Monday, October 02, 2017

Harvest in the Autumn of Life

Gerald and I deserted other work and went to the 25th annual BSU Reunion wondering as probably many of us were if this would be the last one we would be able to attend. After visiting in the large lobby at Giant City State Park Lodge, we entered the reserved dining room and were greeted by attractive tables with theme-related decorations and lovely program booklets with Ecclesiastes 3:1 on the cover: To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.

For younger readers and non-Baptist readers, I should explain that BSU stood for Baptist Student Union, and the BSU at Southern Illinois University Carbondale was very important to many students for decades. When Helen Green Gallaway was still alive and leading our reunion, she liked to tell of their BSU bus taking students to Ridgecrest, NC, and stopping for a motel. The owner there sniffed at the sign on their bus and declared those college kids did not even know how to spell “bus.”

I had already been blessed in the lobby by conversation with Pat Abney of Anchorage, Alaska, who was present with her brother Sam of Galatia. I remembered Pat's name from my last year at Johnson Hall, but I had not seen her since. As she answered questions about her life's work, she told us about 28 years teaching biology, her political activities, her 10 years operating a Bed and Breakfast, and on and on. Hearing her story, I was immediately inspired and very grateful I had come. What Pat did not tell me and I found by googling her was she had been named Outstanding Biology Teacher of Alaska, Alaska Woman of the Year, and other such honors.

When I opened my booklet to discover the evening's program, I found Galatians 6:9: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. As Gerald and I became acquainted with our table of eight, it seemed those people could have been an illustration for that verse. I have known Jane Walker Sims and her sister-in-law Beverly Walker for a long time, and knew they had served others well.

On the far side of the large table were Dr. Robert and Marilyn Parks of Mt, Vernon, who would have to exit early because the doctor would be leaving home at 6:30 the next morning on his rounds of 14 nursing homes. From the snatches of conversation I could hear in that noisy room filled with excited once-a-year visiting, I heard enough to know the Parks are using the very special buildings on their farm to serve special needs kids, senior citizens, and many others who come for events they host. If that was not enough activity, Marilyn rose to tell us of the college classes she and her brother, Dr. Curt Scarborough, want to have there on the farm. Most of us probably remembered Curt from our SIUC days, but few of us may have known that after 21 years as a pastor, he joined a non-profit called FreeWay Foundation in 1975 and became president in 1985 after establishing a college as part of their organization. Retiring after 41 years there, he still has the energy to want to establish CrossFire Christian College with his sister Marilyn on Crescent Lake Farm. You can google to find out more about opportunities there where it declares you can audit classes free if you are not studying for a diploma.

I was very fortunate to be seated next to Don Donley and wife Esther from Kankakee. Just like Pat Abney, they've had a full life and are still going strong. Don explained after SIU graduation, he first became a hospital administrator. Then because of talking with lawyers for the hospital, he studied law so he could speak their language. Later he used that law degree in a bank in downtown Chicago.

Because he wanted to do volunteer overseas mission work in retirement, he spent a year in seminary studies as required by the Southern Baptists at that time. Esther was not only a trained elementary teacher but also had studied and became a school librarian, so they had many talents between them to share. They actually ended up going to both Ghana and Kenya in association with the Wycliffe translation group but Don did not regret the seminary classes. First Esther worked in a school library, and then she was needed in another nation as a first grade teacher. Don worked in administration and at one school keeping 25 computers going and so forth. I loved best when they told of individual students they helped continue in school. In one country, local schools were sometimes staffed by teachers with high school diplomas and not much beyond that. So although the young woman was near the top of her class, she was ineligible for university work until she took remedial classes, which she did with the Donleys' encouragement. And another young woman was able to have a bedroom in their stateside home after Don helped her get a job in the bank to work her way through college. (And a car to get to that job.) I noted their three children are all involved in careers helping others. The daughter, Kathy Donley, and her husband, Jim Wilkerson, graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Kathy is now pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in the inner city—just one block from the Capitol in Albany,New York. Not only are the Donleys not growing weary doing good, but the next generation is doing good also.

It would not be a BSU meeting without lots of group singing and musical presentations. Thanks to Doris McCoy, Ray Purnell, Charlene Purnell, Bob Barrow, Carol Smith, Charlie Baker, and Jim Cox, our master of ceremonies, we had both Friday night. Nor would it be reminiscent of our fun in BSU days to not have laughter, and that was provided by Bob and Oleta Barrow's enlisting Tom Gwalney, Sharon Reynolds, Barbara Highsmith, and Bill Sielschott to play the Liars Game.

Cal Reynolds ended the evening with the first of his very practical and encouraging
messages on our theme of “Harvest in the Autumn of Life.” He started with “God's Care in the Springtime of Life...A Time of Preparation.”

After final chatter and visiting, some from far away stayed in the cabins at the park; others of us went home or elsewhere until the 9 am time to reassemble on Friday morning. Jim Cox woke us up with some fun with his guitar followed by “Moment by Moment” sung by Bob Barrow and Charlie Baker accompanied by Carol Smith Then we were treated to another challenging sermon by Cal: “God's Care in Life's Summertime...A Time of Propagation.”

