Friday, January 23, 2015

A Better Week

This morning started with hearing laughter in the kitchen while I was still drugged with sleep – even though it was almost nine.   I assumed it was Gerald watching television until I became more awake.  As I gradually began to think more clearly, I realized that it was conversation I was hearing and it must be Mary Ellen and Brianna at the kitchen table with Gerald.

I hopped out of bed as rapidly as I could (which is not very fast since age had made me do everything slowly) and hurried to the kitchen in my flannel pajamas to see our guests.  It was already on my agenda to be sure I saw Brianna today since this evening she is heading to Florida for her spring internship at DisneyWorld.  She and Trent grew up going there, taking Disney cruises, and celebrating at this magical place, and the internship program had been a dream for her.   She has worked so much during her first two years of college that we all are hoping (even though she is going to be working there too) that this will be a spring of fun and relaxation.

Well, finally I think all the Christmas decorations are  hidden away in closets for another year.  I used the word “think” because just like the artificial grass or even  stray jelly beans have  a way of popping up in surprising places weeks after Easter, so do remnants of the Christmas season sometime. 

I still want to look over the Christmas cards and re-read the letters. I used to always do this on New Year’s Day, but I haven’t managed that for a couple of years now.  I also  have a handful of envelopes to check to make sure the address has not changed from what I have recorded on my very worn and messy lists.  The computer lists with addresses that I once knew how to use to print address labels are long gone with long-ago computers.  There are so many things I used to know how to do on older computers that I have never learned to do on this one, which I have had for several years now.

I have always managed to transfer over essays on Elder William “Cedar Billy” Martin that  have been started and stopped for many years. My last  summer project was to update and finalize all I had discovered about my great great great grandfather as a Christmas gift for my children.  That project was abandoned back in October when I had to stop and prepare for a Trail of Tears presentation.  I had planned to finish with Cedar Billy by August 1 and then September 1.  Then I was into October and still working on it when I had brief times to write.

Over and over I was almost done with this grandfather’s story,  but I kept finding details that I needed to check out or questions to try to answer. I was also trying to go through entries on a family Internet group had been  made over many years about our family history.  Completion just kept being delayed.  Finally I had to discipline myself and quit writing and start reviewing what I once knew about the excruciating 1837-38 march that our government forced the Cherokees to make through our region on their way to what later became Oklahoma. 

I feel this historical journey is one that should be known by all Americans in order for us to acknowledge that we too have sometimes acted as brutal terrorists. Only one vote in the Senate caused an illegal treaty to be passed.  Yet in the midst of that sinful federal debauchery, there were many kind souls who refused to bow down to Satan and Andrew Jackson, and those people  ministered to and helped the Cherokee and the other tribes sent west.  It is  important to know some stood up for what was right regardless of the laws passed. Many of our ancestors had no way of understanding what had transpired since prominent citizens and much of the media quoting those self-serving citizens and officials gave misinformation to the masses.  Many, of course, could not read anyway since educational opportunity was scarce back then. 

 I think it is important for us to be aware that we may do terrible things and think we are fighting for righteousness. So back in October I put aside the family information I was working on.  And I struggled to get ready to talk about the terrible trek one group of humans made another group of humans take through Southern Illinois when the two bounding  rivers froze over and the snow on the ground between the rivers was spotted with blood from feet whose moccasins had worn out.  And the aged and the infants were buried in our soil.

The stack of papers and the notebooks on my grandfather has been moved around several times since then, but I have never gotten back to that undertaking, which I assumed I would start up again in November.  But I didn’t.  Now I know that  I must review, sort through all those papers and try my best to wrap up that project. Sometime. But not this weekend.  Family is coming in tonight, and I am happy and excited.  Maybe next week, I will restart.  Reckon I will have it completed for my gift to the children next Christmas? 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Difficult Week

Monday morning started with a phone call from my cousin Helen sharing the sad news that Grant Stanley, the 38-year-old son of my cousin Dick and his wife Irma, had died the previous day of a totally unexpected heart attack.  I had not seen Grant since he was a child ant then went off to college, but Dick had proudly told me when Grant got on with the railroad and lived in Texas.  And, of course, Dick and Irma were very happy when the young family with two of their grandchildren transferred back to Illinois.  Somehow I had missed out on knowing that Grant had married a young woman from our local rural community, but I soon found that out when I went on Facebook and found a grieving comment by one of her family.

