Thursday, January 05, 2017

Twelve Days of Christmas--or More

Our Christmas was different, but it was a good one. Our first pre-Christmas guests were Gerry and Vickie and Geri Ann, who had already had their family celebration at College Station. We had a good breakfast with Glasco kin at Cracker Barrell the morning after they arrived around midnight. There was a second Glasco breakfast there a week later when was Jamie Escue was home from Louisiana, but I was at Katherine's the evening before and didn't get to go to that breakfast. Gerry and Geri Ann were giving two softball clinics in this area while here, and Gerald even went along to the second one and was impressed. As well as to be with the Johnson and Glasco family celebrations, Vickie was here to help her mother who was recovering from surgery

Gerry did not stay as long as the other two.Vickie took Gerry up the Friday before Christmas to catch a 4:30 a.m. plane to south Texas for hunting and bird dog work, which Gerry loves so much that it is more fun than work. We fed him favorite foods that we had stuck in the freezer to save for him since he could not be here for the Thanksgiving feast. On Christmas day, he was texting Vickie trying to get pity for missing the family dinners and claiming to eat from a bag of chips, but I refused to feel even a mite of pity. His hunting work continued through the New Year celebration when Vickie and their three grandsons joined him for the weekend, and he really enjoyed himself then.

Jeannie and Rick with Cecelie came through Woodsong for a brief overnight visit on their way down to Nashville to spend Christmas with Leslie and Mike. With Geri Ann here from Oregon and Sam here from Baylor, and the Taylor kids off school, they made the most of Cecelie's visit. They also made plans then for a second cousins' celebration the day after Christmas when Cecelie would be back through and Elijah also would be driving up after his Nashville visit. In fact, Vickie agreed to stay an extra day just so the six youngest of the cousins could have yet another night together, and Sam's special friend Anna joined them since they consider her one of the cousins. (When I say night together, I am not exaggerating. They started early and left Woodsong for dinner in Carbondale and a movie and I think a bowling alley visit and ended up at Woodsong where the hardiest of them stayed up till 4 a.m. I was told. Since that was about the time Vickie and Geri Ann were gathering up their suitcases and three dogs to drive to College Station, I am not sure Geri Ann ever went to bed.) That same night Jeannie and Rick and I saw the same movie, Fences, in Marion. That was a late night out on the town for me, but I think we were probably home soon after l0, and Jeannie and I did not talk too late since they were also driving home the next day.

Christmas Day itself was a small affair for us, but quite lovely for me since once again Mary Ellen had us over to their farm for dinner. Vickie and Geri Ann enjoyed the Johnson celebration on Saturday, and her mother was up to that gathering.  On Sunday, they attended church at Stonefort with her brothers' families and were very happy to hear Louie and Terry sign together. The Taylors and us worshipped in Marion together and enjoyed beautiful music, the sermon, and seeing friends. While the Taylors went on to the farm and check the ham and last minute meal preparations, we were able to go by Katherine's and give her pills before lunch. Later Mary Ellen and I took her in Christmas dinner, and Mary Ellen fed her, and we all enjoyed the Christmas tree Sam had put up in her bedroom  the night before for the special dinner he prepared and the evening they had together. Geri Ann and Brianna came adding to the afternoon  festivities, and our visit probably wore her out before we finally departed.

Mary Ellen's house was decorated inside and out this year; and when we drove by, we had already been enjoying Brian's white star on the barn—the same star the Rix family put up there for years. As we stepped into their large kitchen and were greeted by Fifi, our eyes were delighted with her lovely colorful table with its many candles and places waiting for the nine of us. Our noses were delighted with the wonderful smells, and soon our mouths were rewarded with all the good food they had waiting for us. Sam arrived from going to church with Anna and Vickie and Geri Ann were there.  Like Gerry, Fifi wanted us to feel sorry for her not having the yummy food; but remembering her vet's warning after she got sick on human food, I did not give her a mite of pity either. After we had indulged in the dessert table with its colorful fruit, pies, Brianna's angel food cake and the chocolate covered peanut butter drops she had also made, we all gathered by the tree in the living room to exchange gifts and stories. (I love the stories about the pinball machine decorating one back corner of their living room.) We were all having so much fun and laughter that Trent almost forgot that he was supposed to be at work by 2, but he wasn't very late.  Sam was able to go on and help his little niece celebrate her first birthday at his brother Davie and Krissy"s house.

The day after Christmas I enjoyed visiting with family still at the farm, but I was saddened to attend the funeral of a writer friend.  Jari Jackson had asked for a "journalist funeral."  The funeral director and her pastor were not sure what that meant, but Mayor Bob Butler, Jon Musgrave, and  Pastor Bob Dickerson did an excellent job of creating one for a long time journalist who wrote for big city papers and then retired in her hometown and continued writing pro bono promoting good things here.

