Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer's Here and So Is Love

0Summer came on Father’s Day this year, and our nation was bathed in tears for yet another senseless slaughter. Nine exceptional people who had given so much and had so much yet to give were taken from us on a Wednesday night. My personal loss of a niece in Texas magnified my grief.

But amazingly when I turned on the television last Sunday morning while I drank my morning coffee, I unexpectedly found myself in church at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, SC. That heart-broken congregation worshiped God together and loved on each other with such intensity that their love flowed to my kitchen table.

They demonstrated for us what the nine stood for and what faith is. We know the nine would have chosen to stay here and take care of their responsibilities. That is the kind of people they were. Instead a chariot swung low and carried them to God’s presence. We cannot imagine the beauty and glory they are experiencing with Him. Believers in Charleston know that the love they shared there at the AME church as they trusted God and grieved and worshiped is but a foretaste of what the nine are experiencing That love and faith was so strong it came across the mountains and the rivers and the meadows to our farm.

Our Jeannie had just left the afternoon before. Her chemo was finished, and she came down to squeeze in a four-day visit before their summer schedule prohibited that kind of stay. Her bicycle was on the back of the van, and she hoped to try to ride again. But it rained each day. Yet she made certain to take long walks. She was in great shape when this illness hit, so she is determined to get back on the bicycle as often as she can so she will be ready next summer for the postponed last lap of her ride beside the Mississippi River to the Gulf.

Part of the four days was taken up by the many hours required for the trip down, and another part for the long trip back home. So she only was able to be here for two complete days. But it was so good to see her and to think she was able to drive that far. It had to be difficult—it has always been for us even when we were not recovering from anything—let alone chemo.

On top of that, on Saturday before she made the drive home, she took me with her to meet up with Leslie in Paducah. It was such a treat to be there laughing and loving with Les and hearing about her artistically gifted friend’s special wedding and about Les’s great new job. Of course, even after a three-hour breakfast, we were reluctant to leave, but Leslie had to drive back to Nashville and Jeannie to Freeport.

Jeannie and the rest of her family plan to stop by briefly on their way down to Leslie and Mike’s for their annual Fourth of July celebration there, but there won’t be time for any more late night talks.

In the meantime, we received word that Gerald’s only sister was coming from Wyoming. We met her at the airport Tuesday evening, and she regaled us with stories of her flight from St. Louis in a six-passenger “crop duster.” But she was safe and sound and that is all that mattered. She was even on time and no luggage was lost. She had left home at 4 a.m. and was properly tired, but we still did a lot of talking that night and have continued through today when niece Vicki picked her up to take her to another brother’s. Yesterday Vicki also took her around, and they ended up at her house. Ernestine came home with a table top’s worth of family photographs, so we did a lot of looking and reminiscing last night and this morning.

She had a rental car ordered, but Gerald and everyone urged her to cancel so they could loan her a car or better yet drive with her to visit as they rode. A special bonus for us was the Wednesday night visit from Keith and Barbara, Gerald’s youngest brother and wife. Although Keith has been here often for brother fun or business, it has been way too long that Barbara had been able to come. Her last day of work before retirement is Tuesday, so maybe we will be able to see more of her. Before Ernestine left today, we finished up at lunch the blueberry pie Barb brought us from Weaver’s Market. I had heard about the wonderful Amish goods available there, and the pie was scrumptious. Thursday night Gerald and Ernestine came back from their Union County visit with fresh blueberries Barb sent us. And they are good too.

Tonight we traveled down below Marion for grandson Sam’s graduation-going away party given by his Cedar grandparents. Their home at the end of the road is surrounded by huge pines planted 25 years ago, and their huge and attractive open garage was planned to hold such gatherings. The weather was perfect; and after the feast, adults continued talking at the tables there while the teens played on the huge lawn Fred mows between rains. It was easy for all of us to agree that these kids are a special bunch and have made us all proud.