I went to Katherine’s for awhile on Monday to write checks for her , but I did not go in Tuesday and Wednesday because I understood she had help.  Gerald and I both had check-up appointments on Wednesday, and when he suggested maybe we could meet up for lunch with our friends Bill and Mickey Tweedy, whom we had not seen in ages, I thought that was a great idea. He dropped me off at  the physical therapy department at the Orthopedic Institute where I was to have the stitches taken out of my hand  from the carpal tunnel surgery. Gerald went back to Marion for his appointment

Measurements were taken of the grip in both hands, and  I was taught more exercises to strengthen my grip and to prevent scar tissue.  I was warned me not lift over ten pounds and not to soak in a hot tub, but I could get the hand wet and even wash a few dishes since I was no longer having to wear a bandage.  Next  I walked down the hall for  the conveniently scheduled 10:10 appointment with the doctor.  I was impressed with their efficiency.

The building is a bit confusing with its various waiting rooms, so with help I finally found where I was supposed to check in, and I sat down to people-watch and to wait to be called in.  I figured Gerald would be done and back by eleven; and as time passed, I wondered if I would be still waiting when he came.  I wasn’t though as I think it was about ten till eleven when I was finally called in.  A nurse checked me over and left. Then I waited a bit longer. 

At that point the surgeon did not show up, but the P.A. did.  He said my hand looked good, told me not to lift anything heavier than five pounds and not to do dishes without a rubber glove and to get an appointment for another look later. Somewhere in here, he said something to the effect that he bet this was one of the shortest doctor appointments I had ever had.  Since by now, it was an hour after I was scheduled to see the doctor, I just smiled and inwardly chuckled.  Gerald was as impatiently waiting as I knew he would be by the time I found the lobby again.  He helped me find the right place to make the next appointment and we exited to the cold winter air.  We had time for one errand in Carbondale before we arrived at Denny’s for our luncheon date with Bill and Mickey, which we enjoyed immensely.

By the time we visited for a couple hours and drove back to Marion and then to the farm, the afternoon was shot and I was tired.  I have a difficult time with acknowledging to myself that I no longer have the energy that I have had in the past.  I am daily shocked at how much rest and how much sleep I need these days.  And how awkwardly and slowly I get around. I really don’t think I should say that I do not like being old, but I don’t.

In an email from my sister acknowledging my message about Grant’s death, I learned my niece in Amarillo had once more ended up in ICU with her blood sugar too low and then too high combined with all her other health problems.  She was out of ICU the next day, and that day rereleased from the hospital.  I was very grateful she had made it through the Christmas season since my sister and brother-in-law had lost one daughter after hospitalization on Christmas Eve and her death on New Year’s Day 2002.   But we know that sooner or later without a miracle that Candy’s health and other problems will defeat her.  So I absorbed that bad news and said one more prayer for her.

Then after a bite of supper, Gerald and I were both back down at our computers, and we got a PM on Facebook about upcoming surgery for yet another loved one. In the hurry to the early appointment,  I had forgotten to take my cell phone with me that morning, and so late in the evening when I went up for night pills and saw my cell phone lying there, I learned from a text that Katherine had not had help because the scheduled aide had unexpected surgery the day before for an ovarian cyst that had flared up causing her great pain.

It seemed as if bad news was coming from all over. Even though I had gotten up early that morning for the appointments, I lingered at the computer surfing to try and erase some of my sad thoughts by thinking about something else before I went to bed.  I shared with a friend on Facebook, and I phoned my sister and learned the latest news about her daughter and then surfed some more reading other people’s blogs. I used distraction to cover up or to prevent worry as I often do.  When I finally let myself go to bed, I did go to sleep without a problem.  I was grateful.

Since Katherine has good and very dependable help on Thursday mornings, I did a few things in the house, fixed Gerald lunch, cleaned the kitchen, and did not go in to Katherine’s until mid-afternoon.   A new aide was just leaving, and Katherine was finally up in her chair looking very pretty and happy over a good day she was having that included a wonderful reference letter given to Sam by one of his teachers.  She had been unable to get an aide for the evening  to replace the hospitalized one, but she left a message for  an amazing friend, a kind and strong young man who comes in an emergency to put her into bed from her chair.  He was out and not available.  Fortunately, another young man who had worked a bit for her before he had surgery last fall was able to come over and use her Hoyer to lift her into bed.  She got to see the photos on his phone of his new son now three months old.

This was early in the evening, and so I had time to stop by and see my daughter Mary Ellen.  Her picnic basket with dishes from Christmas was  in my car trunk, and we had not seen each other since they left our house on Christmas day to drive to Arizona to see Brian’s family.   She was sick while there with what Trent had before they left, and she came home possibly with the crud her mother-in-law had suffered while they were there.  I think Brian was sick sometime in this period of time also. Then Brianna had her turn with the stomach flu, so I had deliberately stayed away from their house.  We had a lot of catch-up visiting to do, and I enjoyed sitting at her kitchen table with her and seeing everyone including Fifi. Brianna will soon be going down to Disney World for her internship service there this spring, so I was especially glad to see her, but I am always glad to get my hug from Trent too.