Gerald and I celebrated New Year's Eve by driving into Marion and having our evening meal at the new I-HOP, which we had not yet visited. Waitresses with bright clothing and bright smiles greeted us warmly as we entered, the food was delicious, and everything was so new and clean. We were surprised at how large it was, which will be great next summer for the baseball crowds.


Altogether it was a very nice Christmas season despite our no longer all being together on one day and despite the horror of multiple sclerosis. Our one tree is still up and quite beautiful to me. I usually leave a tree up until New Year's Day because that is what we did at our house when I was a child in Jonesboro. Once or twice, however, when the weather was so bad the kids had school cancelled, I left a tree up till Old Christmas that I learned about from Jesse Stuart, a day some English immigrants continued down in Kentucky and which some Amish still do.  Tomorrow is Old Christmas or Epiphany and our tree will be there to help us celebrate. The truth is I am leaving it up till I get around to it, maybe during the weekend or maybe afterward. Taking off all the ornaments and putting them away in their proper box and then pulling the tree apart takes up a large part of a day, and the family room will be a jumble until the job is finally finished. So my twelve days of Christmas may stretch out to fourteen or so.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Perfectly Prepared for Christmas


The tree is up and decorated in our downstairs walk-out family room. Left-over pies from Thanksgiving were thawed for Gerry, who could not be here that holiday. Final Christmas cards are in the mail, the ones I did not have an address for. In the old days, one could look in the phone book for local addresses, and that is what I did unsuccessfully in this day of cell phones. It finally dawned on me that I could look up addresses on the Internet, so I did. I even got the bags of plastic bags to the Salvation Army store since they appreciate them especially during this busy buying season.

I made a quick decision last Friday not to put up the living room tree this year. I planned to, but suddenly the thought of not having to unearth it and all its decorations sounded good to me. Then, best of all, the thought of not having to take it back down and store everything again sounded even better. So in a weak moment, I made the decision; and for the first time in 15 years, there is no tree in the living room in this house. Yes, I miss it a bit, and I am resolving to be better organized next year. On the other hand, maybe this is a fine new tradition.

Reading the latest issue of Springhouse, my favorite regional magazine, I had changing emotions when I read my friend Dixie Terry's usual column. First I was mad at myself. Then I decided I was angry at Dixie for making me mad at myself. Then I corrected that thought knowing I was just jealous. Then I found myself amazed and admiring her extreme competence even though I have always considered her a very talented person who seems to do more than any one person could.

She had me going all right until I came to her punch line after she had described the beautiful decorations, the completed baking, and all the Christmas preparations she had accomplished early in December. While I was still shaking my head and telling myself that I could surely do a little better if I started earlier next year, her next phrase stopped my whirling brain: “IN MY DREAMS,” she said. Ah well. That was better. I am sure her house is more decorated than mine and that she really has done all kinds of food making, none of which I have done. Nevertheless, the perfect preparation she described was only in her dreams! Now she could still be my friend!! It was that perfection we all only dream about that had made her untouchable and unreal. Thanks for the laugh, Dixie—something you have often made me do when you have written about your busy life.

Another fascinating Springhouse article was about Mark Motsinger, whose father Virgil received the Crab Orchard High School Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011 after an outstanding coaching career at Southeaster Illinois College. Mark's grandparents were the late “Copper” and Irene Motsinger in our village. Mark is now teaching history in the high school at Carrier Mills, but back in 2000 after a successful 16-year career coaching the Lady Falcons, he was one of several people laid off at SIC, and he spent the next year teaching in a Christian school in Senegal. On weekends he helped out in a nearby village, where he actually bought land and helped establish a church. He experienced much we don't see in Crab Orchard. If you don't already subscribe, you might want to pick up a copy at some area businesss who handle the magazine, or just subscribe for $35 to Springhouse, 8250 Level Hill Road, Junction, IL 62954. If you ask for the current issue with Mark's story, I bet Brian DeNeal would send it to you.

I am also reading the new local book my brother Jim and his wife Vivian sent me: The Law and Judge Lynch: 200 years of murder in Johnson County, Illinois by Ed and Diane Annable. They had received a copy before I knew about the book because Diane is is Vivian's niece. An interesting good pick-up-and-put-down book, it is quite revealing of past times and attitudes. I have read a couple other books recently in addition to finishing the second volume of Lawrance Thompson's biography of Robert Frost. (I had recently re-read the first volume, and now I am on the third.) So I have had time to read even if I did not feel I had time to put up a second Christmas tree. But then, of course, I can read sitting down. (It feels good to have some time to read lately, except I am likely to fall asleep in my chair.)