In past years, we have had a large choir under talented leaders in remembrance of Chapel Singers that so many BSU students sang in. As our numbers have gone down, this year we had a double quartet to practice and sing for us. Thank you to Bob Barrow, Dee Gwaltney, Harlan Highsmaith, Becky Searle, Jim Cox, Nada Fuqua, Cal Reynolds, and Ginger Wells accompanied by Carol Smith for beautiful music. The traditional memorial service for those who died last year was provided by Carol Smith and Dee Gwaltney.

I was inspired next by Jim Cox's “Remembrance of a Friend” as he told the story of his pastor's part in persuading him to go to college. As the oldest of five kids in a family where no one had gone to college, he had not prepared to do so. His pastor urged that he try one semester and then took him to Carbondale, secured him a basement bedroom and a job, and Jim found out how well equipped he was for advanced education even though he had not taken college prep courses. He has blessed many with his radio career and his musical leadership. In his early career at Channel 3 in Harrisburg, I looked forward to his original program “The Hour” live each weekday. Jim and his interesting guests provided me, an isolated farm wife, with mental and social stimulation, and I also enjoyed when he once came to direct the choir in our village church during special services.

One of Jim's most valuable contributions in life may have been his friendship with Al Fasol and leading him to the Lord. Al returned this year to share with us from his book Humor with a Halo and was introduced by Jim. Al had a career as a seminary professor teaching effective sermon preparation. As we were discovering from Cal Reynolds' sermons, Al did a good job. I think our group gave both Al and his student Cal very high marks. Gerald got the publisher's name from Al to order this humor book of actual happenings. I decided to check it out on Amazon, and thus found Al's other more serious books. Partly because I have so many writers as friends, I have a difficult time not spending more than I probably should on books. But as a history buff, there was a book I knew I had to have: a book telling of significant Baptist preachers in the South from 1670 to 1975. A new volume was way too expensive for me, but I have a second-hand copy coming for less than $15--postage and all. I am very eager to start reading it!

The morning ended with a reminder that October 31 will be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. After Carol Smith accompanied by Lora Blackwell-Kern led us in singing “A Mighty Fortress,” Carol shared a presentation with help from Dr. Fasol reading scriptures in German and Jerry Upchurch following in English. Carol will also give the presentation on this important historical event at her church.

Before the blessing on our lunch time out in the main dining room, Ken Cannon invited anyone who wants to help with next year's reunion to let the committee know. Reinforcing what Cal had told us, we read in our programs by unknown authors: (1) Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant. (2) If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.

After lunch, we had more singing together, and Cal spoke on “God's Care in Autumn's Harvest: a time of Production and Consummation.” And we celebrated by singing “The King is Coming.” Before Marc McCoy led our benediction, we sang once more “Spirit of BSU' written by two men familiar to many of us—Bob Entrekin and Archie Moseley.

Cal's messages gave our age group some very good advice. He urged us to listen to our bodies but not to waste away too much time in our recliners listening to TV. We need to be willing to interact with others than our church family—the drug users, the prostitutes, the followers of Isis, and any others needing concern and love. Throughout his messages, he emphasized the importance of planting seeds with the young ones who will soon be replacing us. That is why his wife Sharon has to frequently answer their doorbell when a little kid asks: “Can Mr. Cal come out and play?” In a neighborhood where many parents are in military service, Mr. Cal can provide a listening ear, someone to pitch a ball to, and sometimes a parent substitute.

As good as Cal's encouragement to us was and as much as I enjoyed interacting with so many senior adults who had lived interesting and valuable lives, oddly it was sharing of problems that may have helped me most. I heard people speak of heart attacks, “he almost drove me nuts,” a friend whose daughter had to have heart surgery, a son in prison, a child whose life was destroyed by LSD, the death of a wife leaving three young sons, someone who was not there because of myesthenia gravis, and cancer, cancer, cancer. (As I read the letters from those who could not attend, I was saddened that Roger Deppe's wife who I so enjoyed meeting and visiting with last year could not come because of her cancer treatments.) The hardships reminded me of what I already knew: it is silly to ask why me when troubles come. Life on earth does not guarantee carefree retirements, and we should not expect that no matter how well we plan. Difficulties and challenges are to be expected during all phases of life, but the help of caring friends, the teachings of Jesus, the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and the promises of God can make life's challenges easier. Or as the unknown writer quoted at the end of our program booklet said: You're going into a season when you are about to experience breakthrough after breakthrough because what you went through didn't break you.

Thank you Ken and JoNell Cannon, Cal and Sharon Reynolds, Lora Blackwell-Kern, Bob and Oleta Barrow, and Marc and Doris McCoy for all the work you did preparing this gathering for us.