Tonight is the funeral visitation for my cousin Dick’s son and tomorrow is his funeral. I am dreading it.  My emotions are more difficult to control than they used to be, and for that reason, I have even avoided some funerals in recent months. Dick is actually my first cousin’s son, but he was nearer my age than his mother and most of my other Martin cousins.  I always felt closer to him than many of the older cousins. He and his sister and mother lived with Dick’s grandparents at Goreville, where we spent summers. When my parents  visited them when I was a child, Dickie and I always played together even though I am a couple years older than he is.  When he moved back to Goreville from Texas many years ago and we ran into each other at a Goreville ball game, I exclaimed how glad I was to see him and without thinking called him Dickie.   Embarrassed, I said, “I bet no one calls you that any more.”  He laughed and said, “No, just you and my mother.”  In recent years during his retirement, Dick was extremely sick and I was afraid of losing him. But Irma’s determination and a change in doctor and medicines and a small miracle put him back on his feet in much better health.  How awful that he and Irma must now lose their beautiful talented son so young, his sister Libby must lose her brother, and that his wife and children must go on living without him.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Beginning the New Year--Slowly

The trees are down and stored away for another year.  Most of the other holiday paraphernalia is still on the guest beds waiting for me to get down the proper big boxes to put stuff away in.  The little manager scenes are yet undisturbed perhaps because I am reluctant to admit the season is over and that I should be getting on to other duties.  Or perhaps because expected and unexpected appointments have limited and confused any efforts at a regular schedule, so it has seemed easier just to continue on in vacation mode doing only the most minor but necessary tasks.  Or perhaps it is because I am old enough that energy is limited and ambition almost non-existent.

In less than a week now, the stitches will be taken out of the palm of my right hand where the carpal tunnel problem has been corrected. . I assume the “Do not get it wet” order will also be suspended then. The bulky bandage was taken off last week and replaced with just a large band-aid.   I shall be glad for this final step, although my excuse for doing nothing will be taken away from me, and I admit to sort of enjoying this lazy spell.  I was first told not to lift anything heavier than a pound, and then a therapist said she told patients it was better to not lift anything heavier than a piece of paper. The less sore the incision is the more I forget and use my right hand naturally although I am trying to be protective.  Everything about the procedure has gone very well. The pain pills that Gerald made a special trip to town to pick up for me have never needed to be opened.

Two nights before the scheduled surgery, however, I broke a front tooth out at supper.  It was one week before an appointment with a new dentist scheduled six months ago.  That was certainly discomforting. My teeth have been a mess for years—partly I assume because I was never able to adjust to wearing a partial decades ago.  That dentist was very fine and tried very hard.  I did learn to speak with the partial in, but I could not adjust to wearing it, no matter what the dentist did. Gerald always explains that if I wasn’t born with it, I can’t wear it.  After constantly taking my glasses off unconsciously and leaving them where I knew not, I have finally learned to leave them on most of the time as my eye sight has weakened through the years.  But necklaces and dentures never became something I could stand for very long at a time. Anyhow that weakness of mine is how I explain my awful teeth situation and the small fortune spent on them through the years. It also explains a slight guilt complex I have about my teeth.

When I hesitantly called the new dentist office about my crisis, I felt like an interloper not deserving attention since I had never even been there yet. The receptionist on the telephone, however, could not have been sweeter or nicer if I had been her biological sister. Fortunately there had been a couple of cancellations that very morning for the partner of the dentist I was originally scheduled to see.  Before I knew it, I was sitting in his chair and getting a root canal and being encouraged by him to believe my problem was quite fixable. Both the dentist and his staff were so conscientious and caring to make sure I understood that I was considered a person in need of attention and I was on their call-as- soon-a-s possible list when they had another cancellation. Otherwise I had an appointment for March 2 to get a new tooth to fill that awful gap in the front of my face.  On Tuesday, I received a call to come in yesterday morning. I left the office with a new tooth that matched my others perfectly since they had kept and matched the color of my broken-off tooth, which I had taken with me in a sandwich bag.  I could not have had a more heart-warming and confidence-producing introduction to my new dental office. 