Gerald and I also took time to go see the annual musical at the Marion Civic Center last weekend. I so enjoyed the beautiful music, the many quickly alternating attractive sets, and the brightly colored costumes as well as finding out what Tiny Tim did after he became an adult. What a great gift to our community from the First Baptist Church! We appreciated the Saturday matinee, so we could still get home early. It was pouring so hard when we got out that we changed our plans to eat in town. We did not even want to go through a drive-in with wind blowing rain inside the car. As it turned out, we had three grandkids drop by who have all finished final exams and were hanging out together. So we let everyone choose from our supply of frozen sandwiches that we keep on hand, and with the help of the microwave, everyone had a bite to eat.

Our Oregon grandchild, Geri Ann, arrived with her parents Gerry and Vickie from Texas just after midnight Tuesday night. Because of their late arrival, the Glasco breakfast gang very graciously committed to an 8 a.m. breakfast time at the local Cracker Barrel. That was late enough and close enough even I was willing to get up and make it! A dozen of us lingered for way over an hour talking, laughing, and taking photos. Three of us old generation (Gerald, me, and Keith), six of the second generation, two of the third generation, and tiny Gentry (wearing spurs no less) made it a four-generation event. That night the Taylors joined us for a supper of store-bought frozen lasagna and salad—one of the easiest meals I know of.

Since Gerry and Geri Ann are involved in two softball clinics and Vickie is helping with her mother who is recovering from surgery, we are not going to see as much as we'd like of them, but it is nice to have them in and out. Vickie is also busy taking care of her new puppy Gage, who is in Gerald's shop along with Chloey and Chance. She makes sure they are let out to scamper about every few hours. (The Archibalds couldn't come so they are taking care of Nelly.)

Our one tree is twinkling brightly right now while Gerald watches a basketball game. It is not piled with gifts beneath as in the past. I not only went very lightly buying gifts this year, but they were wrapped and mostly sent home with family members either at Thanksgiving or since then. Shopping is a more difficult chore than I want to experience, and I don't like mailing packages either. I have found time recently to do my long-neglected leg exercises that I never should have stopped, and I think I am already walking a bit better. If I keep that up, maybe I will be able to be better organized next Christmas! In the meantime, I am blogging to you and wearing the very bright sequined sweat shirt that Mary Ellen made me many years ago when she was a young single editor down in Tennessee. I always get lots of notice and compliments when I wear it in public. I am looking and feeling festive and am relaxed since I don't have to achieve Dixie and my dreams of perfect preparations.





Thursday, December 01, 2016

Beauty and Bright Lights Wherever We Go

So many folks must have used the weekend to put up Christmas trees and holiday lights, and I am grateful as I am enjoying all I see. I was in the mall yesterday to pick up my new glasses and enjoyed the decorations there as well as on homes to and from town. Today I had a brief dental appointment in Carbondale, and the dentist's reception area was so beautiful that I almost wished they had been delayed in seeing me. Recently redecorated, the room's blue and silver color scheme was magical with a silver tree and blue and silver ornamentation added all around. A few scattered brown natural pine cones was the perfect touch on the tree.

Before the dental appointment, Gerald and I recycled a trunk load of cans, plastic, newspapers, glass, catalogs, and cardboard. (I have been recycling magazines to other readers.) Then Gerald treated me to the Chinese restaurant for lunch before my appointment. With its presentation of rows and rows of food, I find the variety amazing as well as delicious. So much food that can only be described as pretty is a visual delight. We enjoyed seeing a young college-age couple opposite our booth laughing at each other and using chopsticks. Another family with two young children finished, and the little girl saw us watching her and consciously smiled and carried on a bit to charm us. Two retirement-age couples were in the booth next to us and were obviously enjoying their visit as well as their food. Many in the restaurant were dressed in work clothing and on their lunch hour. The guests and the staff were multi-cultural and as varied as the food. I had to rejoice again that we live in a nation with such abundance for so many of us ordinary people.

I remember growing up that a restaurant meal was seldom enjoyed by working class families. Even when we traveled, we often stopped at a grocery store and bought bread and bologna for the day's lunch. It was good, and it was fun. Occasionally someone might take me to lunch, such as when my best friend Lynn and I sold poppies on the streets in Anna because her grandparents were active in veterans' affairs. The Dillows always treated Lynn and me to lunch at the Anna Cafe, where side dishes were served in little bowls I thought were so cool. Menus were foreign enough to some of us that we would order, “The same.” Now many families can afford to eat out so often that mothers wanting more control over nutrition have to limit that.

I know there are many hungry in our nation, but with school breakfasts and lunches, soup kitchens, senior meals on wheels, and weekend sacks of food given for many needy families, we do not have a great problem of starvation, and I am grateful. (Anything we can do either by friendship or government to help families function better will help eliminate child hunger. Jobs are important, but often it is addictions and untreated depression more than lack of money that keeps children from being fed properly.)