As it darkened, David lit candles for us in and outside the garage. Darlene explained to me they always had a bonfire for Sam’s birthday, but last year it rained and they were unable to burn the damp gathered wood. So she was grateful to complete the bonfire at last. The kids gathered down by the fire. Those of us at the tables, who by now were eating the beautiful celebratory cake, enjoyed the beauty of the flames flying in the air seven or eight feet high. We were among the early leavers, but I suspect the teens stayed by that fire a long time. I hope the memory sustains them when summer ends and they have to go their separate ways.

The corn fields here are racing to reach that elephant’s eye, and some have already made it. The neighbor’s wheat along our driveway is golden and beautiful. Our killdeer has her annual nest in the gravel at the edge of the driveway and is setting on four eggs. If you come see us, stay on the right hand side of the road to miss her! Summer is definitely here; and if we follow the example of the congregation at Mother Emanuel, we can choose to do what Jesus taught: to love God, to love our neighbor; to love our enemies.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Church Bells Tolling

Cynthia Hurd, 54

Susie Jackson, 87

Ethel Lance, 70

Clementa Pinckney, 41

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45

Tywanza Sanders, 26

DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49

Myra Thompson, 59

Daniel Simmons, 74

Myra Thompson, 59

Love one another.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Just One Pair...

One of my joys in life has been when several of the grandkids came at the same time and stayed for the week. Although I never taught my own children to take their shoes off at the front door, they grew up and taught their children to do so. Gerald always changed work shoes to house shoes in the garage when he came in from the hog barns, but I would always tell visitors that they did not need to de-shoe. But I digress.

Anyhow when the grandkids were here, soon there would be a long string of shoes at the entrance from our front door. Since often a child would have two or three kinds of shoes (dress, tennis shoes, flip flops), there would be more shoes than kids in the house. I always got a kick out of that--no pun intended—the kick was metaphorical. I had Gerald take photographs for a memory.

Now just like the original four children at our house, the grandkids have grown up. Although Trent’s family is local now, he is busy with college and computer stuff. I seldom see him although I always get a big smile and hug when I do. His sister Brianna is still in Orlando with a Disney internship until her folks go get her at the end of June. Leslie is with her Mike in Nashville and is happily busy with her new job there. Elijah is home working at Union Dairy, but in July will be again working in inner city Chicago. Cecelie is working many hours at the thrift store where she worked part time during the school year. Tara, Erin, and Geri Ann are all in Texas, and I am hoping the younger two will be able to come up sometime after the softball camps are over. I am also hoping Tara, Bryan, and the three boys might show up someday on the way to Chicago. Since Bryan is a frequent flier to Chicago and sometimes takes the boys with him for grandparent visits up there, that may not happen. So though I am hopeful, I am not sure there will be any group times this summer.

I have explained all this to tell you how happy I have been for the past week that at least we had one pair of tennis shoes in the foyer. Sam has spent a few days with us sleeping in the brown room (a windowless underground bedroom) that everyone loves because it guarantees a good long night’s sleep since it remains dark until noon if necessary. Our wifi connection is more reliable than his at home, and consequently he has been able to get some necessary stuff done with Baylor. This morning he registered for his fall classes, and I took great delight in how excited he is about this chance to learn new material. I know people have to get a job and make a living after college; but in an ideal world, I feel that college should be about learning. And for Sam, it definitely is.

His shoes and Frisbee discs are gone now, and our entrance is uncluttered and lonely. He will leave for church camp in the morning—I suppose his last time for going to camp with his group of youth. We will miss his coming and going from Woodsong this week.

We are quietly and pleasantly celebrating our 59th wedding anniversary today, and it has been a good day.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

And On

Sure enough Michigan won last night, so tonight’s game (7 p.m. CST on ESPN) determines the 2015 world champion. I still want both teams to win because they are both so good.

With my husband and daughters’ concerns about the breathing noise my cold was causing, I decided I better get it checked. I was already scheduled for an INR, and the staff at SIMCO are so kind and quickly gave me an appointment at the same time with a P.A. since it was my doctor’s day off. She suggested an inhaler but gave me a backup prescription for an antibiotic if necessary after a couple of days with the inhaler. I am not adverse to taking meds, but I do not want to take an antibiotic unless I truly need it. I am still wheezing but hoping the inhaler works.

