Angels sing — or maybe not

December 4, 2009 ’Twas the nightmare before Christmas late last month for Michael Stratechuk of Maplewood, N.J., when a federal appeals court upheld a local school district policy barring religious music from school events during the holiday season.

They all discovered America

December 3, 2009 Charles Michael Boland got it right in his 1961 book “They All Discovered America” (Doubleday & Co., New York).Not everything right, but overall, Boland hits the nail on the head with his meticulous research, excellent writing and knowledge of the numerous discoverers (before Columbus) of this land now called America, or Americas actually (North and South).

Socially conscious toys for tots

December 2, 2009 Ah, the Christmas season is upon us. What better time to make our children more socially and environmentally aware.I refer to an interesting item in The National Post: More toymakers are producing products designed to make children sensitive to important issues.Little Billy wants a truck this year? How about a bright green recycling truck made from recycled milk jugs?Little Susie wants a doll? How about the American Girl doll? The doll and her single mother are homeless and live in the back seat of a car.

Time for old, new traditions

December 1, 2009 It’s that time of year where folks are pulling out their Christmas trees (if they haven’t already) and start reminiscing about holiday traditions.

Christmas at Graceland

November 30, 2009 Nothing kicks off the Christmas season better for me than the lights of Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home in Memphis.And, it did just that Nov. 20 with a lighting ceremony and special guests Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Richard Marx and children from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I wasn’t there this year, but in some ways it felt like I was thanks to a Graceland Web cam and live streaming video and audio as Marx and the children flipped a big red switch to make the lights come on.

Nickname came from made-up lyrics

November 27, 2009 “Bulger” Jeffery, born in 1875 at Mount Olive in Izard County, got his nickname as a result of a songfest connected with an old-time camp meeting when Bulger but was a mere lad, according to an article in the Spring 1973, Vol. II, No. 4 edition of The Jeffery Quarterly.His actual name was Robert E. Jeffery.Written by Bulger’s grandson, Hugh E. Jeffery of Brea, Calif., the article tells how young Robert E. liked to sing but was not always sure of the words that made up particular songs, especially old hymns.

Dealing with flawed families

November 25, 2009 It’s the late-night, whispered conversation between you and your spouse when you’re finally alone in the bedroom after an exhausting day of dealing with family holiday drama.“You’ve got to talk to her,” hisses the wife, who has been counting the days until the “holiday” is over.“She’s just trying to be helpful,” says the conflict-avoider husband, who by this point in the visit has started to measure his time in minutes.“How is criticizing everything I do helpful?” the wife seethes.

Reality check

November 25, 2009 The walls are grimy and discolored. The uneven floors creak and yield under foot. Staircases and landings are rickety and black. The door of every room is open. Walk along these corridors. Walk into this room. Here is a sickly boy of 5, deserted by his mother, underfed, solitary in the awful solitude of starved, neglected childhood. “Seldom talks.” Strange isn’t it. Some, many children, never prattle like your darlings. They are already old. They are full, perhaps, of long, hopeless thoughts. There are plenty of other “kids” in this tenement.

Letters to the Editor

November 24, 2009 Upset with Gov.Does hard work and tenacity pay off? The answer to that question is NO! Not in the state of Arkansas when the governor’s office is involved.What I am referring to is the ARRA ice damage grant to the Arkansas Forestry Commission for 1.2 million dollars to be paid to landowners and help them reduce fire danger from the January 2009 ice storm.