time on the Durango-Silverton Railroad (photo), and in Silverton, and at lunch with Mel, Dave and the rest of Glen and Charlotte's extended family on the way back. We always enjoy seeing our Colorado cousins!

We had three other journalism trips, to the Society of Professional Journalists convention at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, the SPJ regional conference in Chicago and the National Newspaper Association convention in San Antonio, where we checked off an item on Patti's bucket list, seeing the River Walk and taking a boat ride on it. Part of the convention was a barbecue at a ranch, where Patti was pictured with a desperado.

Al, nephew Martin and David saw three Cardinals-Braves games in St. Louis. Al attended the journalism educators' convention in Montreal, lectured on election coverage at the Missouri School of Journalism, made three appearances for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and put together a successful fundraising dinner for the rural-journalism institute he directs at the University of Kentucky. He was elected a faculty senator and taught an extra class, Covering the U.S. Senate Race, spending a lot of time talking with national reporters, sometimes on TV. His regular Community Journalism classes continue to cover the small town of Midway, where the outgoing mayor (with whom he had tangled some) made him an honorary Midwegian.

Patti remains a member of the Frankfort's planning and zoning commission, and its Architectural Review Board. She attended a three-day Preservation Workshop with PBS's Bob Yapp which included a hands on repair and weatherization for old windows. He made a believer out of her -- old windows can be more energy efficient than the new vinyl windows. But with 60 windows, we just need to find someone else to do it!

We hope you've had a wonderful year and wish you the best for the next one. Keep up with us on Facebook, email or phone; Al's Twitter handle is @ruralj. Or come to see us (with fair warning)!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas -- er, New Year's -- er, never sent -- letter from last year

Happy New Year!
            As we begin 2014, we resolve to become better organized in all aspects of our lives!
            Sound familiar?  We say that just about every year!  But this time, we really mean it! For the first time in 38 Christmases together, we passed on sending cards in favor of New Year’s greetings.
            We could blame it on the UK Faculty Senate, which made the academic calendar as late as it’s ever been; or Franklin D. Roosevelt, who decreed that Thanksgiving would be on November’s last Thursday, not the fourth one; but the real culprits are a couple who just can’t get as much done when they’re 59 as they did when they were 49. But we hope you and yours enjoyed the holidays and are looking forward to 2014.
            We told you a year ago that we had picked a contractor for a major renovation: master bath, closet and dressing room, and after several delays, it is done, but we’re still getting the house back in order after moving stuff around for the construction, so please call ahead if you plan to drop by soon.  We’d love to see you; just need to move some boxes out of your path.
            Our big trip of the year was to Tybee Island, Ga., in August, with Al’s brother David and his extended family. We had a big house near the beach and enjoyed trips into nearby Savannah, one of our favorite places. And Henry, our West Highland White Terrier, even got to go. Later in the month we went with David and his wife, Jennifer, to the Kentucky-Western Kentucky football game in Nashville. Our alma mater won!
            We’ve been going to Tennessee more often, now that Al and members of his extended family own half of The Gatlinburg Inn, the oldest hotel in the town next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 69-room hotel is a quiet spot in the middle of town, right next to the chairlift. The entertainer at the grand re-opening May 31 was Bobby Osborne, who with his brother Sonny did the first recording of “Rocky Top,” the most famous song written at the Inn by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. The Inn will host the Smoky Mountain Songwriters Festival in 2014.
            We were glad to welcome Al’s cousin Allen Barker and his wife Anita to Frankfort for the NAIA Division I women’s national basketball championship, in which their daughter Melanie’s team from Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., was runner-up. Go, Flames!
        We went to Anaheim for the Society of Professional Journalists convention, where Patti accepted the national award for outstanding member of a small chapter, and to St. Louis for the SPJ regional conference. Al also went on business to Phoenix, Washington, D.C., Charleston, W.Va., and Chapel Hill, N.C., and gave a speech at the library in his hometown, Albany. And if you go through there, stop at Albany Full Service, now owned by Al’s niece Lora Brewington and her husband Matt!
            Our extended families continue to grow. Al’s other niece, Terran Cross Helm, and her husband Derrick had their second child a few days before Christmas, and Patti’s cousins are multiplying like mad; she now has 10 first cousins once removed, up from five at this time last year.
            Patti remains on the Frankfort-Franklin County Joint Planning Commission and its Architectural Review Board. She remains a very active volunteer and board member for the county fair, Habitat for Humanity, Capital City Woman’s Club, and SPJ’s Bluegrass Chapter.
            Al continues to teach a class or two each semester and publish The Rural Blog, Kentucky Health News and the Midway Messenger, a student-fed news site for the town between Frankfort and Lexington. His health work won him an award from the Kentucky Psychological Association, and the Midway project, now starting its seventh year, was recognized by Columbia Journalism Review. In addition to his work as an extension professor and director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, he writes a fortnightly political column for The Courier-Journal, in which he will track the nation’s top U.S. Senate race and the 2015 race for governor.
            We’ll probably be as busy as ever in 2014, but never too busy for our friends and family. Call, write or come by! Again, tardily, Happy New Year!