After an errand and the dentist appointment, we headed down the highway south to visit Gerald's brother Keith and wife Barbara at their farm. The highway had just finished being reconstructed, and again I knew how fortunate we were to live with such magnificent roads. And when we left the highway and went onto country roads, there was no fear of the car getting stuck in the mud,which happened on rural roads in my childhood.

At the farm, three beautiful kittens came to greet us as we approached the door; and as always, Hash (Keith's constant companion) welcomed us with a bark when we went inside. Their granddaughter Amanda was there helping Barbara, and their great granddaughter Cammie (not sure how they spell that) greeted us with an adorable smile. Four fingers held up on her little hand made me realize how long it had been since I had seen her as a baby once at a family gathering. We visited and enjoyed looking at the pretty Christmas tree Amanda had helped Barb put in the living room window. As we left after our goodbyes, I got to talk to the kittens again.

After a couple errand stops in Marion and a brief visit at Katherine's, we headed home through the country. Sometimes Gerald takes the highway, but he was willing to go that way to satisfy my request that we take the time to go off the old Creal Springs Road and head up Cherry Valley Road to see the annual light display out in the middle of that rural area. Last year I kept seeing it at a distant and thinking I would have time to run up Cherry Valley, and suddenly the season was over and I had failed to get a close-up view. Their display has always been spectacular, and it is easily seen from a distance, but one needs to go and stop there and gawk as long as possible. You will only see part of it even then. It can only be described as fantastic. I really think everything is mostly new this year; but since I did not visit last year, maybe that was when so much more was added. There is a sign I had not seen in past years saying the hours were from 5 till 10 each evening except Saturday and Sunday then the lights go off at 11. The sign told me the family name: Yost. I have always wanted to meet these generous people and hear the story of how this enormous family project was started and what keeps them going. How young are they to be able to put up all these lights and other decorations? Where do they store all this between Christmases? The family certainly ended our day with pleasure, and once again I was grateful.

Going to the dentist during the beginning of the Christmas season  made for a fun day. There are no Christmas decorations up at Woodsong yet, although this morning I did carry in the pumpkin/squash autumn display from beside our front door. Now I will need to cook those decorations and start getting down Christmas boxes.



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Giving Thanks

“We have a lot to be thankful for,” my 90-year-old sister Rosemary said when she called me on my birthday this week. She had kept the pulling of her upper teeth a secret from her kids, but the procedure went well and the upper plate was ready in record time the very same day. She was grateful for that and many other things.

She had ended up with a blood infection a year or so ago when a couple of teeth were pulled, so she was nervous despite changing dentists and being certain to have antibiotic preparation this time. She did not want her daughter down the street to know because Gloria would have wanted to go with her to support her. Because Gloria's daughter was recovering from a double mastectomy, Rosemary felt it was more important that Gloria focus on helping Jennifer without feeling conflict. My sister has always been an inspiration to me, and once more both her gratefulness and her independence were setting a good example for me as I am entering the frail elderly stage of life. Although we can't sleep together in our childhood bedroom any more while we giggle or she gives me advice, I still gain wisdom from her through letters and phone calls. I am very thankful for her.

After Gerald's brother Keith's hospitalizations, we recently were able to meet Keith and Barbara down at the Lake of Egypt restaurant for Friday night fish. We do little social activities these days, and this was a time of celebration that Keith is much improved. We are very thankful. A couple Friday nights later, I came in from Katherine's and was expecting us to eat one of our usual hurried-up simple suppers, and Gerald said his brother Garry and Vera were coming up for fish at Lake of Egypt. Would we like to meet them? We did and that too was a lovely visit. We are thankful for Garry and Vera.

We came home early from our time in Freeport so we could visit my only brother and wife in the middle of the state on our way home. It is no longer as easy a drive up to Mattoon as it used to be, and Jim and Vivian can't jump in the car and drive down here as in the past. My big brother was my hero as I was growing up, and some of my best childhood adventures were with him and our cousin Jack down at Mr. Airy Farm. Then when he came back from service, he gave me good advice as a teenager, and I liked watching his and Vivian's romance develop into marriage. Jim and I like to reminisce on the phone, but seeing the two of them in person was so much better. They were a wonderful support when our parents were still alive and then helping afterwards. So that visit was especially important to me. and I am so grateful for them and all they have meant down through the years.

If I counted correctly, Gerald and I now have 24 in our immediate family and one on the way, and I am extremely grateful for each family member. Although they were not with us on Thursday, we were thankful for the Archibald gang who traveled duet with Vickie from Texas and arrived Monday night.