Down through the years, I have heard some terrible horror stories of arrogant and unkind receptionists who poorly served patients. I have been fortunate to not have to tolerate that sort of cruelty, but I have sympathized with those who have.  I have no respect for a physician or dentist who allows discourtesy or damage to patients by underlings. Some friends have doctors in a group practice who have claimed for that reason they could not control the staff.  Thus, they acted as if they were innocent of their staff’s rudeness or even neglect to pass information onto to the doctor. I never bought that bunk for one minute.  Depending on the rarity of the specialty available in our area, however, some have had to put up with this nonsense in order to get needed care. I believe the atmosphere and behavior of his or her staff is not only the responsibility of one’s doctor but is likely created by the doctor.  I left my new dentist office totally convinced that the warmth and pleasantness I experienced there reflected and enhanced his competence and concern.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Holidays Are Almost Over

Our last expected holiday guests, granddaughter Tara’s family, left us Sunday evening to go back to her Gma Shirley’s house just a couple roads away from us.  There they would celebrate Christmas with her and Tara’s uncles’ families before they piled back into their vehicle with their three little guys—Aidan, Maddux, and Payton—for the long exhausting trip back to Texas.  We were happy for the phone call yesterday saying they were home safe and sound.  They’d visited Bryan’s northern Illinois families earlier and arrived at the farm late Saturday night. 
Gerald and I were impressed this season with how blessed we are to be experiencing life all over again with another generation.  He decided to put up outside lights for the first time in a couple of years; and in the attic over the garage where the lights were stored, he found a couple of cardboard boxes labeled:  “Little Gerry’s Trucks” and “Little Gerry’s Machinery.”  He could not resist bringing them down to the corner of the kitchen.  When we moved here, there was no one to play with them.  But I couldn’t stand to part with them despite their being all scarred and scraped from Gerry’s hard play in the dirt pile beside our house at Pondside Farm. My thought was that maybe decades from now some stranger would stumble on them in the attic and be as thrilled as I was with a dish shard that Gerald found in our garden area when we built on this spot.
But with the addition of Gerry’s three grandsons to our family, Gerald wanted to see if these boys would be interested in these ancient playthings. Oh yes, once their bellies were full of bacon and Gerald pointed out the boxes Sunday morning, they were fascinated and excited to play with these worn saved toys from two generations back.  Their family’s  plan was to go to Gma Shirley’s house that morning since that was the only time Tara’s cousin Jeremy could be there with their daughter Kinsley, who is the boys’ age and very important in their lives even though they are only able to be together a few times a year.  But they got in enough play on the kitchen floor with their grandfather’s old toys to have made it worth while for Gerald to have carried the boxes down on the fold-down ladder.
When they came back for lunch, I was delighted that Kinsley was with them as she was not content with only a couple of hours’ play.  Quickly I set another plate on the table, but when it was time to go downstairs to the family room tree and open presents, I realized she would not have anything to open.  I did not shop this year and had pretty much used up anything I had stored away in the guest room’s “gift drawers.”  But I went in to look around anyhow, and there I realized I had the perfect gift for Kinsley.  A couple weeks ago when I was taking books out of the drawer, I wondered why I still had two sets of the first two Betsy-Tacy books and wondered who I could give them to.  Quickly I stuck the two little books in a gift bag and joined the others going downstairs.
Before Tara and Bryan had to return that evening for the Johnson dinner at Gma Shirley’s before the drive back to College Station, there was plenty of time for Gerald to enjoy seeing the kids play with the new toys he had shopped and wrapped for them. Riding the farm equipment is taken for granted when the boys visit, and despite the cold, they could not resist playing in the lime pile that Gerald keeps for them under the back shed.
 It was later in the afternoon that Gerald and I were so impressed with the knowledge that family history was repeating itself for us.  One of Katherine’s aides had not shown up, and I had gone in to give meds.  But another aide came in at 4, and I was able to return before our company left.  The family room was uncannily quiet, and I asked where were the kids.  It was explained they were in the next room preparing a play.  Soon they came out in construction paper costumes thanks to a confiscated roll of scotch tape from Gerald’s office.   Ah, yes, we’ve been down this path many times. Kinsley was narrator, and while Payton was king for awhile, before it was over he too proceeded to have a sword battle with Mddux just as Aidan had done.  Madd was really good at dying, which he did more than once. This sure brought back memories of confusing but satisfying short holiday plays our grandchildren used to produce for us.
