My out of office e-mail reply

Below is my out of office e-mail reply for the week of May 11-15.

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I will be out of the office this week and will have limited internet connectivity during this time.

Students: I know you miss me and that life is hard without your writing class. Stay strong. Though the spring semester has ended, I am still here to calm your nerves in the face of any grammar related emergencies that should arise.  I will reply to these as soon as possible. Oh, and thank you so much for the Teaching Excellence Award. It’s my fifth straight year receiving this, and I am truly thrilled and very grateful. I plan on celebrating one day this week by finally getting that Grammar Hammer neck tattoo I’ve talked about, and by reading the MLA Handbook late into the night.

Colleagues: If this is a meeting related emergency, you can probably find me porchsitting or relaxing in the hot tub at the Y. If you are unable to locate me there, I can likely be found happily dining at the Shoney’s breakfast buffet and will be delighted to address any class or administrative ideas/concerns over some cheesy scrambled eggs.

For those of you taking the summer off, enjoy your break.  For those of you taking and/or teaching summer term classes, which I highly recommend, I will be available again on a regular basis beginning Monday, May 18.

Professor Joy

P.S. I have never left an out of office e-mail reply before, but this one seems a bit short. I apologize for its brevity and promise a more detailed account when our fall break rolls around in October.

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A Trip to the Huntington Mall…in 1986

If I had facebook as a pre-teen, I’m pretty sure my status updates would read something like this:

I’m going to go to the mall this weekend. So excited. My parents and I are going to hit up the Fiesta Bravo or Morrison’s Cafeteria and then go see a Bond movie. I really like Roger Moore as James Bond. Then I’m going to hit up one of the music stores for a new cassette tape (Def Leppard rocks!!!), check out the posters of scantily clad women at Spencer’s, and spend most of my money playing video games at the Gold Mine. Might look for new shoes at the Athletic Attic, too. I’ll definitely head to KB Toys to check out a new wrestling figure I’m saving up for and some gum. I hope I can fit this all in. My parents will only give me an hour or so while they shop at Lazarus before I have to meet them back at the carousel. If I’m late, they’ll worry. If only some device existed that would allow me to send them a quick message and say, “Hey, I’m checking out some clothes at Chess King. Be right there.” It will be a blast, regardless. Isn’t the mall the best?

16 Super Cool Things About Ashland, KY

ashland

This super-sized version of the 12 Things blog was written specifically for the Greater Ashland Beacon and appeared in the April 14 edition of the newspaper.

 

A few months ago I drove by a Papa John’s in Ashland and noticed that their sign read, “Ashland KY The Best City in the World.” I love Ashland and I’m about as positive a guy as you’ll find, but even I paused for a second and thought, “Really? Seriously? This Ashland, KY?” Then I thought a bit more.

Ashland does have a lot going for it.  Here’s 16 super cool things about this quaint Eastern Kentucky city.

1. Ashland Community and Technical College – Did you know that in recent years ACTC has TWICE been ranked among the top 10% of all community colleges (1,000+) in the country?  Most notably, the Washington Journal listed the school at #43 just a couple years ago.

2. Paramount Arts Center – Among this classic theatre’s most important accomplishments (and there are many) is a Youth Education Series that serves tens of thousands of regional students of all ages and offers them introductions to theatre, music, and more.

3. Central Park – This beautiful downtown park includes one of the coolest imaginable playgrounds for a four year old (or a forty year old like me) to run and play. It’s really four playgrounds in one.  The opposite end of the park can offer a quiet, meditative stroll, if one prefers peace over the screams of children playing.  On the park’s edge is a delightful library.

4. Galleries! – You’d have a hard time finding another city of like size that includes as much of a focus on art as downtown Ashland.  Artistic spirit abounds at the Pendleton, the Frame Up, and more.

5. Poage Landing Days – This fall festival turns downtown Ashland into a whirlwind of possibilities where kids can take in a story, create a craft or jump in a bounce house and where adults can take in a show, shop, gather with friends, or simply people watch.

6. All the World’s a Stage – The community theatre scene is so active with kids and adults – more so than many areas twice the size. Be it Company of Dreams, the Paramount Players, ACTC Theatre, ACT, or others, there’s always an opportunity to get involved on stage or behind the scenes.

7. Food, Glorious Food – You won’t find a better steak or bread anywhere than at Texas Roadhouse, and it has been scientifically proven that most Ashlander’s veins flow half blood and half grease from delicious Giovanni’s pizzas.  If it’s the best in fair food and ice cream you prefer, Crisp’s Dairy Treat is not far outside the city limits.  And I dare you to try Suplex Tacos and not expect to eat there at least once a week for the rest of your life.