Friday, September 29, 2017

Comings and Goings at Woodsong

Our three great grandsons were at the farm for the first time in a long time last weekend. About l0 Saturday morning, they had left their tearful grandmother and their little cousin Caroline who had come over to say that final goodbye in College Station. Bryan had stopped to feed the boys as needed and they had fallen asleep before they arrived at Woodsong about l0:30 that night, where they quickly tumbled into bed.

The next morning, however, they were up earlier than Gerald, which is no small feat. Since Tara, their mother, had a game to coach that afternoon, the plan was to visit here and let tbe boys run off energy before the trek upstate. After caring for their dog Duke and letting him out of his cage in the shop, they were fishing, driving the Kubota, playing football in the front yard, and for the first time getting to try out the kayaks that Gerald had prepared for them. I am not sure who had the most fun—Gerald or the boys. I was to go to Katherine's that morning, but I did get hugs and visits as they came and went to the breakfast table where Gerald bought toaster strudel pastries to add to my collection of cereals. I think Bryan was as delighted as his sons because these had been one of his favorite breakfasts as a boy. I don't think any of them wanted one of my 30-second eggs in the microwave but perhaps did eat a slice of bacon.

Early in the afternoon I met them at Cracker Barrel, where Bryan insisted on buying our dinner. I went to the farm for a break before I went back to Katherine's. The men folk all went by to visit her briefly and let her see the boys before they came back to load their stuff and Duke. They would get to see Tara that evening and stay at the hotel until the moving van arrived with their furniture the next morning. Tara had already enrolled the boys in school, and Aidan would start that same day. Maddux and Payton would meet their teachers that afternoon and start on Tuesday. I am sure their Sunday ended happily with that family reunion. Mine not so much.

Do you know what happens when you drop your phone in a full coffee cup and find it there later? I know. Cause I did just that. When I left Katherine's Sunday night, I consciously put my new cell phone (that replaced a very old one I dropped and broke a while back) in my pocket. Usually I keep it on the car seat or the middle cup holder where I can grab it easily if I hit a deer and have to call and wake up Gerald to come and help me. But for some reason, that night I decided I was not going to hit a deer. Putting the phone in my pocket would insure I did not forget to carry it into the house. But I had barely backed out of Katherine's driveway, which requires some concentration because of park traffic, when I noticed an amber warning light was on. What did that tiny wrench mean?

We had recently had a screw in a tire, and I knew from that experience that an amber warning light could be serious. So I decided I better call Gerald before he went to bed and ask advice. He did not know what the amber wrench symbol meant either, but the car seemed to be running well, so he said to come on home. Relieved, I dropped my new phone into the cup holder beside me. I had no trouble getting home and took the phone out only to discover I had forgotten I'd left a cup of coffee in that holder when I drove in to town.

I dried it off the best I could, but it would no longer charge or come to life. I got down the container with rice that I had used for a grand kid's phone that fell in the lake once. But two days stored in the rice did not help. So Tuesday afternoon I took it where we bought it, and the competent young man ruefully showed me tiny drops of coffee when he took the phone apart. I replaced it with the cheapest one I could get there. He asked if I wanted to insure it, but I assured him I did not plan to drop it in coffee again. The good news was he was able to save all my phone numbers, and I like it.

The next morning we had to go to Carbondale for an appointment to get our hearing aids checked out, so we ate lunch at Denny's, a sentimental spot from our college days and since then. After lunch, we went by Gerald's favorite hardware store where he found a couple of small pulleys for his newest project, which he promptly went to work on back at the farm although he did first phone our son-in-law Brian and helped him out by picking him up to take him someplace else in the field.

We have just now returned from our annual reunion of friends from BSU at Southern Illinois University, and it was a good two days. But I will have to write about that later, because Gerald is in the shop finishing up his project to load and store the kayaks neatly and efficiently between grandchildren visits, and I want to go see how that is coming along.












Friday, September 22, 2017

Changing Seasons

The corn fields are brown and soy beans are yellow. Our son-in-law Brian is already harvesting, and that means Mary Ellen too is busier than ever trying to help out as she keeps working hard at her own job. I will worry knowing their sleep will be shorter than ever.

Everything seems to be changing during this season. At the first of the month, we learned that our granddaughter Tara and family are moving back to Illinois as she became pitching coach at Illinois State up at Normal. This will place their family closer to her husband Bryan's parents too, so I'm sure they are happy as we are. (And Bryan will be closer to his firm's headquarters.)

For Gerry and Vickie, Tara's move wll take away the close geographic association with those three Archibald grandsons. That will be a tough adjustment, but it probably helps that they are overly busy themselves adjusting to changes of their own.

Our month started with Gerry and Vickie's quick visit over Labor Day weekend coming up for the surprise 80th birthday party for Vickie's mother. Gerry also needed to pick up some dogs he had bought in northern Illinois. Aidan and Payton both had baseball games, but since Maddux's fall soccer had not yet started, he was able to come with them. They drove all night to get here for a few hours sleep before the party. There was time, however, for Maddux and me to have a long grown-up conversation at the late breakfast table about their family's upcoming move. And besides getting to play with his Johnson family cousins, there was time for him to drive the Kubota and to play in the lime pile Gerald provides for the great grandsons' diggings. Since Nelly, the Boykin spaniel, was also with them, we enjoyed a couple of demonstrations of Nelly's enthusiastic expertise diving into the lake to swim and restrieve the ball she loved having Maddux throw out for her. Gerald went with Gerry to get the dogs upstate, and Vickie had the opportunity to visit again with her mother before another all-night drive back to College Station, where Gerry had to be on the softball field at A&M on Labor Day.

