Monday, October 20, 2014

Busy Times with Harvest and Grandkids

Tonight we had fish and goodies from yesterday’s annual fish fry at our village church even though we did not make it there.  It was nice to be the recipient of the give-aways often sent to non-attendees.  I was at Katherine’s yesterday to give meds before and again after lunch, but away at the  noon hour to attend Brianna’s twentieth birthday dinner at Brian and Mary Ellen’s farm. 
Brianna’s birthday cake made by her mother was a work of art.  The chocolate cake with chocolate icing was surrounded  with upright Kit Kats and the top coated with M&M’s. A filmy orange ribbon and bow encircled the border of  A filmy orange ribbon and bow encircled the border made from the globally popular confection of crispy wafers covered with chocolate that we inherited from Britain. That ribbed border made made the whole thing look like a decorated rustic candy bowl. On Saturday  Mary Ellen had shown me a photo of the cake on her phone when she took a very very quick break from a field near  Woodsong before rushing on to help with the harvest by driving a header to their fields near Harrisburg.  She said the idea came from Pinterest.  I did not even catch on it was a cake until I read that later on Facebook. 
With all the other colorful decorations, the table and room were quite festive fo welcome Bri into her second decade tomorrow.  The huge platter of pork chops were tender and tasty and everything else quite delicious as both Katherine and Sam agreed as they enjoyed the meals Mary Ellen sent to their house. Today Bri is back at Murray before her birthday tomorrow.
One reason Brianna was home was to attend Sam’s Marion High School Homecoming coronation as that had become a tradition for her and Trent and their mom.  Her cousin Sam and girl friend Anna were MC’ing again this year. It had been an exceptionally busy weekend with the parade and senior night game on Friday.  Mary Ellen and I made the parade, which I missed last year.  I knew it was my last and only chance  to see Sam as a drum major since   I am really not able to do the long hurried walk from over-crowded parking lot  to the stadium to attend the game anymore.
Katherine made the senior night game with David because a very dear and long-time friend and a friend of the friend had driven up from Nashville, TN, to help her get ready. Deborah and Ira had lived in the apartment below Katherine when she first moved to Nashville. During this fall season, Ira was too busy with their landscaping business to come up with Deborah, so her friend Laura came along to help.  Mary Ellen had brought in a complete meal for the kitchen table, and it was much appreciated with the time-crunch of getting to the game early enough  to see Sam and the band in the pre-game show. 
I remember Katherine’s first New Year’s Eve at that apartment when she and I went back after her Christmas vacation at home.  We could hear the much loved somber tones of Martin Luther King’s famous speech as it drifted up from a recording in their apartment below. Later they became close friends, and even when they all moved to other living quarters, Katherine drove to Deborah’s beauty shop as her token white customer.  So Friday night Deborah lovingly slipped back into her former cosmetology role and did Katherine’s hair and make up for Sam’s senior night.   After the game before they drove back home to Nashville, they and a local friend Wendy helped put Katherine to bed, and Wendy was back to help on Saturday while I was out of town most of the day for a presentation at the Genealogical Society of Southern Illinois..
This afternoon I had just finished finally having time to read last Sunday’s newspaper (October 12) when I went downstairs and saw an email note  from Mary Ellen asking me to save yesterday’s paper since there were photos in there of Trent in John A. Logan College’s first cyber security team. I quickly located that paper besides Gerald’s recliner  and searched for the story and photos.  I could not have been prouder seeing Trent’s picture with the team and knowing he will be among those who will work to defeat our cyber criminals who wreck havoc on our communication and economic systems. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Autumn Moon Over Woodsong