8. Bobby Blaze – Did you know our community was home to a piece of pro wrestling history?  Bobby Blaze Smedley not only worked for years in the wrestling business, but also wrote a book that is a fascinating account of his many squared-circle war stories, and a nice tribute to his upbringing.   “Pin Me, Pay Me!  Have Boots, Will Travel” is available on Amazon and has earned quite a few five star ratings.

9. Jesse Stuart – Country Gentleman magazine once touted Stuart as, “America’s foremost chronicler of rural life,” and Ashland’s Jesse Stuart Foundation is, undoubtedly, the foremost chronicler of this famous author’s work.

10.  Merry Christmas!  If there’s one event in all of the Tri-State that attracts more wonder and awe than the Winter Wonderland of Lights, I don’t know what it is.  Thousands upon thousands drive by each holiday season to get a glimpse at Central Park lit up a thousand different ways.

11. King’s Daughters – Did you know that KDMC is the not only the fourth largest hospital in the state, but also the largest employer in the city?  Way to go, King’s Daughters.

12. Summer Motion – Ashland’s newly renovated riverfront park is the envy of every riverfront town within a 50 mile radius and host to this summer festival that features national recording artists, good food, games, and a variety of activities for kids of all ages.

13. The Country Music Highway – If you are a fan of country music, there’s far worse places you could be. As a stop on the Country Music Highway and part of a Tri-State metropolitan area that buys more country music albums than just about anywhere in the US, Ashland folks know their way around some Johnny Cash, George Straight, or Miranda Lambert as well as anyone.

14. Ashland Town Center Mall – There’s a nice big mall in the heart of it all.  Good for a haircut or a new pair of shoes or the best in UK gear, but I prefer the mall play area, which has been a favorite of my son since he was able to walk.  This mall has all of your usuals, plus a unique comic book store where you can feed your Inner Geek.

15. The Highlands Museum and Discovery Center – A real jewel.  Dig for dinosaur bones in an archeological exhibit, drive a mini replica ambulance, play on imaginatively themed playgrounds, and much more.

16. Small City with a Big Heart – I know there are problems. Unemployment and hunger and addiction plague our entire Tri-State, and many others. Fortunately, there are also a lot of organizations devoted to helping those in need…faith based and otherwise, from Ashland Community Kitchen to Pathways to River Cities Harvest to Safe Harbor, and much, much more. Ashland’s efforts in this department are truly unmatched by like communities. To say this small town has a big heart would be an understatement.

All this in a comfortable city of 22,000 tucked deep in the picturesque Eastern Kentucky hills where the sausage gravy and hot dog sauce and light beer flow freely.

Who am I to scoff at you, Papa John’s sign? Ashland, KY may just be the best city in the world.

 

Breakin’

You may not know it to look at me, but I got moves.  Beneath this button up shirt and khaki pants is one breakdancing fool.  Okay, maybe that’s a bit of exaggeration, but only a bit, because in 1985 I could do the worm like nobody’s business.

Imagine this:  It’s the mid 80’s and you live in a small, pretty, residential neighborhood called Glenroy Acres located in southern Ohio.  You hear a knock on the front door one lazy summer afternoon.  When you open the door, you see two ten year olds, a boom box, a piece of cardboard, and pure passion.  One of these kids might be me.  And I might just offer to come inside and breakdance for you.

True story.

To complete the above mental picture, further imagine me sporting moussed hair, and wearing a hot pink “Macho Man” Randy Savage t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, Jamz, dark sunglasses, and just a hint of superiority.  There.  Now you’ve entered the deep recess of my mind.

The mid 80’s was a special time that brings back memories of Marty McFly, vinyl records, trips to the mall, Pizza Hut when it was THE place to be, WrestleMania, baseball cards, lawn mowing jobs, riding bikes until dusk, “I Want my MTV” commercials, and breakdancing.  Oh, the breakdancing.

I began my tutorial with the Breakin’ films, then moved on to Dance Party USA.  I copied the moves from both and, just to be sure, I bought a how-to book on breakdancing moves from Waldenbook’s to perfect my craft.  I worked at it, and became quite the phenom – at least in the comfort of my own home.  But these moves could not be confined to just one abode.  It had to be shared.

I was cool.  So cool I felt the need to share my moonwalk, worms, and waves with my neighbors.  I took the show on the road with a friend.  We had a couple takers, one of which was a relative, so I don’t think that really counts.  More often, we got strange looks and “no, thank yous” from folks that rightly believed we were out of our minds.  Needless to say, the tour didn’t last long.