That Wednesday night Tara arrived after the long drive from Texas, and we had a brief visit before we all fell into bed. In her honor, I set my alarm to be sure I was up in time to make the morning smell good with cooked bacon for our breakfast before she left for the drive up to Illinois State's ball field and to start her search for housing for their family. The university was furnishing her a room until Bryan and the boys can join her this weekend.

We were still adjusting to that big family change when we got the word this week that Gerry had accepted a new job as hitting coach and recruiter down at Auburn University in Alabama. So he is in the process of moving dog stuff, trailers, and such to various destinations on the way down to Auburn after a quick visit with Vickie, Erin, and Caroline in Belton. Vickie will keep her plans to care for Caroline while Erin teaches, so I am sure this year will be filled with lots of trips between Belton and Auburn.

Our adult children are not the only ones who have been busy. Gerald continues bringing in garden produce, and he had his second cataract surgery last week. Mary Ellen wanted to be with us and drive us home, so we had a good visit and after-surgery breakfast with her at the neatest restaurant up at Thompsonville. It was good to hear how excited Brianna is with an observation class for young children learning to speak English. She will be student teaching next semester. Fortunately, Gerald's eye is healing faster than the first one, which gave us some concerns. (The optomist kept assuring him the eye was alright and that his meds may have caused the slowness.) He is down to two eyedrops a day again on this second recuperation.

However, during all this busyness with eye drops and garden produce, Gerald also had a big exciting project going. In order to get better Internet reception, he bought and assembled a 70-foot tower out by his shop. Roy Walker's crew came with a boom truck to set the tower up on the concrete pad. We sat and cheered as the machine took it skyward. Our neighbor Scott even came over to admire that event. For Gerald perhaps the best part of this project was visits with his friend Roy where they talked and talked about their youthful days in Wolf Lake down in Union County. Both their fathers were in Woodman of the World Insurance Fratenity, and they shared many memories and old photographs of long ago acquaintances.

Katherine was pleased this week to see the letter from Sam's summer intern supervisor that came to her house–a very long letter critiquing in detail his successful first teaching experience this summer in Austin. It will be forwarded to Sam, but I made her a copy. As a former teacher of inner-city kids, Katherine understood just how valuable his work had been. Sam's girl friend had also phoned her about starting her student teaching this semester, so Katherine gets to stay involved as these two young adults change from the teens that used to hang out at her house into professionals prepared to make the lives of young people better. As a third generation teacher myself, I am pleased to see yet another generation preparing for this important work.

So the season is changing, and our lives are also changing in many ways . And that is way it is supposed to be.












Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Full August

Grand kids, cantaloupe, watermelon, tomatoes, okra, cataract eye drops, guests, eclipse, dirt dobbers, national softball championship! Our house and lives did not stay empty long after baby Caroline's departure—partly because of the continued sweet photos of her on Facebook, which Gerald prints out for us but also because of other summer events and endings.

Erin still has time for photos and videos for Josh in South Korea even though her school year has started in Texas. As much as she is going to miss full-time with Caroline, she will not be worried about her because her mother Vickie will be Caroline's week-day caregiver. I wish every working mother had it so good!!

School starts early these times, so like Erin, the other grand kids and great grandsons are already back in school again after the end of their summer jobs and activities.Tara no longer teaches except softball there at the sports complex, but those three sons' school schedules are probably as difficult to keep up with as their summer ball games.  Grandson Elijah is the only one whose school starts after Labor Day, but he is already working in his Chicago classroom preparing for his second year of teaching kids with vision impairment. He was down to catch up with other cousins, and I was able to hear a bit about his last eight weeks of teaching one mainstream class of writing to 8th graders, which happened by accident and won't be part of this year's duties to my disappointment.

Sam was also at Woodsong briefly since he had finished his summer internship located at the University of Texas, where he too taught language arts with a junior high age group in a special program. He loved teaching and delighted his mother by having some of his students call her. He was able to go with his cousin Brianna and her brother Trent to the Saint Louis airport to meet Rachel, Trent's lovely red-headed girl friend from New Jersey. They managed to stick in a Cardinals baseball game before they came back to the Taylors. Next, after Elijah came down, they were off to visit Brianna in her apartment at Murray, where she has already started her senior classes. From there they were off to Nashville, where our granddaughter Leslie was featured as a soloist at a festival there. Then they were back to the Taylors in time for the eclipse mania here.

