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!





Monday, October 03, 2016

Memories of The Way We Were

As Gerald and I entered Giant City State Park with the green of huge trees blanketing both sides of the road, I felt both anticipation and nostalgia. Here it was that we used to come for Baptist Student Union retreats from nearby Southern Illinois University. Memories of those days started as we arrived for the 24th reunion of Baptist Student Union. This event was begun by a few 1940s alumni in someone's kitchen having so much fun that they decided they ought to plan to meet again the next year and invite all their decade's BSU alums. Eventually the 1950 and 1960 BSUers were invited, and now the older alumni are mostly gone. We probably need to start recruiting 1970s kids! Gerald and I were relaxed because we were even a mite early after keeping my Carbondale dental appointment followed by some successful shopping.

We came to the lovely rustic lodge created during the 1930s Depression proving again that good things can come out of bad times. Beverly Walker and Betty Arnold greeted us with smiles as we entered and received lovely programs and even a memory paper full of questions to jog them. Name tags to hang around our necks had large first names to help our aging eyes recognize each other. I didn't immediately see anyone I knew. After a foray past the stuffed buffalo to check out the shelf of books by local authors, I returned to the leather couches. My seat mate was a Audrey Deppe, whom I had not met. That conversation was one of the reunion highlights for me as we found out we'd both lived at Woody Hall the year it opened, and we both shared stop and start careers interspersed with baby and child care just as so many women in our generation did. I learned that Roger had been in administration with the Saint Charles, MO, schools, and Audrey laughingly told me how she worked herself down (not up) from fourth grade to kindergarten, her specialty both by training
and choice. That conversation gave me more confirmation on the importance of preparing children for a lifetime of successful learning.

When I became aware of a man on the opposite couch, somehow I heard he was Al Fasol. In Fall 1954, Al had been a student editor in George Dennison's journalism class as well as in Alice Hoye's speech class when I did my student teaching at West Frankfort High School. Al and the late Richard Darby, also an editor, were the only two student names I remembered. Al said he was in that speech class to overcome fear. He explained his family moved down from Chicago when he was in seventh grade and he was so shy that he took a lower grade in English class rather than read his essay aloud. (I bet it was an A essay too.) Miss Hoye helped him overcome that fear of public speaking, and later he began to preach as well as do radio announcing. He remembered coming down to preach at tiny Ware Baptist Church with the late Lucien Bozarth in 1960. He was dissatisfied with his preparation and consequently with his sermon, but he said he learned an important lesson about the need to prepare. Ware was our church then because Gerald was farming Lucien's mother and uncle's farm in the Mississippi River bottoms. Later Al was with Marion's Station WGGH from 1960-63. He left just as we came to farm in the Marion area. I was delighted to catch up with a former student, but he spoke with so much modesty that I did not guess his many degrees and his 32-year career in Fort Worth as an outstanding preaching professor and that he would be our main speaker on Friday.

As time for dinner approached, we were invited into the reserved dining room. The hall way was crowded, but I was able to visit a bit with Jane Walker Sims from Harrisburg. When I asked about Richard Stewart, she explained he had not been able to come because he had broken a leg in a golf cart accident. She'd been to see him before she came. She asked about my sister Rosemary Martin Parks, age 90, and her husband Phil, and I could tell her they were good down in Amarillo. (They still cook supper every Friday night for their kids and grand-kids and whoever wants to show up which can be 10-20 people.) Beside Jane were a younger couple whose name tags said Robert and Marilyn Parks, and he explained he was Phil's nephew. I was so disoriented that even when Marilyn said their son was named Phil, I did not catch on this was Dr. Bob Parks and Marilyn Scarborough Parks, whom I once knew as Curt Scarborough's teen-age sister. Later Ken Cannon introduced them since this was their first reunion and told us they would have to leave early since Bob had duty early the next morning. As they left, Bob handled the old joke about doctors practicing with good humor, and Ken hoped they would return next year.