Before my appointment, I had managed to clean up the kitchen and then run by Katherine’s to do a couple errands there and met her newest aide. After the appointment, I called Mary Ellen to locate her, I ran by Kroger to pick up the prescription, by the post office drop box to mail a couple other cards, and headed to Mary Ellen’s house.

I arrived and was thinking how well my over-scheduled day had gone. I reached over to get Mary Ellen’s card from under my sweater beside me, and my hand pulled out one of the cards I thought I had mailed. At that moment, lights flashed in my brain, and I realized I had wrongly stuck her card in the mail with the other card instead of this one beside me. Her birthday money gift was inside and only “Mary Ellen” written on the outside of the envelope. I went inside shaking my head after our birthday hug. We both agreed I should call the post office, which would be closing in fifteen minutes, and she dialed it for me on her phone. I had been mildly disappointed that I’d missed the earlier pickup, but now I was glad. If it had been picked up earlier, it probably would be on the way to St. Louis, where no one would know who Mary Ellen might be.

I ashamedly explained what I had done, and the sweet mail clerk asked a few questions. I could not believe that she said someone would go outside and retrieve the envelope for me. Mary Ellen and I jumped into my car since I was parked behind her garage door, and I had her drive since she is definitely the better driver. Soon she was coming out of the post office smiling with her card with its birthday money in her hand. We had a great mother-daughter visit back at her house since Brian and Trent had not yet arrived with their planned birthday cake.

You better not complain about post office people to me ever!! (Although I have on occasion been guilty.) This kind of service was the same kind I grew up with in Jonesboro with Mrs. Coffman and Bermeice Brown working there. I love small towns, and I especially did yesterday where someone was so willing at the close of a hard work day to do such a special act of service for me!! Life goes on, and I am glad for the people it includes.


Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Mary Ellen's Birthday and Life Goes On

Today is a special day in our family because it is our youngest daughter’s birthday. I hope to see her before the day is over to hand her a card and gift. She works so hard that we do not see her as much as we’d like. She does it all—sells houses, keeps house, cooks often, helps Brian in the field sometimes, and helps their two young adults to be the success they are. Happy birthday, Sweetheart!

It has been a long time since I had a cold, so I guess I should not complain, but I am. In the meantime, while I sneeze, cough, and blow my nose, life at Woodsong goes on. We were torn between disappointment and pleasure when our geese married couple was followed by one tiny gosling. Evidently only one escaped the predators, and that was sad. But seeing that baby follow his parents swimming in the water was a sweet sight. Later they moved on to another lake as geese as the habit of doing. But we have had some others fly in and visit us with more and larger goslings following them.

Gerald has planted the asparagus thanks to cousin Bill Tweedy sharing plants with us. The deer have found them unfortunately. Tomatoes in the garden seem to be doing fine, and some watermelon, cantaloupe, and okra are planted. Strawberry plants have been ordered. Gerald is kept busy fighting the moles and mowing the yard that he keeps expanding. With all the rains and his care, it has never looked prettier.

We have watched a lot of softball the last two weekends. Not so much the first weekend since our Oregon Ducks won their two out of three quickly to advance to the Women’s College World Series. It was hard not to head to Oklahoma City, but a multitude of reasons made it seem unwise. We were thrilled for Geri Ann, and all of her immediate family including her three nephews was there to support her, and I know they had a great time being together. Mary Ellen watched with us, and we were thrilled if we saw Vickie and Aidan in the stands. I glanced at Mary Ellen’s phone and missed Erin decked out in yellow and green. The others were there beside them, I am sure, but we didn’t get to see them on the screen. It was sad to see the Ducks lose, but we are already looking forward to next year!

The reason I was glancing at Mary Ellen’s phone was a photo had just come in from Disneyland showing cousins Sam Cedar and Brianna Taylor together. The Marion Wildcats' band was there to see the sights and Sam would lead the band in their final march of the year in the Saturday night parade. Wish I could have seen that too! Sam is scheduled to be home today, and I am sure there will be lots to tell his mom. Brianna will be home soon as her spring internship is almost over. But the cousins were excited to be together down there in that magical place.