We did get a very brief visit from Geri Ann when she was here to be in a friend's wedding this summer, but she is already at work at her new job with autistic children out in Portland, Oregon. I have yet to have a summer-end visit from our youngest grandchild Cecelie who spent a month in India helping with children—so I still have something special to look forward to. She has started college already at the community college near Freeport. Rachel had to return home the day after the eclipse, so I was very glad Trent brought her over while we were watching Gerry's Scrap Yard Dogs in the finals of the National Professional Fast Pitch (NPF) softball final tournament. This was not televised, and we had to watch on Gerald's computer screen, so his office was crowded with us, Trent and Rachel, and our eclipse guests Bob and Sylvia Mountz from Arizona.

We had watched Thursday and Friday as the Dawgs won the semi-finals against Akron Racers. Then rain delay made the first game of the finals against Florida's Pride quite late, and sadly we lost 5-0. After church on Sunday, we were soon again glued to the computer watching Monica Abbot lead the Dawgs to a 2-0 victory in 125 degree heat. Although Monica Abbott is considered the best softball pitcher in the world, no one could imagine being able to pitch another complete game in that heat to win the final. Megan Wiggins' lead off home run certainly was not a good beginning. Yet the lead went back forth between these two great teams, and we won 5-2. There was much celebrating at Woodsong. Let me include a quote a sports writer used from Gerry about Monica Abbott:

"You can follow softball for the next 30, 40, 50 years, and I don't think you'll see another performance equal to her performance here this week," Scrap Yard coach Gerry Glasco said. "The heart and the guts she showed, the tenacity on the mound in the heat, in the humidity, weather delays. It's a phenomenal performance, and, I think, one of the greatest performances in the history of softball."

The next day was the much anticipated total eclipse, which our area experienced for the longest period of totality. Naturally there has been great ado about it here with Southern Illinois University Carbondale opening facilities to NASA. Visiting public were welcomed to their stadium and even to a large high-rise dorm that is due to be torn down. Other area towns and campgrounds were packed. Locals were warned that some grocery shelves might be empty and highways crowded. The first was true for me when I shopped before the crowds were supposed to come. Area folk had been stoking up. However, since people came to the area over a period of days, the roads stayed clear—until everyone left at the same time.

Our favorite thing about the eclipse was that we were going to have a visit from Bob and Sylvia. Sylvia had spent her early childhood at the State Forest Preserve west of Jonesboro where her father Ralph Fisher started the tree nursery there. The Fisher children went to the same country school that Gerald and siblings went to. Mrs. Fisher would volunteer in the classroom to identify trees in a wonderful project where the children brought in leaves and bark and nuts for a huge display. (That school was treated to teaching by a young woman, who later taught at SIUC, and was the object of much admiring email conversation by former students from little Miller Pond School and some from Anna Junior High.) The Fisher family lived in a big house on the hill by the park, and I vaguely remember Mabel Norris taking some of us down to play with the Fisher children one day. One of my few memories of the Fishers in Southern Illinois was a huge bill board with the painting of a beautiful stallion that Mr. Fisher owned. But Gerald's family were next door to the Forest Preserve, and the two fathers coon hunted together and worked together on many projects, often with kids along.

Soon after my mother-in-law died, we took Dad Glasco down to see Ralph and Catherine Fisher, who at that time were living in retirement village at Belle Vista, Arkansas. The first thing I saw when I walked into their living room was a very large photograph over their fireplace of the nine Fisher children. For a long time, we've enjoyed Christmas letters from Fenna Lee, the oldest of the daughters, as well as from Sylvia and Bob, and Mr. Fisher himself used to write long letters to Gerald telling of their children's educational and other achievements. With the great letters and two or so visits from Bob and Sylvia down through the years, we have felt close to them, so nothing could have pleased us more than to have them visit us to enjoy the eclipse together. And we did.

In preparation, I had found the chairs for the deck in the garage, and they were full of hardened dirt dobber nests and debris, so I was glad I did this job a couple of days earlier. My first plan was to have a picnic set up on the deck since this two-hour eclipse experience would be during the noon hour. Then as realism hit, I remembered why we have never eaten as many meals on the deck as I thought we would. It is hot out there at noon day! So we had our picnic on the air-conditioned side of the doors to the deck. We were going in and out with our eclipse glasses and watching the black area grow on the bright orb. It was fascinating to watch. We experimented with punching a pin hole in a piece of paper to watch the image on the paper below. And with a colander. I was amazed at how much bright light the sun gave even when almost covered. Then the temperature began to noticeably go down, and then things begin to be slightly less bright. Although at night the deer are often around our lake and even in the garden, usually during the day they stay far away from us. Gerald and Bob saw a buck cross the dam at tne end of the lake, and later a baby deer appeared going into our nearby woods where its mother must have been.

As the two minutes, forty-two seconds of totality was soon to arrive, it was now quite comfortable to sit on the deck. And then the predicted total eclipse came. Because of the word “totality,” I really expected it to be pitch dark. It was not. It was beautifully and eerily dusk. The lake and the clouds above the lake became a lovely soft gray and the frogs were singing to us. It was a couple of magical moments until the moon began to move on.