Tuesday was a spectacular day with the three great grandsons all over the place “driving tractors, driving tractors, driving tractors” as 6-year-old Payton said when he stopped long enough to eat something mid-morning. Maddux and Aidan were also driving whatever they could find. And the lime carried in the house from their tennis shoes, which they are wonderful to remove at the door, showed proof that the lime pile Gerald provides for their digging was not neglected. Their dad Bryan was kept busy sweeping up. Tara reorganized clothes for their family so they could leave early Wednesday for the long drive up to Chicago area to visit Bryan's family. Gerald has been clearing trees and burning them along the edge of a field, so he created a giant bonfire, which was beautiful, and the boys roasted marshmallows. The Taylors--Brian, Mary Ellen, Trent, and Brianna-- came over and ate supper with us, and Trent and Brianna had great fun playing with the three boys.

When I walked out of my bedroom Wednesday morning, my birthday started with a chorus of “Happy Birthday” from Rick and Cecelie as they had arrived the night before shortly after I had gone to bed. Soon Vickie was presenting me with a gaily wrapped special wall picture especially chosen because she knew I would love it because of the birds. The day continued with greetings and remembrances and ended with Brian and Mary Ellen bringing me and Gerald birthday supper.

Gerald helped me with the turkey getting it from the fridge where it had thawed for four days. (I really have trouble now lifting a 20 pound turkey although I managed to get it from the store and home.) He went even further and pulled that plastic thing-a-ma-jig that unkind men put in the turkey's rear cavity. Of course, that part is never completely thawed. Gerald found out I was not exaggerating when I carried on about how hard that is to remove. Tom Turkey was panned and put back in the fridge for Gerald to put in the oven when he got up the next morning. Since Vickie and Mary Ellen were doing everything else for our dinner, I went to bed early. Of course, Vickie had also been at her mother's a lot and was busy making food for the Johnson dinner Thursday night at her brother Louie and Chris's house. On Thanksgiving morning once I made the dressing, I was able to relax and read!

We had 15 at our Thanksgiving Day table, and we certainly missed the 10 not present. It was Gerry's first Thanksgiving not with us, but he was busy with his new hunting operation on the Kennedy Ranch next to King Ranch in South Texas. Brian did an excellent job carving the turkey, which had always been Gerry's job. Jeannie could not come because she was sick, and I had to fight being distraught about that. I soothed myself by knowing how important it was for her to finally get some rest and recover. And I understand that she has. Since she will be in the full swing of things again on Monday, that is good. Knowing that Geri Ann is finishing her degree this term and will be with us at Christmas time kept me from too deeply grieving her absence although we all felt bad that snow in Oregon had prevented her and friends from the trip they had planned. And I had to be proud and happy Leslie had rehearsal for her upcoming Christmas tour she was chosen for. I figured that Mike may have been on duty. Whether he was or not, I felt pride and gratitude that he had accomplished this career move.

One big event Thanksgiving Day was the arrival of Josh and Erin Simons from Belton, Texas. They had started up the day before after Erin's doctor exam; they were excited because their baby is now far enough along to have fingers and toes. They have a girl's name chosen, but soon we were challenged to find a boy's name that Josh likes since he is choosing the boy's name. Our college kids got into that and the next hour or so was spent calling out and debating boy names.

Another highlight was that Katherine was able to come out for dinner with the help of an excellent aide. Getting to sit at the table and visit with her was a special treat.
Cecelie and her college cousins Brianna, Trent, Sam, and her teacher brother Elijah were in and out all week either sleeping (??) here or at Mary Ellen's. Well, they do sleep, but often most of it is in the morning. And they shop and go to the movies and watch movies and find numerous ways to entertain themselves. They also thoroughly enjoy playing with the Archibald boys. Sam got to visit with his little niece, and the photos he took of her were adorable. Of course, we had a brief visit with Anna once before they joined the other young adults downstairs. People also had individual plans and were in and out eating at their favorite places. Add to this mix, six granddogs, who all stayed in Gerald's shop when they were not out running and enjoying themselves, the very good week sometimes became somewhat of a blur.

Bryan ended staying up staying in the Chicago area since this coming week is one he needs to be at his firm's headquarters, so Tara bravely drove with the three boys back to the farm last night. To her surprise and joy, they quickly tumbled into bed the minute they arrived. Today has been another busy day of play for the boys, and Tara was getting them packed to drive back to Texas as soon as their cousin Kinsley's birthday party was over this evening.

Vickie had brought much food back to Woodsong from the Johnson feast and put it in the fridge in the garage. Trent was working today and Sam had gone back to Marion. Rick and Cecelie got on the road for the long trip upstate. But I think there were 12 of us at lunch who ate food from our holiday dinner combined with Vickie's yummy left-overs.

After every one left tonight, I took a remaining pecan pie to put in the freezer for Christmas, and there was most of Vickie's delicious ice-cream cake with chocolate cookies though out. With the abundance of food, we had forgotten it was there. So that too is ready for Christmas.

As my sister said, we have so very much to be thankful for. I am so sorry that food and shelter and safety and family are not there for everyone. Let's try to make that happen for others when we can.



Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Last High School Musical

Well, I will admit that “The Last High School Musical” may be a bit over dramatic a title for this blog, but it definitely encapsulates how I feel. From the moment we begin to read on Facebook about the fall musical at Freeport High School, Gerald and I began to feel nostalgic and sad and proud and excited all mixed together. I am usually the one most interested in theater, but Gerald beat me in saying we must go up to see Cecelie in this show. She is our youngest grandchild and the third of the Eiler kids, who we have seen perform so many times in plays, musicals, and shows of all sorts. Now that Cecelie is a senior, we are facing the fact that that part of our lives is over; and it is a bit overwhelming emotionally. So we were sadly excited but happily anticipating seeing her as Aquata, one of the mersisters (princesses) in The Little Mermaid.

As it turned out, this musical production was pretty dramatic and not just for us. On Monday night at rehearsal, Brynn Schiffman, who played the lead mermaid Ariel, had a serious accident on stage and ended up with a severe knee injury. Suddenly everything was up in the air. What to do? Would they cancel the show with tickets already sold? Jeannie texted me, and I felt sick at heart for what this young woman had happen to her just two nights before all her six weeks of hard work were supposed to be rewarded and enjoyed by the community. I felt enormous sympathy for what director Tim Connors must be going through. And then complete disbelief when Jeannie said maybe Cecelie would be doing the Thursday night show so that Brynn could heal for the later performances. What? Two days to learn an entirely new part: songs, dances, lines?

But that is what happened. The other five mersisters would absorb Cecelie's lines, and she would play Ariel for the Thursday night performance, so Brynn could heal enough to get doctor's permission to perform Friday and Saturday, which she did beautifully. Cecelie was excused from her Tuesday classes and half of Wednesday's, and Connors and the vocal director and the choreographer and others pitched in to give her six weeks of rehearsals in two days. The show must go on, and it did! (This sort of group endeavor and determination and insistence on “making it work” is one of the many values of theater for high school students.)

It helped that in part of the story, Ariel could not talk because of the evil sister's curse. During that time when Ariel's song was just supposed to be her thoughts, Brynn actually sang it off stage and that was one less song Cecelie had to learn. But Cecelie was superb, and there was not a hitch that I could tell.

It was not until we were in the back-stage hallway with a large part of the audience crowding in to congratulate the cast that I heard Cecelie coughing and coughing while she held a bag of cough drops as the clutched her bouquets in the other arm. Somehow on stage, she had carried on, and I did not detect this awful cold. Her mother had had her to the doctor, who said it was just one of the coughs going around town that would last four weeks. She was sent home to treat herself with over-the-counter meds. I imagine the doctor told her to get a lot of rest. Ha.

The next night we got to hear Brynn's beautiful voice, and she somehow danced well with her knee brace despite what I imagine was considerable pain. Cecelie was also terrific as Aquata, and we were thrilled to see her in both her roles. I must say she made a beautiful mermaid both nights. I'd have liked to stay for the Saturday matinee and night performance, but we needed to get home, and we wanted to stop at my brother's home on the way back to Southern Illinois.

Jeannie was swamped with Veterans Day observances at both her elementary schools, where she needed to hang art work for the crowds coming to those two programs. On Thursday, she went from hanging art for the public to see and on to a baby shower in a nearby town and then made it to the Thursday night performance.

She invited us to hang out with her kindergarten students Friday morning, but Gerald planned to shop at a big rural store there, and I like to sleep and lounge and read in the mornings. Because Chicago schools were closed on Veterans Day, Elijah had driven in late Thursday night, so we were able to see him and Rick at Culvers for lunch across the street from our motel.

Jeannie explained the Friday afternoon programs were so close together in time and the two schools so far apart that we could only go to one. Fortunately we got there early as cars lined the streets, and Gerald had to find a place less obvious to park. The little gym required lots of walking down halls and stairways, and we were among the last to find a seat. Parents and grandparents and veterans kept coming and stood lining the walls. We have observed how great Freeport people support their students. The Jeannette Lloyd Theatre at the high school is usually packed, and these veteran programs were also. Jeannie couldn't even get in after rushing from the other school, but we met up afterwards.

By this time, we realized that Jeannie too had that awful cough making her even more exhausted as she rushed from one duty to the next. And the almost funny part (because it is so typical in the life of parents of high schoolers) is that Cecelie had reminded at the last minute that Jeannie had said if no one else had the cast party, they could have it at their house after the final Saturday show. So Rick had shampooed the carpets, and I imagine Jeannie spent Saturday shopping and cooking for the party.

The Little Mermaid is the second Disney classic in a row that director Tim Connors choose to produce. Little girls like to come to the shows dressed in their princess outfits. This year the mermaids wore long wigs with curls down to their waists, and they were lovely. The large all-school cast gives so many students theatrical experience and life-long memories. The pit orchestra is always excellent, and colorful costumes and sophisticated props are always visually delightful.