Now we are watching Florida and Michigan play for the championship. Both teams are so good that it is a joy to watch them. If Florida wins again tonight, the Gators will be the champions again this year. If Michigan wins tonight, they will have to play the third game for a two-out-of-three winner. It is hard not to be for both teams.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Poolside, Pomp, and Planting

A highlight of our brief stay with Jeannie in Madison, Wisconsin, was visiting with a young man from our community and his family by the pool at our motel. In small towns and rural areas, kids in school and church together sometimes seem more like family than just friends, and that has always been the way it was between our kids and the Boyd kids a road or two over from us. But then everyone grows up and often moves away. As a result, opportunities to see the young people you felt close to become sparse. So Gerald and I were pleased when it was arranged for Jeff and Maggie, who live in a Madison suburb, to bring their son Caleb to come by for a visit.

I remember their Christmas newsletter from 1997 and still have it. Maggie, an English major, had written it with little news stories telling about their new home with lots of room for the boy toys. Their were sweet photos of Michael and Caleb born just over a year apart and stories of their doing all the fun things toddlers do. Jeff had settled into his new job in Minnesota. Maggie was happily mothering, serving on the regional library board, making new friends. I remember thinking what fun it would be to get this family’s Christmas letter each year. That was not to be. Instead their life became centered on a new word—autism. Time for such luxuries as newsletters did not exist. The new home was sold, the new job resigned, and they relocated to an apartment in Madison, where the best services and help for Caleb might be found at that time.

In 2007 at Christmas, we did receive photos of two dark-haired good looking boys. You would never know from Caleb’s smile that he was limited to sign language and his special school, which he still is attending at age 19. We were told he spoke twice—both times with multiple words which seemed significant to me—but then he stopped. Perhaps it was a change in meds, Jeff felt. They only know his ability to continue speaking did not develop despite all the help they secured for him. It was obvious that Maggie had become an expert not only in helping their son but also in maneuvering the systems necessary for their son’s benefit. His brother Michael, 20 is in community college, and both are tall and big young men now. Caleb loves the water; and although Maggie changed and got him settled in the pool, he swam and played alone with the water contentedly while we had a nice long visit poolside. He never acted bored or discontented. And neither did Jeff and Maggie, who after a lifetime of challenges have many more ahead of them. It was good to visit with such an impressive couple.

We have just completed graduation week for our grandson Sam, our only under-age local grandchild now.(Trent lives nearby, but he is busy with college and I rarely see him.) I realized that I had grown to care for Sam's friends too even though I did not know them as well as our children’s friends in the old days. I will hope to hear about their lives as they complete college and go into their chosen fields. We attended his baccalaureate on Wednesday night and his commencement on Thursday at Rent One Park—the ball park for our local professional baseball team called the Miners after the coal mining industry in our region.

Thanks to a wonderful aide, her sister Mary Ellen for using her brief cosmetology training (her one-time ambition in life) and to Katherine’s church friends, she was ready to go when David came to put her in the van and take her to join the enormous crowd filling the stadium, which I think is indicative of how supportive the Marion community is toward its students. While Mary Ellen parked our car, we started through the maze of people, and I was not sure we would even see Katherine and David. But we had barely
reached the first seats, and there they were. There was one extra seat with them, and Gerald and Mary Ellen insisted I take it while they searched for seats. I was even able to see Katherine’s special friend Terri from her high school days, who came up to visit with her. Terri and Frank’s daughter Bethany was also graduating.

We had been warned that the service would be there with or without rain. So I carried two raincoats—one for me and one for Katherine—and Mary Ellen brought umbrellas and towels. We had just arrived and felt the first sprinkles—and the last! Everything went perfectly. Students did an outstanding job with their choir numbers. The valedictorian and salutatorian gave excellent speeches. Known as an outstanding class, the graduates validated that with their behavior and dignity. Finally the caps were thrown in the air, and then the park provided beautiful fireworks, and the Class of 2015 was on its way.

