I got the “moving-my-kid-into-college” blues

I did not anticipate how difficult it would be to move my hostdaughter into her University of Kentucky dorm room last Saturday morning.

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This has been a very event-filled summer for Pam and I as hosts of high school exchange students for the past five years.
For reasons good and, in one case, tragic, this summer, four of our five hostdaughters have returned to their Kentucky home for a period of time.
Because Pam and I have no children of our own, we have a tendency to form strong bonds with these young women and have worked to extend our relationships beyond the exchange year.
Our efforts, apparently, have paid off.
Iris, our first hostdaughter, has spent the entire summer with us. She is doing a work internship until the end of September.
Lea, our youngest from Switzerland, completed her school year at Nicholas County and returned home.
She has vowed to return, and I believe her.
Lotta came back for a week to wish a dear friend rest.
But with the beginning of the new school year, Pam and I are taking a break from hosting a high school student. That does not mean a quiet household, though. Maria, our hostdaughter from Norway, enjoyed her time in Kentucky so much that she has enrolled as a freshman at UK.
If I examined this closely, I think this is a thing Pam and I hoped would happen with one of our hostdaughters eventually. However, on even closer inspection, my wife and I may have wanted this to happen for different reasons.
At least that is the impression I have when I reflect on my unanticipated reaction when we were packing the car Saturday morning to take Maria to her dorm.
It began when Iris and I were figuring out the best way to pack Maria’s dorm stuff in the back of my Ford Escape. Stacking cardboard boxes on top of each other, I found myself recalling how I managed to fit five wooden crates of records, a stereo system and a whole dorm room’s worth of other junk into the back of my Nissan Sentra.
I even bragged to no one in particular about how there was only room for myself in the driver’s seat when I finished.
Arriving on campus, we followed the signs guiding us to Maria’s dorm, unloaded her belongings to a long table, then moved everything in. My first thought upon entering the room was how I would decorate ….
No, wait, that’s not accurate. My first thought was that of a middle-aged curmudgeon thinking about how easy kids have it today, what with a room already equipped with a kitchen sink, microwave oven, stainless steel mini-fridge with attached freezer, and its own full bathroom. And a private bedroom with a mattress that wasn’t a lumpy back hazard!
But my impulse afterward was to start suggesting the best way to lay out the room – the way I would do it. A tapestry across the ceiling, some cool posters, maybe a futon…
And, if she was smart, what she should do next is … at which point I have to give myself credit.
I suppressed that impulse.
In the end, I did the smart thing. I got the heck on back home.
It still didn’t stop me wondering what she was doing, who she was meeting, wishing I could be there to warn her against all the mistakes she’ll make, and being jealous, too. How I’d love to experience the fear and uncertainty that comes with being young and on your own for the first time.
(Okay, I just wish I was young…)
These were my feelings for a young lady I have only known for two or three years. I can only imagine how parents moving their child … sorry, kids, I can’t think of a better term … into a college dorm or apartment for the first time.
Like I said, I didn’t imagine how difficult it would be to keep my mouth shut and let this experience be hers — not mine.
How I would love to be her college guide so that she makes the most of her years at the University. But there is a point where I have to let her make her own mistakes …

Man.
That’s going to be hard.

Kentuckyana Jones and the Cave City Wax Museum

****** Note to Readers of this story: Since this story’s publication in August 2014, I have endeavored to verify the developments that Michael Todd Barrick, aka Kentuckyana Jones, outlined in our interview. I make frequent trips to Cave City, Kentucky and often journey the highway which runs right by the former Cave City Wax Museum. To the best of my knowledge, nothing has been done to rehab the property, though I have received unconfirmed reports that its contents, whatever they may have been, were removed at some point. Who knows when that could have happened. Furthermore, there is no indication that Mr. Barrick has followed through on his grand plans for Patriot trees. So, visitor, take what you read in these next paragraphs with only a few grains of salt. There seemed at the time, to me at least, a good faith effort on Kentuckyana’s part to realize a dream of reality TV stardom on E, A&E or some other ailing television channel desperate for original material. But the dream has, as yet, not materialized. So enjoy the following not so much as factual information, though the events of that Thursday afternoon did happen, but rather as fictional entertainment featuring an also-ran in the sweepstakes for a place in contemporary Kentucky folklore.****

At Battlegrove Cemetery Thursday morning, 2014, people may have witnessed an unusual sight — a camera crew at the military memorial with their lenses fixed on Bob Owen and a smiling, bearded stranger gathering a soil sample from beneath a veteran’s plaque.