Last fall we attended Beauty and the Beast when Cecelie had the lead and we saw our blonde granddaughter become a brunette to be Belle, and she kept that hair color through the school year and summer. Right before we left to go upstate, I had some odd shoulder pains, but very few. I saw my doctor, and I was determined to use the tickets we'd ordered. Every thing went fine. Gerald went home Saturday morning, but I stayed through all the performances and rode home with Cecelie's big sister Leslie and and husband Mike. In fact, they came over to our hotel the last night to avoid sleep deprivation by all the noise at the Eiler household where last year's cast party lasted till 3 a.m. before the last stragglers left. That night was when I had longer and harder shoulder pain, and I kept thinking I really did not want to ruin Mike and Leslie's plan for a good night's sleep by asking them to take me to the emergency room. So I went back to sleep. I went to the heart doctor when I got back home, and two stints solved that problem.

This year Mike was on duty with the police force, so Leslie was thinking she would go upstate with us. She was more than a little perturbed when she realized that the Christmas show tour she auditioned for started rehearsals the same weekend as Cecelie's show. She will be singing on this tour in Georgia and Minnesota and I do not know where else, but unfortunately not in Southern Illinois. I will have to enjoy her performances vicariously just knowing she is doing what she loves to do and hearing about it later.. And while I grieve a bit over The Last High School Musical, I will also enjoy the many memories and know there will always be other events and highlights that come with having nine grandchildren.




Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Living Life Two Drops at a Time

Yes, I know today is the eve of the election, and I am still listening to political news although I decided awhile back most of the ones I will vote for. However for me, today (November 7) is Day 14. I am rejoicing because starting tomorrow and for the next two weeks, I will only have to put one kind of medicine drops in my left eye two times a day. Life is improving!!

Two days before I had cataract surgery in my left eye on October 2, I had two kind of drops to put in four times a day. Then starting with the day of surgery for a week, it was three kinds four times a day. This week just one kind for three times a day and one kind for four.

When all the dropping started, I did not think I could put drops in my own eye, and Gerald generously offered to do it. And I gladly accepted. And, of course, he took me to and from the surgery and put the extra med in with the first two that day, and he seemed willing to continue. I was grateful for his care, but I thought other people do this, so surely I could too. I was pleased that by Day 2, I started doing the dropping myself.

I remembered that back in 2007, there was eye dropping when I had thecataract taken off my right eye, and I guess I learned to do the task back then. But I had not needed to since and had forgotten how. I vaguely remember lying down on the bed to do this then, but I am so efficient now that I can even accomplish it even in the car when necessary. So I feel pride at my accomplishment.

(Years ago when we were frequently buying contacts for daughters, Gerald suggested I might want them. My eyes would water just watching the daughters put contacts in, and I knew I could never do that myself. I also did not want to spend any more time than I already was searching for contacts in shag rugs!)

At the time of the first cataract surgery, I must have worried about getting the order of the meds mixed up or something because I recall telling the optometrist of my concern when he gave me a follow-up check up. He laughed and said not to worry and then told me about one of his patients who had come in all worried. She had accidentally put her cat's drops in her eye, but the he said she was just fine anyhow. So that was a great comfort back and gave me confidence that I did not have to be perfect.

This time I saw my surgeon on Day 10 for a check-up. He gave me a thorough examination, dilated the eye, and he told me everything looked very good. Now all I have to do is get an appointment for new glasses since that was not possible when I had my June appointment and the cataract was needing to be taken off before I received a new prescription. (I should have known, but I kept thinking my glasses were dirty.)

Tomorrow we will go and vote. Then we will go to the Methodist Church in our village to eat chicken and dumplings at their traditional election day dinner. People will come from miles away to attend to see former friends and eat the delicious food served by these good cooks. Men and women, old and young, will work hard to prepare food and serve it to all of us. We will enjoy visiting everyone and knowing we are helping a bit with their mission project. To me this is America at its best.




Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Visiting Home: Jeannie, Gerry, and Jake

Life at Woodsong has been different this past week as a couple of our kids were in and out all week. Jeannie started the visits on the 8th. She had texted she might be down for a one-day visit if she could get her school work done enough to feel free to come. Next she said she was definitely coming, but she would have to attend a funeral at Johnston City during the brief time she was here. She did arrive that Saturday morning having stopped at motel on the way down. We had a good visit before she needed to leave for the funeral,

Come to find out, a very dear Freeport friend's mother had been on life support and had died upstate, but was being brought down state to be buried by her husband in one of our area cemeteries. Since Jeannie was already hoping to come down, that made it possible for her to attend the funeral.