Bob and Sylvia went on to visit other friends in Union County, and Gerald went back to harvesting garden produce for us and others he gifted with it. He is celebrating that finally he now only has to put drops in his eyes twice a day. On Tuesday, students went back to their college classes that had been canceled for the eclipse. As the crowds left the area, life returned to normal except for the multitude of photographs appearing everywhere of the moon's trip past the sun. People in our area are excited, however, because in 2024, when the path is from the northeast to the south, our exact area will again be given a total eclipse.

Gerald is continuing to fight the dirt dobbers in our garage as Sylvia saw him doing. She was delighted when he gave her a ball cap with one of their dirt nests firmly attached on it. This was her souvenir to take back and wear to show off to her retirement coffee gang. “We need the laugh,” she proudly explained.













Friday, August 04, 2017

Caroline's at the Farm!

Our first great granddaughter, two-month old Caroline Simons, arrived at the farm Tuesday afternoon with her entourage (Mama Erin and Gma Vickie) in tow. Soon our living room was filled with not only us but her Great Grandmother Shirley, Great Aunt Mary Ellen, Great Aunt Chris, and her first cousin once removed Brianna. Everyone cooed and awed over Caroline and took a turn holding her.

A tiny little thing, she is definitely adorable, and I think one of the most active babies I've known. Her little legs and arms are in constant motion Her eyes too are always on the move following all her loving admirers and their noises used to attract her. She likes to be held against your chest looking outward, so she can see everything around her. I do not dare try to walk with her, but she seems quite comfortable on my lap watching all going on. Gpa Gerald is completely captivated even though her mother has not yet agreed that Caroline needs to be out riding the Kubota or tractor with him.

If not for Caroline's visit, Gerald would be the object of most attention around here because he had his first cataract surgery yesterday. (Another is scheduled in September.) So even though it took almost all day with hours of waiting for his turn to see the surgeon, our sympathy and concern for him was probably diluted by enjoying Caroline's presence and commiserating with her when she needed to burp or her tummy hurt her as it frequently does. We go back to see another eye doctor this afternoon and hopefully she will assure that all is well whether he got much attention or not. With Caroline in the house, it has definitely been easier for Gerald to follow doctor's orders to stay in and not be outside working as he usually is.

We had expected to be home yesterday by noon, and it was probably four before we were able to have a lunch, which, of course, was Gerald's first meal of the day. I did not have to cook because our Texan visitors had gone over to Gma Shirley's for supper Wednesday for her chicken pot pie, and Shirley sent home a meal of it for Gerald and me. Oh, yes, and zucchini bread! (Katherine got to enjoy that pot pie too since I took a serving to her.) Because they went last night for Gma Shirley's yummy meat loaf, there is now a meat loaf waiting for us in our fridge.

Of course, we have played the who does Caroline look like game and agreed she looks very much like Josh, her daddy. but with Erin's eyes. I am so glad modern technology allows her to see her daddy over there in South Korea and talk to him as she did this morning. Are there any sounds any sweeter than those a baby makes when looking at you and talking back answering your baby talk? I have gloried with her breaking into smiles during our conversations.

Once they survived getting up at 3 a.m. and arriving at and through the air port Caroline handled her first airplane ride here very well because she slept. In the morning, our three visitors will get back in the rental car to drive to Saint Louis for their flight home; I hope that flight is just as good. Here at Woodsong, our house will seem too quiet and empty for a few days as we adjust to her absence.














Monday, July 24, 2017

July Blessings at Woodsong

Our month started with gratefulness for the safe arrival of our grandaughter Brianna from her month of required study in Spain. Trent was home for the Independess holiday weekend, so he and Bri's parents drove to Chicago to meet her plane. Her cousin Elijah was there to join them while they were in town. They drove home in time to invite us to celebrate the Fourth with them and with Brian's mother Dot. Brian's grilled steaks and sweet corn and Mary Ellen's side dishes were good, but being with their family to hear about June's activities was even better. That gang went onto see the fireworks in Marion; and in deference to our age, Gerald and I went home to go to bed.

(Brian's mother Dorothy is here with him and Mary Ellen not only to escape the hot Arizona summer but to visit her Illinois family and pursue her camping enthusiam. Dot has a small camper behind her car that she sets up herself. I find that very impressive, and she has camped in most national and many state parks. When she is not away camping this summer, she is comfortably encounced in the Taylors' air-conditioned larger home-away-from home camper in their back yard. I have not yet seen her as much as I'd liked with all her camping activity, but we did enjoy that holiday feast.)

Mid-month Jeannie and Rick made an unexpected trip down because of a college friend's funeral. That gave us an opportunity to catch up a bit with them. Jeannie was working on plans and painting a huge wall decoration out in our driveway for a women's conference at their church the next weekend, and I enjoyed hearing about that. Of course, she did some bycyling while here.