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Or, on Thursday afternoon, people might have seen the same camera crew entering the Maysville Community and Technical College, Licking Valley Campus’ Art Gallery following the bearded stranger with one arm draped around the shoulder of local artist Herby Moore.

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People didn’t have to look far to find out the name of the stranger. It was written in florid script on three large vans out in the parking lot.

Kentuckyana Jones, The “Extreme” Treasure Hunter.

Jones, a business entrepreneur and trader in antiques, treasures, and rare collectibles, was a featured guest star on an episode of “Barry’d Treasure,” a reality show on the A&E channel starring celebrity antique dealer Barry Weiss.

The episode, “Kentuckyana Jones and the Emperor’s Vessel” aired in March 2014.

But it wasn’t for another person’s television show that brought Jones to Cynthiana last Thursday.

The Bowling Green native was in town shooting footage for a potential television series of his own.

Jones said that a part of the show  would chronicle his adventures searching for valuable artifacts. The objects that he sought in Cynthiana, however, were not hidden or even remotely hard to find. The sample of Herby Moore’s paintings, which Jones wanted, were all in plain sight in Moore’s space at the LVC Art Gallery.

Unlike other places he plans to visit, Jones did not choose Cynthiana at random. He has a very special connection to Moore and, therefore, to this community.

“I bought Herby’s wax museum in Cave City,” Jones said.

Jones has been friends with Moore since the sale of the wax museum. Growing up in Bowling Green, Jones was very familiar with the tourist attraction in Cave City. But he never thought anything else about it until one day when he saw that the building was for sale. It was a spontaneous decision to make an offer for it, Jones said.

“It may not be the way most people do business, but I like to fly by the seat of my pants sometimes. I like taking risks. America was built on the shoulders of entrepreneurs who’ve done the same thing,” Jones said.

Moore’s paintings will feature prominently in Jones’ long-term plans to transform the wax museum into a new area tourist attraction. He intends to create a museum dedicated to America’s veterans, a subject that Jones is as passionate about as he is negotiating a good price for an artifact.

Honoring veterans will also be a critical part of the show that Jones and his film crew are currently shooting.

“We’re dedicating a large chunk of our show’s time talking with the families of veterans who have already gone on. At the end of every show, we will have a ceremony where we go to the veteran’s gravesite with a family member and gather a soil sample,” Jones said.

Jones paid a visit to local Cynthiana resident Bob Owen on Thursday morning to talk about Brig. Gen. Jack Henry Owen, Bob’s uncle, who passed away about a year and a half ago.

During his military career, Gen. Owen flew a B-17 bomber in the European theater of World War II and survived two years as a prisoner of war, Bob Owen said.

There was no particular reason that Gen. Owen was selected over any other veteran, Jones said. “Herby is a friend of Bob’s and suggested he be a good subject.”

Jones has been to seven other states so far and done the same thing.

The soil sample taken from Battlegrove Cemetery will be stored in a vault for the time being. It is Jones’ ambition to get soil samples from all 50 states.

When he has accomplished that goal, he plans to donate those samples to the Patriot Soil Project, a national effort to honor veterans which Jones ardently supports.

The Patriot Soil Project is accepting donations of soil samples from the graves of veterans across the nation.

When completed, the project’s organizers will combine the soil from the gravesites of fallen veterans from all 50 states and used to plant a living memorial, a “Patriot Tree,” on the White House lawn, Jones said.

Other Patriot Trees will be planted on the grounds of the governors’ mansions throughout the nation.

For those interested in donating funds or soil samples to this effort, visit the website Patriotsoil.org for more information.

If all goes well, Jones has one more idea in mind:

He wants to plant a “Patriot Tree” on the grounds of the veterans’ museum in Cave City when renovation work is complete.