The moon is growing.  Weather is chilling.  Combines are droning. Fall is here. I love this season.  I guess I better get into the tornado shelter that exists under our front porch and find a few autumn accessories although I am not much into decorating these days. The door in my office opens into the shelter.  Unfortunately when we moved in almost 13 years ago, the house was not quite done yet, and so we used the shelter to store stuff.  It has been a storage spot ever since, but hopefully if we ever needed it in case of a tornado, there would be room for anyone in the house.
We probably have a tornado shelter because of Gerald’s close friend Bobby Sanders. Bobby had been in a tornado or two.  Those winds can topple the big semis that Bobby drove back in those days, so he was quite conscious of tornado danger. When he and Kathryn moved to Crab Orchard, they built a tornado shelter in their back yard and tolerated some laughter from locals.  But when the  tornado destroyed a large part of Marion in 1982 and headed straight towards Crab Orchard, Bobby and Kathryn had a lot of visitors crowding into that shelter with them.
I can still see Mary Ellen coming down the stairs from her bedroom at Pondside Farm in 1982 telling us what the radio had just announced.  My first thought was to call Gerry and Vickie to get them and baby Tara out of their mobile home lying in the tornado’s potential path. When they joined us at Pondside Farm, a road or two away, we all stood in the side yard and watched the tornado from a distance.  It was a sad and scary time with many deaths, and the tornado’s path looking like a war zone.  I could not get over how shredded the left-behind debris was.  So when we built this house and Bobby reminded Gerald to be sure to put in a tornado shelter, we were not hard to persuade. 
Even though  the more recent tornado came through just a very few  miles south of us, we have never had to use the space for refuge.  But I am glad it is there and grateful for the storage area.  At first, water began to drip  from the cold concrete porch floor that was  the ceiling, so Gerald quickly covered it with insulation and solved that problem.  I try to remember to frequently run the dehydrator a couple of hours and empty out the water container when it fills up, so mold is never a problem. 
Where else would I put the old trunk from my childhood that holds the mane of my horse Ginger when it was trimmed once?  Or my first grown-up pair of hose for eight grade graduation?  And letters from old boyfriends?  And lots of letters tied with ribbon  from Gerald during our engagement?  I would like to re-read those someday, but the old trunk is topped with boxes, so I may never get around to that. Elsewhere in the midst of empty boxes and saved stuff are plastic Easter eggs bought on sale for a potential egg hunt, sweet little  pumpkins made of brown metal wire, and a  little straw man that Kimberly brought once that her dad George Wright sent to me, and scads of stuff I need to go through and throw away.  

Now I best resist the temptation to go in there and start reminiscing and get something seasonal to put on the front door and welcome fall to Woodsong. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Erin Marie Glasco

A woman giving me physical therapy at the hospital last July bubbled over about how much their family loved my granddaughter Erin and how much fun Erin was with all the other players on their long-ago summer team. Naturally I could not have agreed more.

This past weekend was spent celebrating our Erin. Johnston City High School was retiring her No 12 softball shirt at the Homecoming football game.   I stocked up on Zero cola in her honor, and I couldn’t resist buying Neapolitan ice cream in memory of her childhood.  (She liked to slice through the brick-shaped three flavors and called this an ice cream sandwich.  Being the leader that she always was, soon the younger grandkids followed her example.)

We started going to her summer softball games at the Marion park when she was probably five.  I think that was a coed team where no one was supposed to keep score.  We also sat through cold Saturday mornings watching her play soccer. I believe she was the only one of Gerry’s three daughters who lived at the right time and place to participate in soccer. 

I was reminded the other day while reading an old email I’d written that my daughter-in-law Vickie was prepared to fix hot dogs for 50 or 60 kids for Erin’s September birthday party.  She had just found out that little Erin who had asked for a wiener roast for her party had made and passed out flyers at school. Vickie had no idea to whom or to how many. 

And there was the time in Harrisburg when we were there for a family birthday celebration for her older sister Tara.  But we found out that Erin (probably in the third or fourth grade) was supposed to go that same night to a boy-girl party—not just an ordinary  party to which both boys and girls were invited—but a “boy-girl party”!  Not exactly what her parents were thrilled about—and perhaps not even what the hostess mother had realized was going on.  I love the memory because Erin was escorted there and picked up afterwards by both her grandfathers—Gpa Gerald and her late Gpa Ernest.  Those stalwart men figured they could send a message to the party boys that she had protectors.

Before we knew it, she was in junior high and still playing softball, of course, since starting with Tara this was their summer family recreation with Gerry and Vickie serving as volunteer coaches and pitching in at the concession stand.  Perhaps I should say it was a family obsession since with three girls in the sport, countless hours were spent practicing and playing.  There were piano lessons and gymnastics and dance and fishing and cousins and lots of other activities too, but softball was most important to all three daughters.  Little Geri Ann went from going to softball games to play in the sand pile with her friends to playing on a team just like her big sisters. 

