Friday, August 04, 2017

Caroline's at the Farm!

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

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

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

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

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

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














Monday, July 24, 2017

July Blessings at Woodsong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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











Friday, June 30, 2017

Time Is Flying and Brings Many Changes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Troubles Abound But So Do Joys!

Photos of beautiful baby Caroline, our first great granddaughter are all over our house. Vickie is again helping Erin today during this difficult time. It is still a wonderful time but also a difficult time because the military leave for Caroline's father has ended. Today Josh returns to base for re-deployment to South Korea. So much sadness in the world because of hate and evil! My breakfast was ruined as I learned of the horrible shooting of our Republican congressmen while they were practicing for the traditional ball game tomorrow night that raises money for charity. I also know from Internet headlines that there has been a shooting and deaths in San Francisco; and as I write this, I am avoiding facing that knowledge until later.

One of the scariest things about such shootings is that a single crazed individual can wreak such terrible harm while the majority of Americans works so hard to make things better in the world. Finding out the shooter was from Belleville in our area of Illinois was further upsetting. An acquaintance of his was taped saying he was not an evil man. I think I understood what that acquaintance meant—that he had not previously done such horrific acts to warn us of how dangerous he was. But with Steve Scalise's life and another victim's life in critical condition, we know this so-called ordinary man did a very evil thing. And we have to determine to live as happily as we can with danger just as previous generations had to do as they faced dire problems and many dangers. So Congress says the baseball game will go on tomorrow night.

We were pleased that both “our” women's college softball teams were in the final eight who went to Oklahoma City for the national play-offs. Our granddaughter Geri Ann, who will be graduating Sunday from the University of Oregon, was a student coach this season for the Ducks, and we were pleased to see them go into the semifinals although our son's Texas A&M team was done on Elimination Saturday. We wanted in the worst way to go to the tournament, but common sense prevailed and we stayed home and watched on television.

Although Gerry managed quick visits to love on baby Caroline on his way both to and from Oklahoma City, he had to hurry on to Houston where practice for the Scrap Yard Dawgs was well underway. This is the second season for this new professional fastpitch women's softball team, and Gerry is coaching them this summer. Since those games are not on television or our computer, Gerald is following the Scrap Yard Dogs by phoning Gerry and by checking their website. I follow them through Gerald's reports, but may find more time to read about them soon.

I am spending a lot of time looking at photographs of places in Spain. Our granddaughter Brianna and her friends, who are studying there, are taking and posting astonishingly beautiful photos of places and colorful events in Grenada and Seville. The rich ornamentation on the centuries' old buildings and the lovely elaborate gardens are fantastic. I did not realize Spain was so full of loveliness, and I am enjoying it all vicariously.

Such great beauty in the world reminds us of the good that has abounded in past generations along with all the wars and evil deeds. Talking to a far-away cousin's daughter this week, I heard her explain that as a retired RN with their four children reared, she now spends her time volunteering in her church's food pantry and soup kitchen and other such community projects. I see Susan Geisler's postings about jobs available in her area and know she is trying tohelp those needing employment. I read the long article she posted about the sad problem we have in our nation with infant mortality, and know she is trying her best to improve that problem. I see my college debate colleague's post encouraging parents to read to their children. Now retired from a life in educational theater, I can tell she still cares about other people's kids and wants to spread any information she can to help. We have choices to make in life. We can be negative and despair because of the evil that exists or we can strive to be a part of those who work to create beauty and improvement in the lives of others.




Monday, May 29, 2017

Strawberry and Softball Season

We have been eating strawberries often lately. This is the second year that Gerald's garden has produced all the strawberries we can eat. He grew them and picked them and sometimes even burred them; but unlike the little red hen, he shares them willingly with me. Once again we have several bags in the freezer for next winter.