In the meantime, though, Jones will be traveling and meeting with folks, saving the memories on film and in the charateristic “thumbs-up” pictures he is taking with his guests and friends.

Another version of The American Dream : From Cambodian refugee to American army veteran

When one imagines an American army veteran, it’s not likely that the image they see is that of Leon La. In fact, when he joined the army in his early 30s, there were only a few recruits in basic training that were even close to his age.
There is not very much that is typical about La. When people meet him at his family business, the Something Different nail salon in Harrison Square, one cannot imagine that this soft spoken and gentle man is not only an army veteran, but that his two tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq involved just a little less risk than his own childhood in his native Cambodia.

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La was the son of a farming family in Kampuchea (Cambodia) during the brief rule of the Khmer Rouge regime. His father and mother worked their farm, which had rice paddies and vegetable gardens in a village not all that far from the Thailand border.
In 1978, Vietnamese troops invaded the country and, during a one-year civil war, managed to overthrow the Khmer Rouge leadership in power.
La was 7 years old at the time. He didn’t know about the political climate in his home country, only that one day there was quiet and the next there was sporadic gun fire and explosions.
It wasn’t a safe time at all to be in country.
When things became increasingly unsettled, La’s uncle suggested that the family escape the war by crossing the border into the relative safety of Thailand.
“My uncle helped a lot of Cambodian families across the Thai border to escape the war,” La said.
Despite the obvious dangers in staying, La’s father and mother did not want to lose their farm. It had been in the family for generations and it was the only possession they had that was really worth something, he said.
“If they abandoned it, they would have lost it forever,” La said.
They chose to remain behind, but his father entrusted La to his uncle’s care. In the middle of the night, La joined his uncle’s family on an overnight run to the Thai border.
La understood the danger of this undertaking. The family was at risk whether they were discovered by Vietnamese troops or Khmer Rouge forces.
La left home with only the clothes he was wearing. He didn’t have shoes.
In the night there pockets of random shooting, jungle noises and more raw fear than he had ever experienced in his life.
“We spent the entire night sneaking through the jungle. My uncle knew the way to go, but we were always peering around trees and making sure all was clear before tip-toeing to the next place that offered cover,” La said.
Fortune smiled upon La’s family that night. They arrived in Thailand while managing to evade random patrols and border guards trying to keep people from escaping.
His one regret: there was no way a message could be sent to let his family know he had survived the night.
His uncle’s family was his family now and they took up residence in a small staked out area of a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand.
This small space would be La’s home for the next two years.
Though La managed to escape the war that ravaged his own country, in Thailand they were stuck in the worst kind of limbo.
United Nations relief agencies, the Red Cross and other non-governmental organizations provided medicine, supplies and other basic necessities, but that was it. There was no place to go, nothing to do except buy food from the Thai markets and exist.
“We were under guard and were not supposed to leave the camp. Not that we had any place to go,” La said. “If we were caught away from the camp or trying to escape into the mainland, we risked being beaten or even killed.”
The only hope they had during this long wait came from a sponsor they acquired from the United States.
It was a pastor from a church in Providence, Rhode Island.
Their sponsor provided some of the aid that they needed at the camp. And then they brought the family to the United States.
“It was a real culture shock. I was 10 and all I had known was my little corner of Asia. I knew rice paddies and gardens, I knew war and surviving as a refugee. And suddenly, there was none of that. I didn’t even understand the language enough to know the difference between ‘yes’ and ‘no’,” La said.
That became very important early when a kind woman offered him a cookie, which he wanted very badly.
“I didn’t know how to say ‘yes’ and I told her ‘no’ and she put away the cookie. It tore me up,” La said, laughing at the memory.
His family were welcomed by members of the pastor’s church in Providence. They provided the means for the family to transition to life in the United States.
Because La was an orphan refugee, not even knowing if his mother and father had survived the war, he qualified for state and federal assistance through the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, which helped them build a new life here in the United States.
In his late 20s, he earned a professional degree from the International Academy of Design and Technology in Florida. In 2002, mere months after the 9-11 tragedy, he earned his United States citizenship and at age 32, enlisted in the U.S. army.
La served eight years, including two tours of duty on the front lines in Afghanistan and two tours in Iraq.
Returning to war torn locations after a few years of relative peace was an interesting experience for La.
“I found that I could adapt to those conditions without much problem. But then, the army gave us food and uniforms and equipment. I had none of that when I was seven,” La said.
He spent three years in Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he met his wife and the state that now serves as his home.
“I received so much assistance and aid from this country. I was proud to give something back to this country before I could go on into my own business,” La said.
Now, in Cynthiana, he feels free to pursue his own version of “The American Dream.”