Tara’s two sisters, Erin and Geri Ann, had come in from Texas the previous Sunday and stayed through Friday morning.  We loved catching up with their lives once more and hearing about their friends as they came and went trying to see as many of their local buddies as they could.
Rick, our Freeport son-in-law, had taken his older daughter Leslie down to Belmont on a college tour while she was in high school, and he wanted to do the same for Cecelie and her friend Ryan.  So they planned a tour of Liberty University in Virginia during their break. Elijah had gone along to help drive and to get in on the visit to Leslie and Mike in Nashville on the way back. Jeannie was staying home preparing for their family Christmas.  Elijah had texted he thought they’d be at the farm around 9 or 10 Tuesday night.  Erin and Geri Ann already had a dinner date in town that night with their Johnson cousins, but they’d be back in time for a good visit.
I invited the Mary Ellen’s family over for the frozen lasagna I planned to bake for supper thinking that way there would be some food in the house in case any of the Eilers were hungry when they arrived later.  As it turned out, the four from Freeport arrived earlier and were able to eat with us, so the local cousins gathered in.  There were 12 instead of six for supper, and that was fine because fortunately I had put two lasagnas in the oven.
When Jeannie called me about their coming through, I assured her that would be great but the kids might have to sleep on couches since Erin and Geri Ann were already settled in the two downstairs bedrooms.  At bedtime after Erin and Geri Ann had joined the others, I was silly enough to go down and lay out some sheets and blankets for the couches.  Fortunately, unlike my previous habit, I decided these young adults were old enough to make up their own couches.
There is one “new” full-size couch in the family room probably not over a decade old.  And elsewhere there are three very old couches I have hung onto for visiting grandchildren when needed. One in my office and two in the room, which some might call a junk room.  I first chose to call it the art room for the kids.  For years they would disappear together into that room to dream up all sorts of projects sitting on little plastic chairs around  the  table created by a unused door laid on a couple of stools for their art table.  When they out grew the little chairs and the short table, a discarded kitchen table was used in that room with the two old couches and a television Gerald installed. Now it became the grandkids’ den.  I say it was silly of me to gather up sheets and blankets because once again as they did the last time they had the infrequent but cherished opportunity to visit with Geri Ann, these guys pulled an all- nighter.
As it happened, Gerald had already made a Wednesday morning breakfast date with Geri Ann and Erin to go with him to the Jonesboro breakfast place where he occasionally meets up with his brothers and nephews who are habitually there. So Geri Ann had not been to bed when they left Woodsong at five for the drive to Jonesboro.  Since Erin is one of the older and more sensible grandkids, she had.  I have been told that there was a rush for her room with its two beds for an hour or so of sleep for the partiers since Rick had told everyone they were going to leave at eight the next morning. I hated to see them go but knew they had long hours of travel ahead, and I bet they slept very well on the way to Freeport. Geri Ann caught up when she got home from breakfast!
Christmas Eve was quiet at Woodsong since Erin and Geri Ann were at the Christmas celebration at Gma Shirley’s house.  The next morning was also unusually calm here as I put the ham in the oven and started noon dinner preparations.  Katherine had arranged for her usual Thursday morning aide to come in since that wonderful aide had her family celebration the Sunday before Christmas.  She had Katherine up and dressed and into her chair for David to bring out in the van, and Sam came in his car.  
I had told Mary Ellen not to bring anything since their family were leaving that very afternoon for Arizona.  I wasn’t surprised that they brought a cookie tray someone had gifted them with and Trent and Brianna’s annual peanut butter chocolate candies that they traditionally make. I was surprised that   Mary Ellen had gotten up and decided to make a huge pot of home-made chicken and dumplings for the first time in her life. (I got lazy a long time ago and make dumplings from tortillas.)  Hers were the real thing and so delicious, and the best part was she left them for us, and we have enjoyed them the entire holiday season! 
Gerald's brother Garry had driven up from his farm in the Mississippi bottoms, so we had twelve here for dinner before we went down to open presents.  I’d also given Mary Ellen orders not to do all the dish clean up she always insists on doing. But before we left the table, she had much of the clean up accomplished.  All and all although we were disappointed Gerry and Vickie could not be with us as usual, it was a very good day. We have grown used to Jeannie’s family not being able to come down at Christmas, and they had the experience of Leslie and Mike not being able to make it up to Freeport this year.  (Besides weather and travel dangers, they had their dogs, Millie and Sidney, needing to be at home and Leslie had Ragtime rehearsals.)  Yes, families grow up and move away and traditions must change, but with great grandchildren to visit, some things seem much the same.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Annual Christmas Letter