Sometimes I think about recreating that moment and getting my forty year old frame back in breakdancing shape, only to cruise through the old neighborhood, knock on some doors, and say, “Yo!  May I come in and breakdance for ya'”, but I’m pretty sure someone would call the cops.  There are some moments you just can’t get back or recreate.

Porchsittin’

I love me some warm weather porchsittin’

Summer time

Reflectin’

Talkin’

Laughin’

Candy crushin’

Big Brother speculatin’

Beer drinkin’

Storytellin’

Lovin’

I’ll get the next round

Drunken neighbors screamin’

Teens mischievin’

Dogs howlin’

80’s music blarin’

UFO sightin’ (‘member that?)

Temples sweatin’

Mosquito bite fightin’

Readin’

Writin’

Rememberin’

Plannin’

15 years and I still make you

Smile

Laugh

Love

Dance

Hug

7 years in this house

This front porch

Though it has a century

Of porchsittin’ stories to share

Our is

You

Me

Levi

Barnum

Ups and downs

Family

Friends

Food

Fun

And it’s the greatest story ever told

To Me

Kick back

Live it

Love it

Soak it in

I love me some warm weather porchsittin’

ACTC students prepare arts showcase

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There’s art in the heart of Ashland Community and Technical College students, faculty, and staff, and that heart will be racing April 24, 25, and 26.

Forty members of the ACTC family and the Ashland community are working to bring “A Night of the Arts” to ACTC. The festivities will include a Student Art Showcase and a New Play Festival.

The Student Art Showcase will feature a dozen students’ works from Wendy Fosterwelsh’s art classes, and the New Play Fest will debut thirteen new monologues and short plays written in my playwriting class.

The weekend will be a great opportunity for students and more to express their creative side and show their artistic spirit.

This is the second year the New Play Festival will be presented at ACTC. The fest has grown from ten short works from five students last year to thirteen works from eleven students this year. From Della Preston’s “Alone” to Jennifer Johnson’s “Zombie Love” the new plays represent a wide variety of work, from comedy to drama, as well.

Admission is only five dollars and the show will play at 8pm Friday and Saturday, April 24 and 25, and 2:30pm Sunday, April 26. A canned food or other donation to Safe Harbor will be accepted in lieu of the five dollar admission for the Sunday matinee.

For more information, contact Jonathan Joy at Jonathan.joy@kctcs.edu.

Thank you, KinderCollege!

kindercollege

On Thursday, April 9, Toddler 1, Toddler 2, and Preschool students at Ashland’s KinderCollege presented their spring “Watch Us Grow” program to an eager audience on the Ashland Community and Technical College campus, and it was every bit as adorable as it sounds.  From “Itsy Bitsy Spider” to “Wheels on the Bus” to “One Small Voice” these youngsters enthralled a large audience of family, friends, and more.

I watched from that audience as my five year old son performed in his last of six or seven like programs that he has been a part of in his young life.  He’s been a student at the KinderCollege since he was nine months old and now, at five, he is just a few months away from moving on to Kindergarten.

The KinderCollege is part of the Boyd County school system, located in a state of the art facility on the campus of ACTC.  In my son’s four plus years at the school, he’s grown from taking his first steps to taking the stage to sing, dance, and smile along with his friends.  Of course, he has some pretty terrific parents, but his development with math, the alphabet, and social skills is also thanks in large part to the devoted, loving, and fun KinderCollege staff that has nurtured him from diapers to the spotlight.

I couldn’t even begin to list the wonderful teachers that have impacted my boy, and this is a great testament to the work they do.  This is not limited to the KinderCollege, though.  I’ve always felt that one of Ashland’s greatest strengths is education.  I’ve seen this firsthand, over the past fifteen years, as a sub long ago, to my time as the theatre artist in residence at the Paramount Arts Center, to my current work at ACTC.

In my capacity in all of the above, I have spent time in nearly every elementary school, middle school, high school, and college in the greater Ashland area.  From my days as “Mr. Imagination” at Summit Elementary fifteen years ago, to my work with many of the Paramount’s programs for youth from 2001-2009, to my current work at a community college that has twice been ranked nationally among one of the top 10% in the country, I have always marveled at the dedication with which our teachers approach the important work of preparing students for the future.

Here’s to the teachers that fill the schools of the greater Ashland area.  Thank you!  I am proud to count myself as one of your members, and it has been a pleasure to serve alongside you all these years.  Keep up the good work.

And a big thank you to those KinderCollege folks across the street from my ACTC office.  Kindergarten does not begin until August.  Still, as he took his final bow on stage the other night, I felt like he was saying goodbye to much more than just that April 9 audience.  I am excited about the road ahead, but thankful for his past and present with you.