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Several years after he left Cambodia in the darkness, he discovered that his parents and siblings were still alive. His mother has since passed away, but his father still lives. He has returned to visit on several occasions.
But La’s home, and his family, are here in the United States.

Put a bluegrass instrument in your child’s hand and become president

 I want to take a moment to present inarguable proof that Yale University stands head and shoulders above all other Ivy League schools.
I offer in evidence this picture of Yale President Peter Salovey presenting an honorary doctorate to Bluegrass music pioneer, Dr. Ralph Stanley, during Yale’s 2014 graduation ceremonies.

The picture is courtesy of photographer Michael Marsland and Yale University. Thanks for allowing me to use it.

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I am a bluegrass music fan so the obvious first reason this news is cool is that Yale is honoring Stanley for his decades-long musical career. It’s not the first honorary doctorate that Stanley has received, but it’s special for another significant reason.
I have had the honor of seeing Stanley and the 2000s version of The Clinch Mountain Boys perform live at the annual Carter County Shriners Bluegrass Festival in Olive Hill.
But I have also had the pleasure of watching the guy on the left, Dr. Salovey, slap the stand-up bass with his bluegrass band, The Professors of Bluegrass, that he and an other Yale faculty member formed at Yale.
Though his advanced degrees are in psychology and sociology, combined with an obvious track record of outstanding leadership in higher education, I can personally attest that this man plays quite well on the bass.
The Professors perform frequently at the annual River of Music Party (ROMP) bluegrass festival at Yellow Creek Park in Owensboro, Kentucky. The event is sponsored by the International Bluegrass Music Museum, another of Kentucky’s great treasures.
Almost every year, the Professors makes the trek to Owensboro, Kentucky to perform.
That’s quite a powerful testament to Kentucky’s rich musical heritage.
If you’re curious, the Professors of Bluegrass have released their first collection of music called “Pick or Perish.”
There are also plenty of tickets available for ROMP in Owensboro. Check out rompfest.com for more information.
In the meantime, consider this an object lesson in proper child raising. Put a musical instrument in your child’s hands and maybe they’ll grow up to be President….OF YALE!!

Claire Muller: Finding beauty in paper colors

Claire Muller: Finding beauty in paper colors

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The Maysville Community and Technical College – Licking Valley Campus (LVC) in Cynthiana, Kentucky has an art gallery in it. It shares space with the job placement center in a strip mall at the Harrison Square Shopping Center. For such a small space, though, it features a surprisingly wide variety of local artists and their works.
One such artist is Claire Muller, whose work in paper mosaics frequently captures the attention of gallery visitors.
One of her most striking works is a portrait of a white horse looking over its stable door. The entire image is made up of carefully chosen bits of  torn paper arranged in such a way as to convey the image of the horse.
This image, as it is with all of her work, is unique in that the paper she chose to create  the image was from maps.