I loved the quick summary her dad put on Facebook, and I am going to steal it without his permission since I don’t have time to ask him:

So proud of Erin as she was an outstanding catcher on so many good teams that I was able to coach and be a part of with her! A state champion junior high school team, a high school team that was 34-1 her senior year I think, a Canadian Cup Championship in 2003, an ASA Gold National Championship in 2004 are among the wins we shared together along with many other outstanding players in our dugout! So as a coach I was blessed to have her.
As a father it was a great thrill to watch her get to catch the great Megan Gibson in the Big 12 Championship and then in the NCAA regionals, super regionals and the College World Series in 2008 with the Texas A and M Softball team. So blessed.
My favorite fact about Erin is that when the Aggies Softball team made it to the title game of the College World Series in 2008 she caught 60 something games and never made a single error the whole season!
That is my proud dad rant and I apologize, but want to be sure Erin knows that I am proud and blessed to have had her as a daughter and player!” 
Gerry dosen’t mention her professional play with USSSA Pride until an injury stopped her.  And my favorite part of her career as a player was the summer in Europe when she was able to travel widely and blog about it.  Since then she has remained active in the sport as a coach in college,  junior,and senior high schools while also giving private lessons to many young girls. One of her childhood ambitions was to teach, and that came true last year.  She pleased me by talking  about how much she loved her junior high kids and teaching them math. You can also imagine how pleased this grandmother was to learn that at her new school she is teaching English to sixth graders, and she also loves this subject and this age group. Now she can use her writing talent.  (Her coaching this year—volleyball and softball-- is at the high school as an assistant.)
To arrive here from Texas for this weekend’s activities, Gerry and Vickie and Erin left College Station as soon as their work day ended Thursday and drove all night.  They arrived at Woodsong early Friday morning.  And soon they were off for appointments and being with Vickie’s mother, who has progressed to being allowed to walk with that broken right leg in a cast. Friday evening was the Homecoming parade, and I had to be satisfied with just seeing Erin in the photos since I needed to be at Katherine’s that evening.  I heard the man near me in the football stands the next day saying how good the parade was. I liked it that some of the floats were still there to see at the sports complex. I am not a football fan and I no longer know Johnston City kids and the blazing sun made everyone miserably hot. (I got my first summer sunburn even though it was autumn.)  Nevertheless, it was a great time, and Johnston City won their Homecoming game over Chester. I enjoyed seeing long-ago friends and watching my beautiful granddaughter being honored for all her hard work, dedication, insults and injuries that allowed her to achieve success in the softball world. 
The celebration for Erin ended Saturday night with Vickie hosting a family party at Mike Mills’ famous 17th Street Barbecue. It brought back memories of all the birthday parties we enjoyed  with the Johnsons when Gerry and Vickie still lived here. Candace Carter’s one-year-old twins were one of the evening’s hits especially when they enjoyed the cupcakes.  

It was an over-busy weekend with one of Katherine’s aides with her husband at a Saint Louis hospital and Sam busy with the Marion football game, a fifth-quarter party,  and then an all-day band competition at Collinsivllle on Saturday arriving home just in time for Erin’s party.   Mary Ellen was tied up with Parents Weekend for Brianna at Murray State and Brian was tied up with harvesting soybeans. (I did not know their schedule, but I am sure the Eilers were busy up in Freeport too.)  Nevertheless, Gerald, Gerry, and cousin Bryce were able to have Saturday breakfast with the Glasco brothers and cousins at Jonesboro. Erin was able to spend a couple of nights at her cousin Sarah’s house, and Vickie fished in the lake more than once!  It was sad to see them pull away from Woodsong on Sunday morning for the long trip back to Texas

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Heading Toward Harvest

A few weeks ago the gloriously green corn stalks along our lane pleased my eyes each time I went out.  Then the tall tops and the very bottoms near the roots turned brown, but the green was still preeminent. Slowly and gradually, the length of the green was lessening. Now only a little green remains.

Around the corner onto the main road and down a bit, another experimental corn plot was evidently planted earlier—or perhaps it was a variety with a shorter growing period. Those few rows have been completely brown from top to bottom for a week or two.  Yesterday when I drove to town, I saw that swath of corn was deleted with only the stalks remaining.  (Patches on that farm are small because our neighbor’s fields are all research plots, so there is great variety. We have a standing smile that Gerald cannot keep from feeling some horror that planting weeds is sometimes one of the experiments carried on next door.)