I make strawberry shortcake the way Gerald's mother taught me. Instead of using pie crust or the little sponge cakes from the store, she always used crackers in her shortcake. I started out using pie crust or the little cakes, and once I even make the plate-sized shortcake from my bridal cookbook. But I found I liked Mom Glasco's best of all, and that is what I still do today. Except now instead of sugar, I use Apriva and I use wheat crackers which weren't available when I began. I did use sugar for the shortcake that I fed granddaughter Leslie when she and Mike dropped in briefly on their way home from Cecelie's high school graduation. The beautiful Mother's Day plant that they brought me from Jeannie is definitely the highlight on our front porch.

This is the first year for the asparagus that Gerald planted in his garden, and he brings in a cutting of it almost every other day. It tastes so good and fresh. After I wash it, I stand it upright in a narrow pitcher with water in it just the way Mom Glasco taught me years ago. We eat it sparingly,however, because the Vitamin K interferes with our blood thinner meds, so I've put many meaks' worth in the freezer.

As always, we have watched a lot of college softball this season usually on the computers in Gerald's office. We watched on his bigger screen but turned off the sound of the announcers. That was so we could hear the radio announcers on his other computer because our granddaughter Erin was one of them. The two programs were not always in sync, but we did not care because we liked hearing Erin's sweet voice and laugh. Our thoughts are with her and Josh because in the morning, baby Caroline is to be born.

For the last three days, we were able to leave the computers behind and watch softball on the television screen. Texas A&M played Tennessee in the super regionals at Knoxville with fourteen other teams battling it out in their supers across the nation. The winners of two out of three games advance to the Nationals in Oklahoma City starting Thursday.

Friday evening's game was a big disappointment because A&M played poorly and lost.8-1, a lopsided score that should not happen in the super regionals. Then we thought we had lost again yesterday when Tennessee got ahead early. But seeing A&M come back and win that second game 6-5 set the table for an exciting game today.

I tried not to be too optimistic lest I be disappointed; and when Tennessee quickly got ahead again this afternoon, it looked like this would be our last game of the season. Then the Aggies came alive and pulled ahead. Then behind. Then ahead. There was one rain delay and there were the frequent delays that Coach Karen Weekly is known for. Katherine and I watched together in her bedroom. With the rest of the entire softball nation, we could not help but marvel and be inspired by A&M's pitcher Trinity Harrington, who had missed their regional tourney to spend the last days with her father as he lost his battle with cancer. Her team had rallied the best they could to show her support last week, and they knew how she wanted to win this one for her father, who had been a great supporter of her softball career. And with the help of her teammates, she did. The camera frequently flashed to her mother in the stands, and it was hard to stay dry eyed.

When Tennessee made their last out, the A&M tears were tears of happiness as they became one of the eight teams heading to the Women's College World Series, something little girls playing softball grow up dreaming about.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Busy Times for Farmers and Grandkids!

Dust is flying in the fields as farmers here hurry to get seed in the ground. They often have to be on the roads as they go from field to field or farm to farm. Although I usually cut through the country, the other day coming home from Katherine's after I had filled my gas tank, I took the highway. There I slowly drove a long way behind a tractor. I reminded myself, “If you like to eat, be grateful for farmers.”

Mary Ellen and Brian are not only super busy in the field and with their kitchen redoing, but they somehow managed over last weekend to move two kids out of their apartments as their school year ended.
I was only away from home last Saturday morning less than an hour running in to do an errand at Katherine's house. Yet I missed all the excitement here. Gerald was down at the end of the lake mowing the bank there when he realized his tractor was on fire!

He had to jump off and hurry up our long lane to get to his shop for a bucket. Riding his utility vehicle back down, he was able to dip lake water and put out the fire. Scott Cully, our good next door neighbor, came and helped when he realized what was going on. Brandon White was going by a little later and saw something amiss from the road and ran up fearful for Gerald. By then Gerald had things under control, but Brandon stayed until he was sure all was well.

A bird had built a nest inside the tractor and caused the fire with considerable damage to wiring. Scott and Sonja were here again that afternoon helping, and the repair folks brought down a replacement tractor this week when they took ours to be repaired. Gerald was amazed as he had never had such an occurrence before, but he has since learned that this happens more than we were aware. I used to have to lay down on the garage floor and coax out kittens from the inside of the car engine before I drove the car, but I did not know you need to check tractors for birds' nests.