One Saturday afternoon on a “just to get out of thehouse” car ride, Gerald took me up and down country roads skirted now with July's deep green trees and shrubbery. Some of these roads were familiar, but some I had never been on before. Gerald remembered them from childhood trips from their farm on the edge of the Mississippi bottom area up to the very hilly roads where his relatives lived in the same county. Most of these roads had begun long ago by early pioneers getting to their farm homes that were beloved even with the lack of electricty or an in-house water source. Now the few homes that remain are lovely and lived in by people who work in town but like being close to nature. Despite the roads' narrowness, they were all in good shape in this 21st Century. On the rare occasions that we met another car, it only seemed as if there might not be room for two cars to pass. We always made it.

Another pleasure this summer has been watching a mama goose and her growing babies, which are now almost as large as she is. At the beginning, there was no male goose with the family, which was unusal. We wondered if he had been killed since male geese are very diligent fathers. Later in the summer, she has been joined by a male, so we had to conjecture how that has happened. When they are not swimming in the lake, they are gorging in the middle of our neighbor's soybeans across the lane. Much like the deer we frequently see, if they are on one side of the lane when our car approaches, they seem to think they will be safer on the opposite side. So we have to slow down to let them cross.

Seeing deer is so common that it is not as big a thrill as it used to be. However, I love this summer's memory of seeing a mother doe on the road to Katherine's house one evening. She was followed by her young triplet fawns.

When I cut through the country to go to town, there is a small piece of shaded road through a swampy area just west of New Dennison. (New Dennison used to be a railroad destination with a general store but is now a cluster of houses and a church building built by early German farmers and much later used by Baptists and now called Living Stone Community Church. The country doctor who delivered babies in this rural area lived opposite that church house, but his home has since burned near the end of his daughter Marguerite Lashly's life. Dr. Burns would meet the Presbyterian minister who came on the train from Carbondale and drive him with his family in his buggy to Shed Church. After Sunday dinner with the doctor's family, the minister would catch the train back to Carbondale.) But I digress.

This rural road west of the village has trees that meet over head, and I love driving through there. This road is sometimes closed after heavy rains with a creek going under it and thick woods and swamp area bordering it. Marylea Burnham told me how bad the mosquitoes used to be when she'd ride her horse down that road. However, now I frequently wave at dog walkers there. New lanes off the road lead to a couple houses and one lot preparing for a new house, so I hope the mosquito population is less. It seems like the perfect place for deer, but in all the years that I've gone through there, only once did I have a deer cross in front of my car. Recently, however, I saw a fawn way ahead crossing at the far end of the road by the stop sign joining the Old Creal Springs Road, so I now remind myself to stay alert as I drive through. What I did see one late night coming home from Katherine's was four tiny animals crossing single file to get to the north side of that swampy woods. I have no idea what kind of animals they were, but I now own an indelible mental photograph that I enjoy while I hope to see them again sometime.

Garden produce has also been a summer pleasure. Gerald brings in zuchinni and blackberries and now big round red tomatoes. Three zuchinni plants produce way too much for us, but if Gerald had planted only one or two, they might have died and we'd had none. So we are kept busy shredding them for the freezer to make zuchinni bread next winter or giving the away. Gerald came home from his latest breakfast with Union County family with a huge container of sweet corn from his brother Garry, who carries on their father's tradition of growing give-away vegetables. Garry also sent a supply for Gerald to give to our sister-in-law Opal, and that visit resulted in a large crock pot full of her garden's abundant supply of green beans at our house. Some of those went into the freezer.

Because refinishing the outdoor furniture on our front porch and then the door has not been enough to keep Gerald busy despite all the grass mowing he does, Gerald husked all the corn Garry sent us and has become an expert on shredding zuchini. I am grateful for his help and glad these two activities kept him out of the extreme heat we have been experiencing at least for a little while. He also spends considerable time following the Scrapyard Dawgs softball team by reading about their games and Monica Abbot's piching and discussing this with Gerry. And we both follow photos and bits of information about our new great grandchild Caroline, who is scheduled to come for a visit next week.

Mary Ellen has been able to see Caroline before us. At Erin's baby shower here last spring, Vickie's high school friends Connie Dahmer and Joan Mangan met up with her. Together with Connie's younger sister Brenda and Mary Ellen, they plotted for the group to visit Vickie in Texas. That happened this week and resulted with many photographs on the Internet. Bill and Beth Jordan were in Houston at this time, and so this Crab Orchard gang were able to attend one of Gerry's Scrapyard Dawgs softball games. We have enjoyed their trip vicariously, but it will be more fun as they come home today and we get to debrief Mary Ellen on these Crab Orchard adventurists.

We have loved hearing about Brianna's Spain journey and seeing all her really gorgeous photographs gathered in a photo book, which she is pleased has room for many more travels. She took these photos with her phone, which just goes to show that exponential progress in technology that Thomas Friedman wrote about. When I told her and her mom about my Internet friend Anne Born's walk through Spain, they started exclaiming because they had just been talking about that walk that Brianna would like to do someday.