We had been blessed to find ourselves at table with Marc and Doris McCoy and Earl and Delores Dungey. Marc is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University and was active in BSU there. He began attending the reunion to bring his late father, but he has become one of our most ardent supporters. The SIU yearbook exhibit he brings each year is just one contribution. Marc works at an Indianapolis bank, and Doris is a nurse at the Methodist Hospital there. I so enjoyed getting acquainted with her and also with Delores Dungey. Gerald and Earl's paths cross, but Delores and I had never visited even though we live close in rural Marion. She is a sister to one of the Emery brothers I do know, and I learned more of the history of their earlier skating rink that burned down before we came and where her 16th birthday party took place. Earl had mowed their yard before they came because they were leaving next day on a bus tour to Maine. That is how they travel because Earl says every thing is planned and taken care of. Among other places, they've been to New Orleans, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

Music was an important part of the reunion as it was when we were in BSU. Even before the blessing, Barb Eidson played and introduced our theme song “The Way We Were.” In the absence of Darrell Molen, Marc led the blessing, and then table by table we chose from the bountiful buffet serving a country dinner menu, which featured dumplings and their famous fried chicken.

I had been looking forward to our annual visit with the Molens. Roberta Hollada, who graduated from Mt. Vernon High School with Betty, explained to me that at their recent reunion, somehow Betty's wheel chair hit a bump and she was so injured she had to be hospitalized. Roberta had talked to her this week on the phone and Betty has recovered enough for therapy.

We were also missing Wendell and Mary Garrison, and it was explained Wendell had to cancel as he preached the funeral for Keith Stanford. Copies of Wendell's fifth devotional book A Joyful Journey through Philippians were there. We came home with two to add to his others on our shelves, and Gerald is already reading his roommate's latest book.

A varied program followed dinner with Ken Cannon as master-of-ceremonies. Bob and Oleta Barrows led the Confessions Game, and Gene and Ginger Wells answered questions to see how much in agreement they were. We learned they agreed that Ginger was the better driver. Gerald thought perhaps this was the result of an extra long trip Bob took them on as they returned from the now annual school-year trek to Georgia where they enjoy helping out with grand-kids while their daughter teaches. Ginger asked for prayers for her she drive through Atlanta on Sunday.

Becky Searle, Ginger Wells, Roger Deppe, and Harlan Highsmith sang “All in the April Evening,” a hymn Becky remembered was sung by the choir each spring at Walnut Street Church. Oleta Barrow performed as “Eski Honey.” Then Nada Jo Fuqua explained that thirty-five years ago she had been Eliza Doolittle, Terry had been Professor Higgens, and his mother was Mrs. Higgens in their Kentucky community's production of My Fair Lady. Then Nada Jo sang “Wouldn't It Be Loverly” followed by Terry's masterful rendition of “Hymn to Him.” Ernie Standerfer performed his famous “Sam Shovel” routine before group singing of fun songs led by Bob Barrow and Charlie Baker with Barb Eidson at the piano. (Thanks to Doris McCoy for use of her electric piano for two days and to Marc who probably carried it in and set it up.) Barb led us in singing “The Way We Were” before Bill Eidson gave the evening address on “Memories of BSU.”

Bill, who had a career teaching history at Ball State University in Indiana, told of being a first generation college student who was welcomed into Doyle Dorm, where he found encouragement and life long friends. A job in the cafeteria helped finances but included mashing huge quantities of potatoes with equipment sending up steam in his face that did not help him stay awake as he went on to his first history class. Being a diligent worker, he and his roommates decided one Saturday morning to really clean their room. They moved furniture out of the way and prepared a bucket of hot soapy water, which they then splashed on their floor. Two irate resident fellows from the room below them appeared quickly at their door complaining about the water coming down and putting out their ceiling light. I suspect they left floor cleaning to the janitor after that. Bill shared other memories, and then he encouraged the audience to share theirs and gave us categories to prompt us. People told how the inspiring Chester Swor visited noon day chapel and how other chapel services usually by students provided peace and support in the middle of the school day.