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It is tempting to infer a meaning from the intentional use of maps in the portrait, but as with most of her paper mosaics, the images on the paper are incidental.
There are two noteworthy exceptions to this rule in her past work. One is portrait of Abraham Lincoln, a print of which is on display in the LVC art gallery. In that portrait, Lincoln’s face is made up of important figures in Lincoln’s life while the background is made up of events in his life.
The other is on display in the dental office of Dr. Neil Rush. It is a pastoral scene of a farm fence. Some of the papers she uses intentionally depict farm animals enclosed by the fence.
Most of time, though, the torn bits of magazine merely provide the color palette for her images, she said.
The portrait of the white horse presented her an unforeseen challenge, she said.
White magazine paper does not conceal the print or the color on the reverse side of a sheet. The colors “bleed” through the white.
In her search for opaque white paper, she found her answer in maps.
“I was surprised to discover the vivid colors used in printed maps,” Muller said.
Maps of the sea come in shades of sea-foam or turquoise. Road maps have patches of yellow to contrast populated urban areas from the countryside, which are in shades of white.
The black maps that provide such a vivid contrast to the horse’s face are all taken from star maps and charts, she said.
The only significance in the images are in her initials. In keeping with her medium, she “signs” her work with strips of paper.
For the white horse, the pieces of her name are from a map of Verdun, France, where Muller was born and where her father, now a retired lieutenant-colonel, was stationed for a time.
As an army brat, Muller said it is difficult to say that she is “from” anywhere. She has lived in several places in the U.S. and abroad, including a brief stint from eighth to ninth grade in Kentucky.
Muller is neither a native of Harrison County nor a lifelong resident of the Bluegrass state. But for all the places she has lived so far, there is no finer place on Earth to live than central Kentucky’s horse country, she said.
“Horses are one of my first loves. My parents told me that ‘le cheval’ was the first word I ever spoke,” Muller said. “I consider France my home and I love returning there from time to time. But I’ve always felt at home in Kentucky,” Muller said.
Describing herself as a very “right-brained” person with a passion for creativity, her parents enrolled her in classes at the Art Institute of Boston.
“It was sort of a hole in the wall place when I took classes there, but it gave me an outlet to express myself,” Muller said.
Her art is a part of her life, but it is not the only thing.
Until recently, she and her husband provided foster care for medically fragile children. They have six children, two of whom are theirs biologically. The others are adopted through the foster care program.
The Mullers also support missionaries and their work. They coordinate a program that provides missionaries with a car while visiting in this area of Kentucky.
But art is an important aspect of her life, one that is more than just a hobby or a means to simply pass the time.
She has only been working in paper mosaics since about 2010. Before then, she worked in other types of media such as pastels, oil painting and papier-mache.
She was inspired to experiment in paper mosaics when she saw a California artist’s work during the 2010 World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park.
“I knew instantly that I wanted to try this. Magazine paper offers an interesting and vivid pallette of colors in which to work,” she said.
Not certain if she wanted to commit her first work to an expensive canvas, her first piece, a portrait of her husband and grandson, was put together directly on a blank wall in her home in Kelat.
Pleased with the outcome, she went on to create several other works, each a bit different and presenting a new set of challenges, Muller said.
Most people are familiar with her larger portraits: the white horse, the elephant, the swans, the lion’s heads. They are titled according to lines of poetry that have inspired her, she said.
But some of her most accomplished pieces are these smaller pieces. One of them, a 5-inch by 5-inch portrait of an owl, was a painstaking process. She used an exacto knife to cut fine pieces of paper to capture details in the feathers, beak, and facial expression.
She received compliments from friends and family on her mosaics. However, it is another thing to receive artistic validation from others.
Muller got that validation when she donated a small horse portrait for an auction in support of Horse-Aid, an organization dedicated to providing shelter for aging and retired horses.
She didn’t anticipate it would bring much to the organization, but every little bit helps, she said.
At the Fasig-Tipton auction, Muller was stunned to find out that the portrait  was bought for $3,000 in fairly competitive bidding. She was delighted that her work had brought support to a cause she cared about. It was also some personal validation for her work in this medium.
“My husband [Tom] is incredibly patient with me when I work on these mosaics. There is just tons of paper pieces everywhere in the house and kitchen,” she said.  “It’s no wonder I’ve been insanely in love with him for 37 years.”
Muller has no idea how long she will work in this medium. For the time being, it is presenting her some new creative challenges. But she knows herself and there will come a time when some new form of expression fires her imagination.

What’s so “pure” about obsolete?

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So last weekend, I drove eight hours north to watch movies at the drive-in.
The Riverside Drive-In in Vandergrift, Penn. sponsors two film festivals a year: The April Ghoul’s Monster Rama and the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama, which happens in September.