Yesterday we picked up Brianna to go to worship with us, and it is always a joy to sit in a church service with a grandchild. At dinner afterwards, Brianna asked questions, and Gerald recounted for her some of our adventures and hardships getting started farming. One of his professors had told him it would be impossible to start farming without $10,000 capitol; and though he had saved well during his four years in the Air Force, that was much more than Gerald's savings. It was also commonly said in those days, as it is today, that you needed to inherit a farm to make it farming. Gerald proved all the naysayers wrong, and I bet there are some young farmers out there today also proving negative folk wrong.

It is indeed a blessing to receive phone calls and hear about our grand-kids' and great grandkids' activites. It is also a blessing to have them ask about our histories because we know how almost everyone requets when it is too late to ask loved ones about their lives.

Well, it has been a good July so far, but I need to stop now and go upstairs and fix some of those garden veggies for our lunch.











Friday, June 30, 2017

Time Is Flying and Brings Many Changes!

When I look out our kitchen window each morning, I feel as if the neighbor's corn plot just on the other side of Gerald's neat garden has grown a foot over night! Next Gerald's garden takes my eye and absorbs my mind. I drink in the beauty there. Such a variety of plants of various heights with nary a weed in their midst is truly as beautiful and fascinating as a painting.

Gerald is starting to bring in a handful of blackberries each day and laying them on our kitchen table. A short row of staked berry plants defines the south end of his garden for the first time. Loaded with red berries, this new crop will soon need to be put in cobblers or the freezer.

We have almost used up the excess okra put in the freezer in 2014, so Gerald planted a row of that vegetable this year. I will be happy to restock the one vegetable that I know our grand-kids all like. They even like the way I frequently burn it a bit when I fry it and the cornmeal crust gets crunchy and brown.
Watermelon and cantaloupe vines hug the ground like patches of lacy green, and further behind are staked tomatoes with ripening fruit I am eagerly anticipating. At my urging, Gerald is trying to cut down the size of his garden although he has always enjoying giving away its bounty. We have needed to admit our age and cut back on many things. There is not longer time to do all the things we used to enjoy and also keep all the dental, eye, hearing, and other doctor appointments now required.

I always bragged about the weeds back in the day when I gardened. Gerald never complained, but I knew he was offended. They definitely were not pretty; but despite them, I raised plentiful crops and the weeds represented hours I did not spend hoeing and weeding. I did everything with a hoe as I was not one to learn to use riding equipment in a garden, although Gerald probably would have liked the excuse to provide it if I had wanted it. He has never met anything on four wheels that he does not enjoy. That is why our lawn just keeps getting larger every year.

Gerald got back his tractor this week—with all new parts wherever the fire did damage before he valiantly ran up our lane to get a bucket to put out the fire. We were certainly grateful for insurance that covered the thousands and thousands beyond the first thousand deductible. He always carried a fire extinguisher in a combine, but he had never had a bird nest start a fire on a tractor before. Now he is carrying a fire extinguisher on the tractor too. He enjoyed using the larger tractor the insurance provided for him while ours was being repaired, but he admits he does not need that size any more. That is a difficult admission for any farmer to make.

I have always heard folks say that life seems to speed up as one ages, and that feels true. I have trouble admitting all the advanced ages of our grandchildren and that great grandchildren are now bringing memories the previous generation used to make. However, I have just finished Thomas L. Friedman 's latest book Thanks for Being Late. I heard him promoting it and asked Gerald to give it to me for Christmas. It has taken me this long to finish it 461 pages, and I must admit that it was only the last part of the book that talks about things I understand. Remember: I liked to garden with a hoe. And though I really love computers, changing the ribbon on a typewriter is what I understood. Computers are way above my pay scale, so Friedman is absolutely correct that life has accelerated way beyond my comfort zone. Nevertheless, he is an optimist and gives me hope that this acceleration will bring answers to many worrisome problems that maybe we do not need to be worrying about since fortunately there are great educated minds out there working on those problems right now!

The last part of his book was more understandable to me, and I found it very important. He reviewed the values he grew up with in Minnesota. I have spent little time in Minnesota, but I recognized the values that Friedman valued as the same ones I knew in small town and rural Southern Illinois. I suspect many Americans recognize these human values he grew up with.

We need to see people and help one another feel that we are all part of the human group or as he worded it, “people embedded in a community.” People need to be “protected, respected, and connected.” We must listen to one another, include one another, and eventually learn to trust one another. In other words, follow the Golden Rule and recognize that we are all God's children.

Friedman praised the emphasis on good schools in his childhood community that outgrew its previous prejudice against Jewish families such as his family and then provided outstanding teachers that have produced many present-day successes now serving society. We need to embrace one another to reap the benefits of other groups than our own. If we really value education, we must be willing to embrace life-long learning, so I am now beginning to re-read the first part of his book that was difficult for me. Now I am beginning to understand the consequences of the word “exponential” and I know what Joe Biden was talking about recently when he mentioned Moore's Law. Yes, everything is accelerating and time is flying and things are changing. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, and we can embrace the speed and changes.

For example, before I finished this column, I went up to the kitchen and found not a handful of blackberries but a bucket with enough for a cobbler. That is definitely a good thing!