Mary Ellen brought over all the fixings for Reubens the other evening and fixed supper for us.  Brian came over a little later because he was getting his combine ready for harvest.  He arrived all showered and clean shaven with crisp sport shirt on, and we teased him that we expected him to arrive in dusty work clothes. The days ahead will be long and hard, and dirty clothes are the proper prideful uniform of a successful farmer.  Although slack seasons had their advantages, the excitement of those over-busy lengthy days of spring planting and fall harvest were always my favorite farm times. Now in retirement, we can only participate vicariously.

I had not realized it had been a month since I had blogged. Gerald told me the other night that he did not know what was going on here at the farm since I had not blogged in so long.  I often wrote a partial blog in my head as I drove back and forth from farm to town, but once I was home, neglected duties always awaited me and I might not get to the computer.  Or if I did, I was too tired to write and would end up surfing on Facebook. 

I do enjoy getting bits of news, gossip, and updates from local people I seldom see in person anymore, and it is amazing to see photographs and news from far away loved ones and distant friends that I used to only hear from at Christmas. I was able to enjoy the first birthday party of my great great nephew Jace down in Amarillo the other night because of all the posted photos. And last night I enjoyed my friend Lois’s trip to Ireland because the beautiful photos posted out in California made me almost smell the Irish air and I could definitely feel the love of her family group traveling on this adventure together.

I notice that private messaging on Facebook has almost replaced emails and often times phone calls.  There was a time in my life when I spent most Saturday mornings phoning far-away kids or other loved ones for hour-long conversations. Now with our cell phones going with us wherever we go and sometimes with reception poor or calls inconvenient if driving or going through a store check-out line, telephone habits have changed.  I still enjoy occasional hour-long talks with my brother and sister, but otherwise our house phone seems to be used mostly for recorded messages from the pharmacy, politicians, or sales  people.

I have been trying to write a family history essay on my great great great grandfather Cedar Billy Martin down in Tennessee.  I am getting close to finishing and admit I will be glad when I complete this project.  This is the third time I have tried to write about him.  In late 1998, I had just retired from the brief career I had in family literacy, and I was trying to learn to use the Internet on Gerald’s new computer. I accidentlaly became involved with distant unknown cousins here in Illinois who had just discovered this ancestor.  

As emails flew back and forth connecting with researchers from other states, my brother’s son offered to hook us all up by creating  an e-group. So for all these years we have shared information on Cedar Billy, his siblings and children, his neighbors, and several collateral lines. Eventually I had a dozen or so notebooks about various family members. During that time, some in the e-group have died, others learned they really were not related, others gotten sick and had to drop out, others lost interest as lives got busy elsewhere, and some of us have gotten old.  Emails to the group with new information has dried up, but all our exciting discoveries and all our mistaken speculations about whose siblings or children went where are still stored in the e-group’s archives. I have been reviewing those archives and my many notebooks attempting to have this essay ready for my children for Christmas.  I like to imagine that 200 years from now some descendant will find out about Cedar Billy and be as excited as I was when I learned of his existence.

In the meantime, I hope to blog a little more faithfully so that you and Gerald can know what it happening here at Woodsong.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Looking Back on a Good Week

It was a good week.  After attending Sunday School last Sunday, I drove into Katherine’s to give her meds and feed her lunch until her afternoon aide arrived.  Back at the farm, Gerald had waited till I returned to take us out to eat dinner, and he chose my favorite restaurant where we had not been recently.

On Monday, we drove up to Mattoon to visit my brother Jim and his wife Vivian for the first time in way too long. With beautiful weather, we had a pleasant trip up stopping at Effingham for lunch   Jim had been in the hospital in July for over a week and had a light heart attack while there and also received three scary procedures with his stints. I was relieved to see him looking so good.  He smilingly told me that he had dressed for our visit, and only the drug store visits had the same honor.  

Adding to our pleasure was their granddaughter Vanessa dropping in.  I had finally brought up her wedding present and had hated for Vivian to have to care for it, so it was great that she happened to come by on an errand on her moving day!  She and her husband are leaving Champaign and moving over to Marshall.  He was at work, but her brother Sean had helped her move that day.  I wish he’d have accidently dropped by too, but I think he is pretty busy with grad school and two or three jobs.  Vanessa walked out to finish her busy day, and our niece Judi walked in! We had a good visit with her too. We left so as not to arrive home too late as we had told them we’d do when we phoned the day before. Vivian invited us to stay for supper, but we wanted to stick to our schedule. 