We’re both on Facebook, and Al is on Twitter @ruralj

The 2012 Christmas letter: It was sent

Happy holidays!
            We hope this note finds you and yours happy and well, and looking forward to a great new year.
            The distinguished gentleman looking somewhat curious in the above photo is Henry, a West Highland White Terrier, and the newest addition to our household.   Since his arrival in May, he has, of course, taken charge, and we are merely his servants. He reminds us of both our earlier Westies but is his own dog and has brought much joy to the household.
            The really big additions came in the summer, when Al’s nieces, Lora Cross Brewington and Terran Cross Helm, had their first babies. Lora and her husband, Matt, have a daughter, Eva. Terran and her husband, Derrick, have a son, Giles. The cousins were born about five weeks apart. Being a great-uncle and great-aunt is nothing close to being grandparents, like Al’s brother David and his wife Jennifer, but we share in their joy with the terrific twosome.
            Amid the gains there were some losses.  Al’s Aunt Wilma Maples in Gatlinburg died shortly after Christmas last year, and his Aunt Bonnie Miller, also in Tennessee, passed away in late October this year. They were linchpins of the Miller family through generations and leave many fond memories.
            Patti’s mother had a massive heart attack on the last day of July. Her recovery has been difficult and we are so grateful to Patti’s aunts, uncles and cousins for all of the support and care they have given her.  As you might expect, Patti has been spending more time in Grayson County. Her father has Parkinson’s disease but is managing it well while being chief caregiver.
            The past year has been a busy one for us, with considerable out-of-state travel. We went to Fort Lauderdale for the Society of Professional Journalists convention, to Savannah for a friend’s wedding, to Charleston for the National Newspaper Association convention, to St. Petersburg, where Al judged a national journalism contest, and to Roanoke, where he spoke to a Virginia Press Association meeting. Al also went on business to Chicago, Austin, Baton Rouge, Columbus, Charlottesville and Bellingham, Wash., and joined some former reporter colleagues on a train trip to Washington to see baseball games. He brought brother Dave and nephew Martin along.
            We had no foreign travel this year, but one day in Frankfort Al hosted a group from Zambia, where he traveled in 2009 and 2011; and he is hosting a visiting scholar from the University of Shanghai and hopes to get to China sometime, in his role as director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky.  He continues to publish The Rural Blog, Kentucky Health News and the Midway Messenger, a student-fed news site for the town between Frankfort and Lexington; and to teach classes and conduct workshops. He still writes a fortnightly political column for The Courier-Journal, is a statewide TV commentator on election nights, and was profiled in the October issue of Kentucky Living, the magazine for rural electric co-op members in the state.
            Patti wrapped up two years as chair of the Frankfort-Franklin County Joint Planning Commission, on which she remains, as well as the Architectural Review Board. She remains a very active volunteer and board member for the county fair, Habitat for Humanity, Capital City Woman’s Club, and SPJ’s Bluegrass Chapter (and is treasurer for all but Habitat).
            We told you a year ago that we were resolved to make much more progress on our big, old house in 2012, and we’re happy to report that we’ve picked a contractor for a major renovation: master bath, closet and dressing room. Other projects are in the works! That will make visiting 123 West Todd Street somewhat problematic during the next three or four months, but we’d be happy to see any of you anywhere, anytime. Hard hats and hip boots recommended!
            Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

. . .and we’re both on Facebook!