Not all memories were serious. Johnson Hall girls made some confessions including rolling coke bottles down the hall to upset a strict house mother. Another Doyle Dorm story was about the room that put a bucket of water over a door to plunge down on a planned victim. Instead President George Johnson showed up to invite one of the young men to supply the pulpit in an area church. These mighty nervous boys did not want Dr. Johnson to know of their mischief, but neither did they want him to find out by bumping the door. They escaped calamity when Dr. Johnson left unharmed, but the ministerial student had to make a trip to his office the next day to find out where and when that supply sermon was to take place.

It is always fun to hear stories of romance, and some were shared. My favorite was Delores “Dee” Barrow's telling of deserting her girl friends to sit by herself in the cafeteria hoping Tom Gwaltney would take the bait. Her plan worked, and they have had many years of marriage as a result. Someone remembered Bill Fulkerson and Carol Stuckey's unique story from last year. Bill climbed a tree, and when Carol walked under, he began a spooky rendition of Carol, Carol, Carol, Carol Stuckey. That plan worked also.

After many more memories were stirred, Bob Barrow and Carol Smith presented “Spirit of BSU” written by Archie Mosley and Bob Entrekin, our state BSU director who meant so much to many. The choir for the next day gathered to practice with Barb Eidson while the rest of us had a chance for a few more visits before we left for our homes or park cabins.

Memories of so many people and so many long ago events came into our minds during the evening that I figured if a neuroscientist had invented an instrument to record all the ding, ding, dinging in our brain cells, we would have probably exploded the thing with overloaded synapses as those rusty memory cells raced down neural pathways. Back at the farm, I was tired. I usually sleep well, but I was over stimulated from the evening and wondered if I could sleep. Fortunately, soon I was out of it. However, at 2 a.m., I am not sure if it was fortunate or unfortunate because memories surfaced and flooded my brain. Maybe I needed to remember those things. In a notebook filled with letters from those who could not make the reunion, I had read my Johnson Hall roommate Fay Eddings' note saying she could not come. Of course, she couldn't drive that far with neuropathy. My mind reviewed her successful Illinois career teaching Spanish among other things, and how I read about her being awarded newspaper faculty sponsor of the year. She told me once by phone about a mission trip to somewhere in South America and chatted excitedly about her participation in her local church and, yes, she still supports the Cardinals. She is now living with a niece who works for Asbury College in Wilmore, KY. That led me to thinking about our other roommate Alta Ruth Smith, who was one of the sweetest girls I ever knew. Her wardrobe was limited, but her closet was as neat as she was. I remembered her letter to me from the nursing home in my hometown when we were still fairly young asking me to let her come live with us, and I had to write that was not possible.

I thought I should go back to sleep. Silently I mentally said: Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. But instead I found myself recalling Warren Littleford. He had just graduated when I arrived, but I soon heard much about this football hero and passionate young preacher. Later he came for a revival at our chapel and I was able to hear him preach. He visited dorms, and I believe Dick Gregory, another campus standout, may have come to that revival. The only other off-campus speaker I remembered was a woman who had just been named Illinois mother-of-the-year. I am sure she gave us good advice on marriage and rearing children, but I only remember her saying as she sniffed her little nose that it was far better to be single than to be married to some people. I have quoted that on more than one occasion to a young woman. Noon day chapel gave many of us our first experience giving a devotional. I cringed as I remembered that for some odd reason I once chose to speak on Peter's and Judas' failures. While I have always identified and learned from Peter, I've remain puzzled by Judas. Certainly I was not theologically prepared to talk about Judas (then or now) , and I have no idea what I said about him in that devotional, which maybe is for the best.

Sleep, sleep, sleep I chanted again and again but I kept remembering dear long ago people. One BSU retreat at Giant City a gang of us went hiking with flashlights as we hiked through the streets between the giant rocks. Sitting on the lichen covered rocks, someone pointed a flashlight up the limbs of the nearest tree, and we had a spontaneous devotional service. The only one I can remember on that hike was the lateGail Crockett, who went by Dave after he came back from studying in France. He had a successful music career and once came back to Marion to live. Our daughter Katherine was blessed to take voice lessons from him. Gerald and I went to the open house for Dave and his bride, and they came out for dinner at the farm. Dave realized that as a child he had once come with his parents for a prayer meeting in that house. His twin Dale taught at Berea College in Kentucky and wrote a book while there. After retiring, he and wife Ruth (Bays) lived in Florida, and I caught up with them on the Internet. When they moved north, I lost tract again. Ruth asked me to write the story of their wedding for the society page in Marion's newspaper. Sleep, sleep, sleep.