We had never stopped at Salem to eat before, but feeling adventurous, decided we’d pull off there. I don’t handle pancakes well early in the morning and I am too lazy to make them often in the evening, but I could not resist when I saw the slick colorful photo in the menu. They were delicious.  We arrived home tired but not too tired.

Tuesday after lunch, I had to have an INR at the doctor’s office since the home health nurses had made their last visit at our house the previous week.  Afterwards I ran by the grocery to pick up fruit juices and milk that I knew Katherine and Sam needed before I went to their house to figure hours on aides’ pay sheets and write their checks for the next day.  As it turned out, her aide was suffering from a kidney stone and had to leave early.  So I was glad I was already there to help out.  It was 9:30 when I arrived back at the farm for a late supper and evening pills and an early bedtime.

Starting Wednesday our life on the farm was consumed with the National Pro Fastpitch Championship tourney. Our son Gerry has coached the USSSA Pride this summer.  We were thrilled last week when Pride finished the regular season with the most wins.  Yesterday our week ended with the Pride winning the tournament—the first time for a NPF team to win both the regular season championship and the Championship Series since  the Chicago Bandits did in 2008.

We knew we would be watching many of the best softball players in the world.  The skill of these great women athletes is astounding.  When games were streaming, we watched on Gerald’s computer; and when televised, we watched in the family room.  Sketchy meals were eaten as the game schedule allowed--sometimes in Gerald’s office.  Excitement continued when the Pride came through the semi-finals with two straight victories over Pennsylvania Rebellion. Several of these professionals were on the Olympic teams, and some were ones we used to cheer for at University of Georgia.  (I find it hard not to root for Taylor Schlopy, Alisa Goler, or Megan Wiggins even when they are playing against us.)

Friday started well and was especially a happy day because my friend Dorothy Rudoni finally made it to the farm—a visit we had talked about for years.  We used to see each other at various meetings, but we hadn’t had that opportunity in recent years since I’ve dropped out of most meetings.  She arrived that morning bearing freshly-baked banana bread, and Gerald and I have been so enjoying it ever since.  Best of all was catching up with each other’s lives as we talked as hard and fast as we could and could have kept on talking the rest of the day if time had allowed it.

We did not plan to watch the third game Friday afternoon to see whether the Bandits or Akron Racers ended up going into the finals against Pride.  Not because we were not interested, but because it was Gerald’s brother Garry and his wife Ginger’s 60th wedding anniversary.  Back on July 20, Gerald and I had gone to the hospital to say goodbye to Ginger and to support Garry and their children as they listened to the sad test results following her early morning seizures at the nursing home. 

She had gone to the nursing home after almost dying in a previous hospitalization.  To keep her from starving, a feeding tube was used.  At the nursing home, the family had kept almost constant vigil encouraging her in physical therapy so she could go back home after the terrible damage from the stokes and seizures in May. Actually strokes and seizures have visited her since December 2001 when she lost her short term memory. 

Nevertheless, she has had many active years before the deterioration became worst.  She kept herself attractively dressed and was able to participate very well in family and social life even though she could not remember conversations that just happened.  With excellent help from a neighbor aide to be sure Ginger was safe and to keep her meds straight, Garry was able to keep on farming. But the passing years took their toll.  

Ginger had made it clear she did not want to linger on artificial life support, and with great grief Garry allowed the doctor to take off the horrible mask that was making her grimace in discomfort but helping her breathe.  Immediately she began breathing on her own and in three days was well enough to go home with help from Hospice and some training for the family in using the feeding tube.  Furniture was moved, and a hospital bed was secured for the living room.   

The family has worked together juggling schedules to be sure someone is with her at all times when the aide is not present.  Their reward is knowing that they brought her home as they had told her they hoped to do. There was little communication and few smiles at the nursing home, and there has been a slight improvement at home. She waves back at them often times. She enjoys visitors, and our niece Vicki urges people to come by.  So we went down and were delighted to see how much better she looked than back in July. 