Despite all the rains this spring, son-in-law Brian’s corn and soybeans are up and looking good at the farm on the Pittsburg highway, Gerald tells me. Brian and Mary Ellen also have a field on the corner near us, and I have watched with pleasure the neat rows of tiny corn growing as I drive to town. She posted a photo of the “baby corn” on Facebook and got some neat responses. When your livelihood depends on it, it has always seemed natural to personalize your crop. Our niece Leah assured Mary Ellen they would be in college before she knew it.

Although Gerald claims he will be cutting back, he has the garden all ready and planted tomato plants today. He is making plans for the rest of the garden, and I am kind of excited about his consideration of strawberries and maybe an asparagus patch. The trees Gerald planted 14 years ago are tall and strong now. It will be fun to see something new to look forward to watching.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sticking With It

Gerald and I were down in his office in deep concentration listening to a favorite preacher—Andy Stanley—when I was touched on the shoulder and I jumped. Mary Ellen had come in very early bringing a card and gift for Mother’s Day and checking on us.

I looked away from the computer screen to open my card and saw this cute little child on the front of the card with a tied-up bundle of clothes and doleful expression along with words saying there were times when running away from home seemed like a good idea. I laughed and thanked MET for the card and the kiss, and she quickly disappeared to go on to other duties. Gerald and I went back to thinking about what Jesus really meant when he said not to judge but then He continued to explain what we should do about that plank in our own eye and why we should remove it.

Soon we went upstairs to join our son-in-law Rick who had come down from Freeport Saturday night to pick up Jeannie when Leslie brought her back from Nashville and her special Mother’s Day treat hearing Garrison Keiler and Rickey Skaggs in the Ryman Auditorium.

We had brought Jeannie down on Friday after being with her for her last three days of that week’s chemo up at University of Wisconsin Hospital. She had finished mid-afternoon, and we had waited to eat lunch with her on the way back to Southern Illinois. It was late by the time we arrived at Woodsong after driving through rain and making the necessary stops for such a long trip. Leslie was at her Aunt Mary Ellen’s waiting for us since our house was locked up. It was midnight before all of us were in bed. We slept late the next morning--not Gerald, of course, even though he was the one who drove all the way home after having to find his way around Madison all week.

Gerald, Rick, and I went to worship together, and I was taken out to eat afterwards for Mother’s Day before coming back to the farm and visiting with Jeannie and Leslie once again when they arrived from Nashville. Too soon the Eilers were on the road returning to Madison since Jeannie had to be at the hospital at seven this morning. At least she has this week off to recoup from last. Leslie tried to take a nap but failed and headed back to Nashville, but I was glad I got in on some of her news and giggles she was sharing with her mother.

A friend had helped Katherine in the morning, and our grandson Sam had arrived home from his buddy’s graduation trip to fish on the ocean in Florida So it was four when I arrived to feed her a bite of supper and give her a bit of care during the early evening.

When I got back to the farm through the rain, Brian and Mary Ellen were in the family room with Gerald. We finished the evening listening to the NCAA reveal program telling the 64 chosen softball teams where the 16 regionals will be starting this Friday and who will be playing against whom. Although Sam’s high school graduation is the most important thing on our agenda this week, on Friday we will be fastened to the screen watching Gerry with A&M at Oklahoma and Geri Ann with the Oregon Ducks hosting their regional.

I am not overly sentimental about Mother’s Day because I was frequently somewhat embarrassed when I was young tying with Helen Lee at our church being the mother with the most children in a service. I can’t remember how that problem was decided as to which one of us received the flower. I was relieved when later Zella Cain was there to trump Helen and me with a larger family. However, this year along with the usual flower, cards, and gifts, I saw all three of my daughters and I talked to my son on the phone as he and Vickie returned to College Station after a surprise visit to see Geri Ann when Oregon played Arizona at the end of the week. That made it a delightful day and I was grateful for every child.

Oh, yes, when I finally read the inside of Mary Ellen’s card, I found out it was not that little child on front who wanted to run away. Someone knew what every mother wants to do on a very bad day, and I was praised because I never ran. I was glad I didn’t.