I watched the clock go to 3 and to 4 and later. I am blessed that I can rest in bed awake and not hurt even though I get up stiff and in pain every morning. So I told myself to relax and enjoy the memories and that were probably from spots in my brain used for the first time in years. What a good mental exercise! Finally I fell asleep and woke with a strange dream when it was time to get dressed and hurry to Friday's reunion. Fortunately, Gerald knew a short cut through the country and we arrived in time for the coffee and breakfast goodies.

Tables were decorated with candles and autumn items given for our use by Ramona Ambrose, Sharon and Cal Reynolds' daughter. We returned to our same table with Doris and Marc and the Dungeys. Joe and Nellie Claxton of Mount Vernon had missed Thursday because of the Stanford funeral, and they joined us as did Joseph Hargis of Ellis Grove,who has retired from teaching in the Cobden high school and knew Gerald's cousins there.. The Claxtons had both Cobden and Grand Tower connections, so there was no shortage of conversation topics. They knew Elaine Dickson's and Jay Hauser”s parents, who were close friends of Gerald's parents. I am always fascinated by the web of connections that strangers often have.

The morning session started with more time for shared memories led by Marc and Lora Blacwell-Kern carrying the mikes. I loved Lora's stories of high school life in Carbondale. She did not go to teen town but rather played ping pong and hung out with BSUers at the Foundation. College students at Walnut Street Church shared after-service social time with the teens. Lora was our first leader to work with internationals at SIUC, and she later had a career teaching in Anna. She lives a nature-filled life on a farm at the end of a rural road near Anna. I visited her once to take books she had recruited at our reunions to send to other nations.

After the memory sharing, we worshiped with music led by Bob Barrow and Charlie Baker with Carol Smith at the piano. Barb Eidson and Carol gave us the reunion choir singing “Precious Memories” and the less familiar “And Can It Be.”

We were ready for Dr. Al Fasol's message. He talked a bit about his work encouraging young preachers in their careers and his emphasis on preparation. And then he told a story. One of his Doyle Dorm roommates was shot down over Viet Nam and was imprisoned there for five years and seven months until his release in March 1973. Tom was not a Christian and could not believe there was a God. When Tom was finally back home, they met and talked, but Al mostly listened because Tom needed to talk. Down through the years, they met up as often as possible, and Tom continued not believing. Al continued to talk, listen, explain, and encourage. Finally Tom came to believe there was a God; but after what he had experienced, he did not want anyone controlling him. So while he liked the part about being saved, he did not like the Jesus as Lord part. Years passed as the roommates stayed in touch. And then the day came when Tom decided to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He and Al became brothers in Christ as well as dorm brothers.

After “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” was sung by Bob Barrows and Carol Smith, Ken Cannon led us in a short business meeting. The current reunion committee with co-chair couples, Ken and Jo Nell, Cal and Sharon Reynolds were retained, along with members Lora Blackwell-Kern,, Bob and Oleta Barrow, Marc McCoy, Carol Smith, and Gene and Ginger Wells. Ken invited anyone who wanted to join the committee for next year to do so. People discussed the pros and cons of meeting at Giant City rather than at a church. It was agreed to let the committee choose next year's location. Before we were dismissed to give those in park cabins time to check out, every woman was able to pick from the lovely colorful circle of flowers on a display table, and we learned these were actually a holder for a candle. Betty Arnold had made two tiny pumpkin flower arrangements as door prizes for each table.

A very good soup and sandwich lunch was served us in the public dining room at noon before we came back together for the final session. As Carol Smith played softly, Gene Wells led our memorial service honoring the names of those who died during the past year. People were invited to mention memories as names were announced. To conclude, Bob Barrow and Carol sang “Precious Memories.”