Though she woke up briefly when Gerald stood beside her and called her name, she was soon back asleep.  We enjoyed visiting with her aide and with Garry. And then Ginger’s special friend since her teen years came over from Cape Girardeau with her adult son and daughter and the daughter’s three-year-old granddaughter. Ginger would so have enjoyed the little girl in times past, and she would have loved hearing JoAnn tell the story of how she arranged the blind date for Garry and Ginger to meet, She actually went with them on their first date, and while driving around, they got lost and ended up in a cornfield before dinner.  But Ginger only opened her eyes for them and then fell quickly to sleep again.  She missed the curly-headed blond granddaughter and the story.

But our niece Vicki shared on Facebook the next morning that Ginger was awake for their immediate family supper party, and evidently they let her cut the special cake they brought in for the occasion.   Since then Vicki has posted photos of decorations and the lovely floral arrangement brought in for the foot of her bed. Adult grandchildren are not likely to forget this celebration of sixty years of marriage for a couple who still love one another.  And the celebration must have done Ginger good, for Vicki (who often sleeps on an air mattress beside her mother’s bed) was elated that when she told her mother good morning, Ginger said the words back to her.  

After leaving their farm, we picked up supper from the Anna Subway, so we could eat as soon as we reached home.  We wanted to be ready to watch the first game of the finals at 7, and we found out the Akron Racers had won their second game out of three against the Bandits in the semi-finals Friday afternoon.  Both of those teams have great players and either would be a challenge.  The game began. We sat there enthralled as Cat Osterman threw a complete game shutout with 12 strikes despite being hit in the shin by a hit ball.  It took nine innings to win this tied game, but Pride did it.  We went to bed knowing Saturday would decide which team could win two out of three.

I got up early (for me) and worked as hard as I could trying to get every thing done and an early lunch prepared, so we’d be ready to start cheering Pride at 1:00.  Katherine called during lunch because her aide had to take off early to get a very sick daughter to the ER.  Katherine  did not think her afternoon aide would be able to come because she had left early the previous day for an X ray of her wrist.  So I went out and watched the game with Katherine beside her hospital bed. Mary Ellen was at the farm watching with Gerald. The afternoon aide, 21 years old, actually did show up with a wristband and a carpal tunnel diagnosis and the X ray also showed some arthritis.  I was especially tired from working so hard all morning, so after the aide came in, I went home and took a nap.

I slept very good  with a smile on my face.  After a very close game, Pride turned on in the sixth inning with seven runs. and held the Racers in their sixth and seventh innings for a final score of 8-3,   I imagine Danielle Lawrie slept well too.  It was her final game before retiring.  She had played this summer with her mother traveling with her to care for Lawrie’s baby girl.  She picked up this national tourney win in relief, allowing one run on three hits in her six innings of work.  She retired 12 of the first 13 batters she faced after coming on for the Pride.  What a nice way to exit.

Gerry, Vickie, and Geri Ann left Birmingham this morning in their three vehicles  heading to College Station, Texas, where Gerry will be an associate coach this year.  Their house closing is not until late September, so they will have to rent an apartment while they wait.  But Bryan and Tara Archibald’s family are already there in College Station getting ready for Tara’s new job while Bryan continues working out of their home just as he did in Georgia. He’ll commute to Chicago area headquarters when necessary. Tomorrow the three boys start school.  They have already met their teachers. Erin is there already since she has done some of the prep work for them, so tonight their entire family is together at Tara and Bryan’s place.   I know they must be exhausted and I hope they all sleep well. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Too Early for Summer to End

The thick wall of tall corn as we drive out of our lane reminds us that summer is nearly over.  That is ok and as it should be.  But I am having trouble reconciling my mind to the realization that the grandkids are already back in school.  Hey, I don’t think it is  time yet. Couldn’t we have a little more freedom before the fall schedule begins?

When our nephew and wife were here earlier in the summer, they told us their Wyoming school does not start until after Labor Day.  That is what I call a proper starting time.  But they (both teachers) admitted they don’t like getting out so late in June. Since it has been many years since the school bus stops at our house, I know my opinion is not important nor should it be.

I suspect that eventually school may be all year long.  And when that time comes, it probably will be what people think best. Even now in many families with two working parents, kids might profit and be safer with year-round school.  Not all kids live in the country where they can make mud pies or go down to the creek and swing on grapevines.