Grandkids' summer plans no longer allow coming to the farm first to attend Vacation Bible School when they were very young and then in later years to help out with VBS in our village. This summer their plans are diverse and exciting. Trent was the first to begin work. Brianna and Mary Ellen drove with him to Kansas City to get him settled in a sweet little loft apartment in someone's home, and yesterday Trent began an internship at the AMC Theater Support Center, as their new headquarters building is called.

Brianna has a few days yet to get packed and ready for a hot summer in Grenada, Spain, where she will be immersed in Spanish at classes at the university there. (This trip is to fulfill a requirement for TESOL students at Murray.)

Sam is temporarily here from Waco and was able to with his mother on Mother's Day. He will be interning this summer teaching motivated kids from the inner city at a program in Austin. His group will be meeting at the University of Texas, so he is pleased about that.

Elijah is finishing his first year of teaching, and he will be supervising the Illinois Normal interns just as he did last summer. This is the program he participated in two summers ago which led him to teaching in Chicago.
Cecelie, his younger sister and our youngest granddaughter, will be graduating from high school in a few days and will be going the furthest this summer. She felt called to go on a mission trip to help in an orphanage in Kolkota, India. (I did not even know Calcutta was now called Kolkota.)

Her older sister Leslie is busy developing her new dual business—going rogue, Leslie calls it. http://leslieeilerthompson.com/marketinghome/ She free lances in both marketing and music work. One most recent client is her dad, for whom she created a website to promote “Mr. E's Bees.” She continues to perform as she has all her life (even as a a toddler when her mother said she always acted everything out instead of talking) and now she uses her university training to work as a music copyist.

Because the University of Oregon is on a term system rather than semesters, Geri Ann does not graduate until June 18 on Father's Day. She made the decision not to play pro ball again this summer, and I am hoping she gets a little time to rest up before she joins the work force. I know she is coming this way to be in a friend's wedding, and I am excited about that.

Tara, our oldest granddaughter, will continue what she does all the time—getting three boys to their ball games and cheering them on while also working full time at the new sports field house she has been involved in for the two years it was built. Fortunately, she has lots of help from her husband and also her mother, who lives near by.

However, Vickie may be busy elsewhere this summer although I an sure she will attend plenty of boys' games. I am saving the best for the last! Granddaughter Erin will be having her baby girl very shortly now, and I am hoping she will have a wonderfully busy and happy summer ahead of her bonding with Caroline Marie Simons before she has to adjust to going back to her teaching job.

Oh, I forgot to include Sam's girl friend Anna, who is planning a trip to see a friend in Germany, after a summer of employment caring for six children during the day. As I have anticipated the grandkids' summers, I have had to study up on my geography and look at maps to see where they are all going to be. I look forward to hearing their reports to enliven my quiet elderly stay-at-home life style. And I look forward to holding that first great granddaughter!

















































Tuesday, May 02, 2017

"Oh, Didn't It Rain"

Our family celebrations are much smaller these days with most of our family no longer in our community But we did have a pleasant Easter with the Taylor family. Trent and Brianna were both home from college and died beautiful eggs for us. After worship, we six gathered for dinner at the farm, and later I took plates into Katherine and her aide and visited there. Grandson Sam had surprised us oldsters by flying home for his birthday weekend, so he showed up at the farm coming and going while spreading himself thin to see both sides of his family. Getting to see her son unexpectedly definitely made Katherine's holiday. Sam did not surprise his cousins because they all keep in close touch thanks to cell phones.

Last Wednesday was Katherine's bithday, so I made her a cake I sometimes made her years ago—an angel food with a bouquet of real flowers with the vase hidden in the center hole of the cake. We took chicken and dumpling dinners from a local restaurant and had birthday dinner in her bedroom with the help of her excellent aide. As I had not been organized enough to know the time to send to Mary Ellen with Brian in the field, they dropped in later to sing “Happy Birthday” with us when we cut the cake. With gifts to open, a call from Sam and others, and all the cards in the mail and Facebook greetings, that was the best we could do, and Katherine was smiling and appreciative.