Woodsong Christmas 2014
Dear Friends and Relatives,

I debated not doing a Christmas letter this year since age is definitely limiting what I get done.  However, at our sister-in-law Ginger’s funeral , a young adult told me that she read every letter I wrote, and that inspired me to continue the tradition at least for this year.  Gerald has not slowed down as much as I have, but he is inside a bit more, and I am glad since he helps me.  However, he just finished cleaning a fence row so the trees wouldn’t shade son-in-law Brian’s crop next year, so he is still outside a lot.  Always has a project!

There have been many changes this year. We spent spring  watching the University of Georgia softball team on Game Tracker on Gerald’s computer followed by watching USSSA Pride, which Gerry coached last summer.  It was exciting to see UGA win their first conference championship with Gerry and his daughter Tara assisting Coach Lu Harris-Champer and granddaughter Geri Ann pitching or playing first base. DuWayne, our nephew, was a great help in driving when we went to Athens once and over to University of Missouri to see the team play in person.  Mary Ellen went along to Missouri. Spring 2015 will be different, and we will need to be watching two games at once.

Gerry and Vickie moved to College Station at the end of the summer, and Gerry became associate head coach at Texas A&M.  Tara and husband Bryan Archibald and our three precious great grandsons--Aidan, Maddux, and Payton--also moved to College Station. Tara took a job as manager of a sports complex that Ty and Keesha Warren are building.  Bryan simply kept his job in Chicago area and continues to work out of their home as he did in Georgia.  They are renting a house just a short distance a way from Gerry and Vickie.

After teaching junior high math at Corsicana last year and coaching in the junior and senior high schools, Erin was back in College Station (her old stomping ground)  looking for houses and paving the way for her families’ move there.  This year she is living with Gerry and Vickie and teaching sixth grade English at Rockdale and loving it just as she did teaching math. She’s also coaching. Naturally she delights in being able to share her nephews’ lives and for the first time in seven years was able to be with her family on her birthday!  She and her parents came to see us in October when her high school softball uniform (Number 12) was retired at the Johnston City Homecoming.

The only one missing in College Station except on holidays is Geri Ann. She is living in        Oregon as a junior at the University of Oregon.  She will be playing softball with the Ducks this year. We are excited and eager to see her in green and yellow this spring!

We only have two  grandchildren still in high school.  Jeannie and Rick’s Cecelie is a sophomore at Freeport, and she’s keeping up her siblings’ theater and speech contest  traditions.  Rick and Jeannie still teach math and art. A wonderful treat for us was seeing Cecelie in Grease last month.  We went up with Leslie, who came up from Nashville, and then piced up Elijah, a senior at Illinois State, at Normal. Elijah did an internship in Chicago last summer, worked at Indiana School for the Blind and Seeing Impaired this fall and is finishing up the semester driving to Springfield to work with students at four schools there. This spring he will be student teaching in Chicago for his last semester.

Last spring I was able to catch a ride with Jeannie when she came through to see Leslie in the Narrator role she had always aspired to in Jospeh and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.  So  I got to see her and Mike’s home and Sidney and Millie, their two dogs.  She is now rehearsing for Ragtime in the evenings, and continues working at Word Music Publishing. Mike is a personal trainer, and he and Leslie are all doing extremely well competing in Strongman competitions in Tennessee.

Brian and Mary Ellen continue to live nearby on their farm up on Route 13.  They had great crops this year and continued their over-busy lives with Brian working in his office at home and making trips to St. Louis and other places when necessary. Mary Ellen is selling real estate with Century 21 House of Realty. Trent, our computer whiz,  is making the honor roll at John A. Logan College and is on the CyberSecurity team there. We all enjoyed hearing about his summer trip to New York City to visit his friend Rachel.  Brianna continues doing extremely well at Murray State, but she is making an exciting transition to work as an intern at Disney World during spring quarter. We will want to hear all about that too.

Sam Cedar, Katherine and David’s son,  is a grave old senior at Marion High School. In addition to filling out college applications,  his life also is over-busy with honors classes, leading the marching band as drum major,  developing a great reputation as trombonist--once again making the state band, playing basketball in the church league, and on and on.  Somehow he always finds time to study with Anna.

Despite all the blessings and good things we have to report, our hearts break every day as we have watched Katherine’s health decline with multiple sclerosis. We are grateful for aides and friends who help her, and we pray for miracles.

There has been a great deal of sorrow in our community this year.  There is much sorrow and injustice in our nation and around the world. I will grieve always for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Cairo’s straight A student Myron Jordan, who did not have the opportunity to grow up to see what they could achieve in life. Those of us who believe in right to life know that all lives matter. Here is a comforting scripture verse gift for you from Revelation 21:4  “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither pain:  for the former things are passed away.”  Hallelujah!