Our grandchildren and everyone I know seem to pack so much activity into summer that I am not sure anyone enjoys lazy hazy days of summer with nothing to do anymore.  I always loved having the kids home in the summertime, and I thought their getting bored was sometimes a very positive thing. That is when they had to figure out what to do with their boredom and creativity was sparked.  (They were not supposed to tell me when they were bored, but, of course, they did.  And I would usually scold something to the effect that only boring people are bored.)  But now kids’ schedules are so crammed  that I am not certain they have the privilege of being bored.  But maybe it is better that way.

All the camps, theater activities, 4-H and Scout projects, athletic participation, plus summer assignments in advanced placement classes keep many youth engaged with learning activities all summer, but these at least are fun and different than sitting in the classroom.  Unfortunately, many families cannot afford the extra expense of these pleasant forms of education.  It takes gas and someone to take a child to meetings and sports events.  It takes money for sport or dance shoes and sometimes for costumes or ball bats.  That is why is it so important that working parents make wages that pay for more than just food, rent, and utility bills. 

I started out to just gripe about my grandkids already being back in school. I did not mean to meander into my desire for minimum wages to be raised, so the public could pay less taxes to provide food stamps and noon meals for kids of working parents.  I’d like to see the corporations pay fair wages, so the public did not have to pay for the corporations’ employees health care. I’ve read reports of good results in states that have raised minimum wage. So whether I intended to end up blogging about this or not, my thoughts have ended up here.  I really was just wanting to say summer is drawing to a close and we need to enjoy it all we can.  But if you can afford next summer to buy some kid a pair of sports shoes or pay the fee for his or her participation on the swim team when his parents can’t, that’s a good use of money.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Good Times in the Summer on the Farm

Just viewing our neighbor’s  beautiful field of corn along our driveway and our son-in-law’s soybean field on the corner has been a constant summer pleasure.  Both crops are lusciously gorgeous, and so are the crops up at Wayside on the Pittsburg Road when Gerald occasionally drives us by there. (Yeah, I know that all the great crops means the price will go down, but we don’t want to think about that right now.)

Gerald rebuilt our dock down at the lake, and a favorite summer memory is when he let me take all the time I needed to crawl from the dock into the boat for a ride around the lake.  At that time the other side of our little island was abloom with white Queen Anne’s lace and  yellow black-eyed Susans growing in a background  of  tall brown grass.  The memory of riding through the channel while enjoying this natural artistic mural will likely linger through winter.

Another summer pleasure has been a visit from Jake.  With the Glasco and Archibald families down in Athens, Georgia, and Orlando, Florida, being in a state of transition this summer, Gerry had a buddy bring a couple of dogs up for the rest of the summer.  Jake was delivered to our house, and once again I have enjoyed being able to look out the window and see that little black and white creature with his tail curled above his back exploring the countryside. 

It has been a few years since our main summer social life was attending ball games at local parks watching granddaughters play softball.  But this summer with Gerry coaching USSSA Pride, Gerald and I have watched softball games not just during the college season but all summer.  Often we are eating light suppers in his office—sometimes watching streaming video of the game  and sometimes with Game Tracker.  And we really enjoyed the few televised games that let us watch on the bigger TV in the family room.  So far the Pride is ahead in their league.

Of course, the best summer pleasure has been visits from children,  grandchildren, and far-off relatives.  Our first visitors were our nephew, wife, and son—John and Rhonda Gamble and Tim from Rock Springs, Wyoming.  They were here staying in Marion and exploring our area while visiting family.  Like our great grandsons, Tim liked riding the tractor with Gerald, and we were very impressed at Tim’s patience and politeness with mostly only adults around.  A Glasco gathering at Giant City lodge in their honor was special because we finally met some other new additions to our family.

Since work, camps, and school schedules did not allow our grandchildren to work in our village Vacation Bible School this summer, Elijah and Cecelie came down before his Chicago internship so that five of the six youngest grandkids were able to hang out a couple of days. As usual Geri Ann was the one not here; she moved to Georgia before these kids changed from students to helpers in VBS, but her older sisters and Leslie helped in VBS before this younger crew. I missed hearing them plan VBS skits this year, but I always love seeing them together.