The Taylors are without a kitchen right now as they are replacing floor and cabinets and doing other rehab work. When Gerry came through here on his way to a softball weekend at Lexington, Mary Ellen came over to see him and brought Fifi to enjoy a bit of country life running in the fields since her life has been torn up too by all the workmen in the house with her. Before Gerry and Gerald took off in his rented pickup carrying the team's pitching machines, there was a demonstration of bird dogs brought up to the farm from Knoxville. Mary Ellen and I had to laugh to notice that Fifi was not intimidated by those big dogs. She marked her territory to let them know this was her farm. Gerry brought in four quail eggs for Mary Ellen to fry for Brian, which she laughingly and graciously accepted although she had never served such before. Then she remembered she had no kitchen—so I am saving them for her.

I listened to Friday night game on the computer and was pleased with the A&M's victory over Kentucky, and someone put a photo of Gerald at the game on Facebook. But weekend began going downhill when I learned that our Jeannie and husband Rick were driving home from Rochester and they would be going back Sunday afternoon to have same-day surgery yesterday morning to repair a problem caused by the port left in after her chemo. Jeannie kept emphasizing it was “not a big deal,” but I did not believe her for a minute. So when it stormed all night, I felt as I often do that nature was upset as I was. I do not know how much it rained because our rain gauge was run over at five inches when I emptied it the next morning.

We are on a hill side, so we do not worry about flooding. I was grateful that my diligent husband had noticed and made a point on Thursday to repair the very tiny “wanna be a gully I grow up” on the side of the slope on our lane. He also cleared the debris off the filter on the emergency overflow pipe on the far end of our lake. The first thing he asked when I told him about the rain storm was whether the water went over the dam. And I was able to tell him the overflow had worked perfectly thanks to his work.

But many people in our area as well as other areas of the nation did not fare so well. Lakes formed beside many roads here, and some roads became lakes. Our homeless shelter and many other homes were flooded. The Catholic church opened for those needing shelter, and the Red Cross came in with emergency shelter. And people are still hurting and coping.

Katherine had one aide out sick and another who had a car wreck, so I took the highway into her house to avoid the closed roads. We listened to the A&M-Kentucky game together on her TV screen, and we felt together the pain of defeat. Of course, we assumed we'd win again on Sunday, but we didn't.

I went back to town through light rain that evening to give Katherine night pills, but then drove home through torrential rain. I knew then I would stay home the next day and not venture out unless necessary. I slept very late and poured out another over five inches of rain from the gauge. Fortunately Katherine's aide was back, and I had the restful Sunday I needed. I prayed for Jeannie's surgery coming up, ate up left-overs in the fridge, found a play-by-play game account on Kentucky's website that let me follow the game, and looked forward to seeing Gerald and Gerry when they arrived that evening from Lexington.

Despite a fall the night before from catching his foot on a stob in an unofficial walkway between the outdoor pizza place and their motel, Gerald was in a good mood. With his hand he had bandaged up very professionally after he picked the gravel out, he and Gerry had me laughing during snacks at the kitchen table as they told of their misadventures. (Gerald had a regular doctor appointment today, and the doctor said his hand looked good.) I am sure Gerry was exhausted because he went straight to bed after his shower instead of running over to visit a friend as he wanted to do, and I think he and Gerald slept as good as I did the night before.

Yesterday after we saw Gerry off for Texas, I was focused on waiting for Rick's call that Jeannie's surgery had gone well. The good call came, and I relaxed. They stayed at their motel in Rochester last night, and today they were on their way home. I thank God for that. Gerry and the pitching machines are back on campus today, and he is cheerful on Facebook. Gerald has picked the asparagus in his garden and cleaned out the overflow filter again. He is ready for the next deluge.