Love and Merry Christmas,


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Growing Closer to Christmas

Long ago my friend Jo Barger said something to the effect that she loved the rush and over-crowded December days with the pre-Christmas lists and all the busy activities that we try to cram into our lives during this season. So one of the ways I would comfort myself when I was feeling pushed was to remember that busyness was part of the pleasure of the season.  Age has greatly reduced my Yule time observations—no baking, fewer decorations, fewer living friends to correspond with, fewer expectations by others.  But unfortunately, even with these lessening activities, I am much slower, and also have responsibilities that I did not have when younger, so I am still often behind schedule.  So I have again used Jo’s wisdom to whisper to myself a few times this year.  And I remind myself that the one we are honoring was born in a humble place and not with elaborate celebrations—until the angels burst forth in song, that is. So whatever my circumstances, my participation in the season is appropriate whether simple or painstakingly complex.
We have had many concerns. My brother came through with his newest heart stint and is back home in Mattoon with the help of his visiting son Robert.  Just as we were breathing a sigh of relief, Gerald’s youngest brother Keith was taken to the hospital at Cape Girardeau and found out he had had a light heart attack a week or so before.  He came home with a monitor until he was scheduled for a defibrillator.  But before that happened, after a peaceful Sunday morning, he almost left us. Keith and Barbara have a daughter-in-law and granddaughter who are both RNs at the Cape hospital, and they were rapidly on hand to assist Barbara until the ambulance arrived to take him to the Anna hospital to stabilize him.  He was ready to go on to Cape by the time we arrived.  The monitor kept shocking him and slowing his heart down as family cars followed his ambulance to Cape. We were told the next 24 hours were critical, and his sons and wives stayed with him through the night.  On Thursday he had the defibrillator implanted, and now he at home for Christmas with everyone telling him to take it easy.
Despite all these scares and other time-consuming problems, there is a tree downstairs in the family room and another upstairs in the living room.  I have never seen an ugly Christmas tree, so I have thoroughly enjoyed them.  I mailed the last of the Christmas cards this morning, whereas in past years, I have often mailed the last ones way after Christmas.  I shopped for groceries to be able to fix easy meals while loved ones are here, and I have wrapped most of the token gifts, which is all I am giving to loved ones this year.
Two Texas granddaughters are driving up tomorrow after they celebrated their family Christmas tonight in College Station.  Their sister’s family will stop by sometime when they return from Chicago on their way back to Texas after Christmas. We had been expecting their parents for Christmas too, but that is not to be.  And although I am disappointed, I have to smile at the reason why.  When Erin was a graduating high school senior, if I am remembering this right, she bought or perhaps given by a boyfriend, a tiny white dog she named Chloe.   Chloe was such a sweet little dog, but with dorm life ahead for Erin, you know who ended up with little Chloe.  Vickie is good with babies, children, and dogs.  She graciously took on raising Chloe just as she had Tara’s big white dog when Tara and husband moved to Chicago area. (It had some sort of health problem and died, however.)  But gentle Chloe has been  part of every family celebration.
One of my favorite memories was when Tara and Bryan’s first born—Aidan—was a tiny toddler and we all sat around at Gerry and Vickie’s house admiring Aidan and watching his every move—just as we had done back when Tara was a baby.   Chloe was right there in the mix with Aidan; and all of a sudden, Aidan wordlessly widened his eyes with the realization that Chloe was just the right size for him to straddle as a horse. We all saw and knew instantly what he was thinking, so that misadventure was avoided, but we knew Aidan would have been safe with Chloe whether she was with Aidan or not.
Well, last year as a college sophomore living off campus in a house with others, guess who felt she had to have a dog.  And before too long because of some sort of illness or problem, this little black dog of Geri Ann’s was often at Gerry and Vickie’s house with Chloe. It was cute to see them together, and when Geri Ann went off to school in Oregon this fall, of course the little black dog stayed behind at Gerry and Vickie’s.
Chloe is nine years old, and had never had puppies.  But nature prevailed, and an unplanned surprise pregnancy resulted. Now with the help of a vet, tiny Chloe is the very proud mother of three adorable little black dogs—just in time for what was planned to be Christmas travel time.  When they realized that a caesarian birth was going to be necessary and saw on the Internet that these sometimes cost $2000, they were surely alarmed.  Fortunately, Gerry has many dog friends (no I mean friends with many dogs) among his hunting buddies, and one steered him to a kind and excellent vet with a doable fee.  They wondered how Chloe would cope as an inexperienced mother and the doctor assured them Chloe would do fine.  Gerry and Vickie are thrilled with how devoted Chloe is to her babies.  She can’t crawl under the covers of the end of their bed anymore to sleep because she has to take care of her little ones.  And being the devoted mother that Vickie is, she is unable to upset the new little dog family with such a long trip home to Southern Illinois.
Our son-in-law Rick, Cecelie, and her friend Ryan are coming through Tuesday night from a college visit In Virginia and then a Nashville stop on their way back home to northern Illinois.  The Taylor family is heading to Arizona to Brian’s family sometime, but the last I talked to Mary Ellen she still was not sure whether they would leave before or after Christmas.  Katherine has made arrangements with an aide to help her get ready and in her chair for a van ride to the farm if someone can drive her out.  Gerald’s brother Garry is invited up  There is a huge ham waiting in the garage fridge, a new box of instant potatoes, plenty of okra in the freezer from Gerald’s garden, and pies in there left from Mary Ellen’s Thanksgiving baking. 
Tonight Gerald and I hopped in his pickup after supper and drove over to this fantastic decorated house in the middle of the country not too far from us.  We’d tried to see this coming home from the Taylors the other night, but the lights are off before l0, so we needed to go earlier. I see the amazing bright lights in the distance if I go by in the evening to Katherine’s.  I discovered this remarkable lighted scene a few years ago but somehow missed going down the lane to see it last year.  I wish I knew who these people are who go all out with their house and the area around it containing more items than your eyes can take in.  If you live locally, don’t miss seeing this if you can at all.  Take the Old Creal Springs Road from Marion and turn right onto Cherry Valley Lane.  Or go down 166 to New Dennison and from West Ellis, go north onto the Old Creal Springs Road and turn left onto Cherry Valley Lane.  The lights will guide you long before you reach the house.  It has to be a time-consuming task to create such an elaborate scene.  I hope they and all the other folks whose homes we drove around viewing tonight enjoy the hard work and the busy rush it took to create such colorful beauty for others to enjoy.   I hope viewing lifts the sad spirits of those in grief or with severe problems during this season of joy and celebration.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"A Lot Like Christmas"