Elijah’s internship was through Illinois State and its purpose was to enlist students to later teach in the Chicago schools. After the internship ended, he came down to see us again, and I so enjoyed hearing him talk about the experience and the excitement of teaching. He lived with a host family and worked in Little Village and spent mornings teaching catch-up math to kids about to enter high school,  Afternoons were spent working in a community center there, and evening classes kept them busy until 8 p.m.  He had not been told he would be teaching math, so he said he spent late evening time on the computer getting ready for the next day’s class.  Even though he is not a math major, he was a good math student whose father taught math, so I am sure he did fine.  (I must confess that the one time I had to sub in an 8th grade math class, I was lost.  Students and taxpayers were cheated that day.) Of course, once Lige arrived at the farm, Sam, Trent, and Brianna were over visiting too.  (Cecelie couldn’t come this time as she was at speech camp.)

A couple of days after Lige arrived, our daughter-in-law Vickie, Geri Ann, and her older sister Tara and three boys—Aidan, Maddux, and Payton—arrived from Georgia around midnight. And shortly before they arrived, Brianna came over to spend the night for this infrequent chance to see Geri Ann. All that driving is hard on little boys, so Tara had it figured out that the little guys could play hard on the farm for a day before the four of them continued their travel to Chicago to watch USSSA Pride play and visit with her dad and then on to her mother-in-law’s home where her husband would be joining them when he did one of his check-ins with his company headquarters nearby. 

The two Georgia families have traveled back and forth to Orlando this summer to be with Gerry and have seen a lot of Disney World, but last week they were checking in here for visits with family since they will be moving to Texas next week.  After the Pride season is over, Gerry will be joining them and their middle daughter Erin at College Station as he starts his new position as associate head softball coach for A&M.  Erin will be teaching and coaching at a different school this year much closer to College Station, and she is excited that her parents and Tara’s family are going to be there with her.

Tara and Bryan already have their house rented and the boys enrolled in school thanks to Erin’s help. (Gerry and Vickie have a realtor finding them a place in this booming region.) Tara will be working with the establishment of a sports complex that is being built there, and her husband Bryan will continue working for his Chicago-area firm flying in and out when need be, but otherwise keeping office hours in their home. 

Geri Ann is transferring to the University of Oregon, and will be playing softball with the Ducks this year.  So this visit at home with her families and with friends from her years growing up in Johnston City was very important to her and all of us.  We already  don’t see enough of her, and now we know we will see even less of her in the near future.  Oregon is known for an outstanding special education school, so that played into Geri Ann’s choice.  Elijah was excited to get to talk shop about special ed with Geri Ann.

We did not know it, but Vickie’s mother (G’ma Shirley) broke an ankle the same day I went into the hospital, so Vickie spent  most of her time at her mother’s house, but she did get to fish a couple of times down at the lake—once even with her brother and nephew.  Mary Ellen joined that boat ride, and some of us feasted afterward with the barbecued pork sandwiches that Mary Ellen brought over.

Even though grandkids were getting together and coming and going with their planned activities, I was thinking they were not as involved with hi-jinks as usual and they too were getting old!  (Who knows what hi-jinks happened that I did not know about?  And maybe that is for the best.) Lige had taken me in to help Katherine one evening, and Geri Ann and Brianna showed up there to visit with Sam. (He has been super busy all summer with various camps and projects including all-day marching band last week and this. They are getting ready for the fall football season). 

Lige took me home, and I left the front door unlocked when I went to bed because he said the girls were going to rent a movie and be out soon. The next morning, I woke up to laughter on the deck outside the bedroom. Lige, Geri Ann, and Brianna were sitting there leaning against the wall looking out over the lake awaiting the sunrise.  They had pulled an all-nighter while watching old tapes of family gatherings when they were little.  Before I rolled over and went back to sleep until the middle of the morning, I could not help but smile that they were still quite young and going strong.  

The three great grandsons’ visiting  is always especially fun for Gerald and them. He will have the lime pile ready for them to dig it, and he’s prepared to give rides.  We have had some tractor trouble this summer and a slow repairman that did not come when he was supposed to.  So there were no tractor rides on the stop here on the way up to Chicago.  I do not think the boys minded because there were other things to ride on, and Aidan has been declared responsible enough to drive the all-terrain vehicle.  Fortunately on their way back through, the tractor was ready, and Gerald was able to satisfy that tradition. They  were even able to ride along in the cab’s buddy seat as he  knocked down a few little trees on the edge of the woods.  Summer time on the farm is a good place to be.