After the funeral back at Woodsong, we continued catching up. I had been eager to hear about how she was adjusting to teaching art with kindergarten through fifth graders. I was afraid she would not enjoy working with younger kids, but I think she is enjoying the challenge. She teaches at two schools this year. One has a small art room; but at the other school, she has to teach from a cart in other teachers' classrooms. Now that is a challenge! Altogether she sees 500 students, so I do not know how she will be able to know her students very well. There is evidently sometimes another new art teacher co-teaching, but I did not understand how that works. I cannot imagine how one teaches from a cart going from room to room! Yet she does. She has been teaching already about lines and curves, and I saw some of the simple sculptures of colored paper strips made by students.

She had insisted she wanted to take us to dinner Saturday night, so we let her. That was very nice since there was no clean up--and then we came home for more visiting. Finally after her daddy went to bed, we ended up in the living room with Jeannie on the couch along with piles of small blue rectangles containing bolts. Lighting bolts, that is. Bolts on the blue flags. One of the two elementary schools she has shifted to from middle school are called Bolts—not bulldogs or cardinals or some ethnic group that would be criticized but Bolts! The kids would be walking in the high school Homecoming parade and waving their flags, and she was taping on crepe paper streamers before the kids taped on pencils to hold the flags to wave. Although Jeannie has never been a “Let's all do the same thing” kind of art teacher, there were lessons used with the flags. The difference between students' work was interesting. Some of the hand drawn bolts were quite clearly bolts and showed talent and/or neatness. Some few were almost blobs, and probably those children whose past had contained little manipulation of paper, scissors, and creating learned the most from the experience.

A couch full of art stuff was so typical of one of Jeannie's visits that I had to laugh. One pre-Christmas visit she was helping students create 1,000 cranes for decoration. Everyone at Woodsong was invited to join in that Origami project. I had never heard the Chinese/Japanese legend of their crane that lived a 1000 years and that making 1000 cranes would let a person's wish come true. From the 1700s until now, many people have found themselves trying to create 1000 paper birds. The cranes had life-long mates and came to stand for loyalty and faithfulness. They also have come to stand for world peace and healing and almost all good things. If you want to know more about the paper cranes, you might want to read Ari Beser's post “How Paper Cranes Became Symbols of Healing in Japan.”

We talked and talked as Jeannie taped the streamers on the flags, and it was much too late when we went to bed since she was leaving at 5:30 Sunday morning planning on stopping somewhere along the way to attend a worship service. Gerald, of course, was up at 5:30 and saw her off on her way upstate after the too-brief visit.

Soon our minds were focused on the coming visit of Gerry who was on his way from Texas. His bedroom was waiting for him; but it was actually already day time when he arrived on Monday after a two-hour sleep in the truck on his way here. (Yes, he did take a nap after arriving.) Bouncing around in our side yard were three adorable puppies--curly-headed black Boykin spaniels, which Gerry explained were the only hunting dog developed in he United States. He also had Vickie's Nelly because she was in heat, and also Jake, who used to live at Woodsong. One of the puppies was for Gerry's cousin DuWayne, who was good enough to keep all of them and also Nelly while Gerry traveled in and out of Woodsong. When DuWayne brought the Boykins back on Friday night and helped Gerry prepare for the trip back to Texas, he reported the grandkids there had a blast with these sweet good-natured puppies.

Jake stayed with us and acted as though he remembered everyone, and to my delight, he still ran with his little tail curled. (Unfortunately, he also still stayed at Gerald's feet making him have to slow down and watch out for tripping. So Jake went back to Texas after his visit home.)

Throughout the week, we had visiting time with Gerry—especially Gerald who was always helping when Gerry was here at the farm. Gerry was actually here on dog business, and I couldn't keep up with it all. There were bird dog deliveries or purchases at Atlanta and Birmingham and up near Chicago. And there were visits to Union County and with dog/hunting friends in Paulton and Hamilton County. Because his time schedule was so dependent on dogs and other people, Gerry insisted I not cook for him. However, as is typical of his visits, soon there was a plastic pail full of dove carcasses soaking in water in the garage fridge. Although he planned to run to town and get us barbecues, I think he liked it that I had already started frying the doves to go with biscuits and gravy for that supper. At least he bragged on it, and I felt I did a good job of seasoning everything.

Mary Ellen came over to see him when he wasn't here, so I had a good visit with her. And I even had a brief visit with our nephew Bryce.

When Gerry pulled out of the driveway Saturday morning in his pick-up followed by a trailer full of bird dogs, we recalled  those long-ago trips to Mexico for a season of hunting at his lodge. He delivered dogs and arrived home in time to rest up for his job at A&M.

The day after Gerry left, Gerald found the news release from the ScrapYard Dawgs announcing Gerry as head coach for the 2017 National Professional Fastpitch season. Guess this means we have one more team to follow next summer after the college softball season ends. Probably this is a good thing for us. Doctor, eye, hearing, and dental appointments are our major activities in this decade of life! If the kids had not come, that was all I would have had to write about!