We enjoyed having son Gerry with us briefly at the end of last week as he and his dad traveled north on a quest for bird dogs to take to a friend in Texas. So Gerald was able to spend much more time with him than I did, but we are looking forward to visits from their family during the upcoming holiday season.
It is beginning to feel as well as look a lot like Christmas. Mary Ellen had given me a poinsettia that the Crab Orchard cheerleaders were selling, and I placed it in the middle of the dining room table and have added the early arriving Christmas cards around it.  But now the guest bedroom is so crowded there is  little room to walk because of the big cardboard boxes, which Gerald helped me get down, and  that did or still hold seasonal decorations. I hope to get complete the emptying and then get the boxes back in the closet, so the room can be ready for the coming visitors.
I haven’t yet found the manager scene that has been in our home every Christmas of our marriage.  When I find it, it will go on the floor by the piano to encourage Gerry’s grandsons to play with it as Gerry once did.  I placed the breakable nativity scene Mary Ellen gave me a few years ago in a prominent but safe place on emptied shelf.  Other tiny items were put on the edge of the books in the full bookcase, so we can see them as we go downstairs.  Many of these bits and pieces were gifts in years past, and I enjoy remembering the ones who gave them to me. While I worked, I played Christmas carols this afternoon.
I have one tree up in the living room.   It is the white one, and again this year, its limbs on the sunny window side are slightly yellowed.  But at night with the tiny lights on it, it looks white.  I have yet to put the ornaments on, but they are laid in the chair beside it, and that should happen tomorrow. It is already pretty to me, but the blue and silver glass balls and the blue, aqua, and red artificial roses stuck among the limbs will make it even prettier.
Last night sort of officially opened the season for me as Mary Ellen had asked us over for supper.  I had seen her bare tree during Thanksgiving weekend when I stopped by for something or other, but I knew it was decorated now, and I was looking forward to it.
So when I got home from an afternoon visit with Katherine, I got out the black sweat shirt Mary Ellen  had made me long ago when she was still an unmarried magazine editor in Nashville.  She had painstakingly glued  tiny multi-colored sequins to form a large Christmas ornament on the front.  She laughed when she saw it last night that there was no way in her life today would she have time to glue on  that many sequins. I remember wearing it to the Carbondale mall. (Going to the mall was something I could do and enjoy back in those more active days.)  The shiny bright colors caught the attention of passers-by, and I received many compliments from strangers. I always wear it once or twice a season; and though it has shed occasional sequins, somehow their loss doesn’t show up in the abundance.
Before we even arrived at the Taylors, we were excited to see the beautiful star shining brightly once again on their barn.  They inherited the star with the farm, and people have been pleased to once again see the long-enjoyed icon as they travel Route 13.  Brian had updated all the burned out bulbs and repaired the hook that had gotten awry when they had the barn repainted.
Wreathes outside and inside the entry porch room greeted us as we went in and stepped on into the kitchen to find the table beautifully set with her Christmas china that I had never seen when they lived away. We had a delicious home-cooked meal, and then Mary Ellen and I had a great visit in the living room by the tree while the men talked farm business at the kitchen table before they joined us.  Before we left, Trent came in from a friend’s house and was all smiles since yesterday  had been his last class of the semester.  We enjoyed his hugs and were definitely in a festive mood when we came back to Woodsong.