Finally we heard the afternoon address “Keep Making Memories” by Ginger Wells. In a short time,she presented much wisdom and inspiration encouraging us to keep engaged in service and life. I needed this since now that I am old and tired, I really do not relish change and new experiences as I used to. Ginger gave us practical suggestions on achieving new memories. She noted we might need to overcome shyness in new surroundings and be willing to make the first move. She told how as they left their beloved home and church here in Illinois and started a new life style, she and Gene determined they would make new friends and live life as fully as possible in Georgia. Proof of the value of that decision came when Gene received eight birthday cards from new friends. As we continue to age, we may have to be more open to change in order to keep making good memories.

It was time to go home, and Cal Reynolds led our closing prayer, Barb Eidson once more presented our theme song “The Way We Were” as the postlude. All that was left were goodbye hugs.

I felt reaching into the past and resurrecting old memories buried in my brains was helpful to my mental health. I liked hearinng others' good memories from BSU days. Remembering who I used to be perhaps makes me a little more knowledgeable of who I am today. I did make new friends and new memories at this year's reunion. Next year's reunion promises opportunity for making more.



Friday, September 23, 2016

Our Last Summer Visitor

Our last summer weekend was made special by a quick Friday-Saturday visit from our granddaughter Leslie from Nashville. Somehow her guitar had ended up at Woodsong for her to avoid taking it on a plane, and now she needed it. I was delighted she was coming to claim it with time for me to catch up with her life. It is invigorating to talk to young adults whose lives are full of activities, goals, and with years left ahead to achieve the goals. I am in the stage of life where I am crossing off goals and ambitions—not because they have been achieved but because they are no longer possible or sometimes even desirable. (For example, I always wanted to travel to Europe. It was a lifetime goal. Although I still wish I had done it, I would not now want to have to be at the airport at such and such a time. I no longer want to walk in strange foreign cities. Nor in American cities for that matter. I do not have that kind of energy or strong legs anymore.) But I love listening to stories my grandchildren tell me about their busy lives.

I love visualizing their travels and their careers and their fixing up of apartments and first homes. Vicarious living through real live people is much more satisfying than vicarious living through reading although that too is very pleasant. And, of course, if those real live people are ones you have watched from babyhood on, the interest and pleasure is even greater. So Gerald, Leslie,and I talked and heard about Mike's new career—he couldn't come because he is on day shift right now with the Nashville police. We heard about their plans for the renovation of the three upstairs rooms they have really not used in the three years they have lived in their first purchased home. I loved hearing about their interactions with kids driving in their neat neighborhood, close to heart of Nashville.

After staying up visiting a little later than usual, Gerald went on to bed Friday night, and Leslie was kind enough to continue our talking, which we also did on Saturday morning. She knew I would be interested in her planned trip to New York City to sing someone's song there at a conference. And, of course, I liked hearing about yet another interaction with someone connected to Hamilton. I believe it was the guy playing Thomas Jefferson who came to Nashville for some reason or other and she got to sing with him. And she knew I would be thrilled that the young man from Cairo, who was in the New York production, will now be playing the lead in Chicago. I am hoping on one of her trips to her hometown of Freeport, that she can get tickets for the Chicago show. Then she will have another story to tell me.

We both slept late Saturday morning and had breakfast coffee together as we talked. I fixed her one of our customary one-second eggs with her toast and told her to teach Mike so he can have an egg when she needs to sleep late on Saturdays and he is just coming in from work when he is on the night shift.

All too soon she had to get back on the road even though I had a new chicken recipe (pineapple marinade) cooking in the oven. Mike would be off work at 3 and they would go to lunch together then. She would use the driving time back to Nashville to think about the worship service songs she was to lead the next day.

I am grateful for today's young adults and love it when they share their modern ways of living with me. One reason I am not as fearful of the future as some are is because I respect and admire today's young adults. We are leaving some big problems for them to solve, and Gerald is concerned about that and so am I. I wish our generation had solved more problems—especially the national debt. Yet I suspect the newer adults will do better with those problems than we have.