Click this link. for more information about Drive-In Super Monster-Rama.
I’m a fan of schlock horror movies. The worse, the better … sometimes at least. It doesn’t matter to me if the movie comes from the silent era or in this age of digital graphics – if it has a monster in it, I will find time to see it on the big screen.
And if that big screen happens to be outdoors with a food counter that serves grilled hamburgers, deep-fried dill pickles and ice cream sandwiches – all the better. But the real appeal of the Riverside Monster-Rama festivals was the chance to see several relatively “classic” horror movies including the original “Halloween,” “Carrie,” “Phantasm,” “The Hills Have Eyes,” “Suspiria,” “The Beast Within,” and “The Town That Dreaded Sundown.” Given the chance to see these movies on the big screen, well, eight hours is hardly what I’d call a major sacrifice.
But there was another unique feature to this festival that made the long distance trek to the drive-in appealing.
The Riverside was one of several dozen drive-in theaters to participate in a contest sponsored by Honda Motors last summer to buy digital projection equipment. The majority of movie studios are no longer going to make 35 mm film reels of their movies. Digital projection technology has taken over the landscape.
Unfortunately, Riverside was not one of the contest winners. They had to buy their own system.
One of the selling points for the April Ghoul’s Monster Rama is the chance to see classic monster movies in their native habitat – the drive-in theater. Another selling point is that most of the movies are original 35 mm prints.
Before I go on, let me explain that there are two types of people who attend events like the April Ghoul’s Monster Rama.
I go to see horror movies projected on a giant screen. I make fun of them a bit and try to one up my friends on our knowledge of obscure trivia about the movies on-screen. I could care less about the medium in which the movie is being projected.
Others go for the nostalgia of watching a 35 mm print projected on a big screen. They like the projector hiss, the clicking sound of the gears in the sprocket holes, the scratches and edits and jumps.
Emma, one of the Riverside owners, called them “purists.”
Having just purchased a new digital projection system, The Riverside decided to show off their exciting new investment by running a high resolution version of “Carrie” and “The Town that Dreaded Sundown” rather than the faded 35 mm print.
The movies looked beautiful onscreen.
The “purists” complained.

Nobody made a federal case out of it. A few simply expressed their wish that that all the movies would be shown in 35 mm – as they were meant to be seen.
This is the point at which the “purists” and I part ways.
On Saturday night, we were treated to an original 35 mm print of John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” The film debuted in 1978 and the print was original.
Now, I love John Carpenter’s work. He was raised in Bowling Green, Kentucky and graduated from Western Kentucky University. As a big fan, I’ve made a personal study of his work. He works primarily in the horror and science fiction genre, nevertheless, Carpenter is an accomplished filmmaker. He intended his horror movie, which would be a ground-breaker, to be seen in stark seasonal colors of orange, black and white. Black and white, especially.
The 35 mm print, however, is over 35 years old. Color films fade over time. Halloween was also made at a time when studios used cheaper film stock The night time colors were no longer jet black. They had a reddish hue. The other colors in the movie had faded dramatically.
It looked like an aging 35 mm movie.

And where it belongs is on a shelf. What it is not is the movie Carpenter intended audiences to see.
It’s pointless to debate the subject with “purists.” They are in love with the idea of what movies used to be. But watching a gradually disintegrating image on antiquated technology for the sake of “purity” I think rather misses the point.
For me, though, the thrill of this genre is not watching a product in a sad state of decay.
The digital preserves the integrity of the director’s vision. That, for me, is a purer kind of “purity.”
Regardless of the debate, though, it was a great two nights of movie watching.

The Riverside Drive-In has only started sponsoring these festivals in the last three or four years, but it is paying off for them. People have traveled to April Ghoul’s from as far as Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska (friends of mine, actually), Michigan and Maryland (friends) hell, even New Jersey (more friends of mine.)
Emma said that each succeeding event has attracted a larger audience.

Cynthiana, Kentucky couple are Cubs fans to the core

Cynthiana, Kentucky couple are Cubs fans to the core

 

The four unmistakable signs of spring time in Cynthiana, Kentucky: The Cynthiana Democrat’s Home and Garden Show, the opening of the Farmer’s Market at Flat Run Veterans’ Park, dogwoods and tulips in full bloom, and the annual unfurling of the Chicago Cubs flags in the front yard of Jamie and Karan Russell’s home.
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 The Kentucky Wildcats can boast all they want about the national appeal of the Big Blue Nation in NCAA basketball. In the world of major league baseball, at least as far as the Russells are concerned, there is only the Chicago Cubs. And they are as mad for the Cubs’ season-opening game as Wildcats’ fans are for Midnight Madness.
Any other time of the year, the Russells’ home is just as quietly dignified as any other family dwelling on Church Street. But on opening day, the Cub’s signature blue and red colors blossom all around the yard, along with images of the baseball team’s famous logo.
Pinstriped cards featuring the numbers and names of past Cubs’ hall of famers line the sidewalk leading to their front door.
In honor of Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary celebration this year, the Russells had an image of the ballpark’s famous sign custom-painted to the rear window of their car.
Now, if they were just Chicago area residents, the level of the Russell’s Cubs fandom would barely register. They’d still be considered diehards, but they’d hardly be alone. Anyone who has visited Wrigley Field for a Cubs’ home game knows the extent to which the fans will express themselves.
But when fans live six hours south of the corner of W. Addison and N. Clark Streets, the Russell’s home is a Wrigleyville oasis that adds a unique note to their block in downtown Cynthiana.
The decorations don’t fail to make an impression on passers-by, especially those who are unfamiliar with the passion of the Cubs’ fanbase.
“Jamie had some friends who didn’t know that we were such huge Cubs fans. They were coming to our house and the woman saw our decorations and said, ‘now that’s tacky.’ I quickly owned up to them and said I aspire for the tastefully tacky,” Karan said.
Karan can’t help it. She and her husband love their Cubs.
“We have Braves’ fans in the neighborhood who threaten to sneak little tomahawks onto our lawn. Our friends who are Reds fans tease us every year we fall short in the playoffs. But someday…” Karan said with a prayerful gesture to the baseball gods.
Karan introduced her husband to the pleasures of wearing the red and blue.
She grew up in Rockford, Ill., which is still about two hours away from Chicago.  Her family got cable television in 1980, that ancient time when there weren’t 500 stations on the box.
When it came to baseball,  there was the so-called “America’s Team” on that Atlanta station, but Karan and her dad preferred to watch the Cubs on WGN.
That was the beginning of the one relationship that has lasted longer than her marriage. In fact, Karan said, she and Jamie planned their honeymoon vacation around Cubs games.
Just as some Kentucky boys realize that marrying a young girl meant marrying into her family, Jamie knew soon after he’d met Karan that the Cubs were going to be a part of his wedding vows.

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He’s never regretted accepting the Cubs into his life, although early on he still had some learning to do about being a fan.
His first lesson came before they were even married.
“He [Jamie] suggested we just take off for Chicago one morning for a game. This was before we had kids, so we could do things like that. Or at least he thought so. I kept saying it wasn’t a good idea. But next thing I know, we were arriving at Wrigley Field at 3:15 in the afternoon,” she said.
Unfortunately, the game was sold out and scalper tickets were just out of their range.
They managed to make the best of it, Karan said, but from then on, they’ve made sure to get tickets before taking off to a game.
“I wasn’t all that into sports when we first met. But I keep up with them in my own way now,” Jamie said.
For Jamie, that means not only traveling to Cubs games, but also taking in games with the minor league affiliates like the Tennessee Smokies and the Daytona Cubs.
For the family, vacation planning often centers around Cubs games, even if their trips are to destinations down south to Georgia or Florida.
Their kids, Westin and Miranda, have shared the Cubs experience with their parents, but have not yet acquired the same level of appreciation for the team.
“We once asked Westin where he wanted to take a family vacation and he said anywhere where there wasn’t a ballpark nearby,” Jamie said.
The Russells acknowledge, grudgingly, that there exists a rival fanbase for some New York team. They have even heard rumor of another professional baseball team out of Chicago’s southside.
But the Cubs rule their household. And just as the spring season brings about all kinds of re-birth, so too do the Russells’ hopes, along with countless other fans across this country, that this year will be the year the Cubs make the Series.
Maybe they’ll even win it!
After all, it’s gotta happen sometime.