Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Kestner Wallace: A Dollar the Hard Way

For many years I've read articles by Kestner Wallace about his life near Womble Mountain in Saline County, but I had never met him. I was delighted when his son Ray and he showed up at the group book signing at Cata's on December 17 and I had a chance to buy his book A Dollar the Hard Way: Growing Up in Tough Times in the Ozark Foothills.

As a surprise for his 85th birthday, his son Ray and his daughter LeAnn Wallace had published a collection of his stories in a beautiful hardbound book with a beautiful book cover. The book is dedicated to his beloved wife of 55 years--Evelyn. The truth is most of the people who come into Wallace's life become loved by him, and it is a worthwhile to read his shrewd observations on human nature.

This World War II veteran had lost his father at an early age, and he had assumed responsibilities early on that were daunting. Whether he is off to Michigan to get employment to help the family, hitchhiking to high school to get an education, or going fishing to have a good time, Wallace has a way of attracting interesting episodes with interesting people that he can share. Despite the family and the nation's poverty during the 1930s, Wallace, who begins teaching school with only a high school education, goes on to SIU where he completes not just a college education but advanced degrees even as he continues his career as an educator for for 42 years.

He and his son Ray lives on the land that has been in the family for five generations. His daughter LeAnn lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Lewis and Clark Two Hundred Years Later

Probably everyone has experienced walking up to two women excitedly talking about someone else's lives and listening in trying to get oriented and figure out if you know these people who have such dramatic happenings going on. Then you find out the two women are talking about the latest development in their soap opera.

At our house right now, we must constantly realize that no matter the topic, when Gerald joins in the conversation with an appropriate anecdote or observation that he is talking about William Clark and Meriwether Lewis. He is so into their adventures two hundred years ago that he is making the men very real to all of us.

He is fascinated that these scholarly men--truly brilliant men--spell words several different ways in one paragraph. So he likes to share their spelling with us too. He is amazed at their medical practices, which the rest of us don't always feel make the best meal-time subject matter. But most of all, he is impressed with the the hugeness of their accomplishment going into uncharted land and finally reaching the Pacific Ocean despite illness, accidents, hardships unimaginable today, and extreme dangers.

They were accompanied on their trip by Sacajawea (also spelled Sacagawea and Sakakawea by some people and probably other ways). It can hardly be considered anything less than providential that she was along. She had been kidnapped from her Shoshoni tribe by the Minnetaree Indians on the Great Plains. A French-Canadian trader named Toussaint Charbonneau, who lived among the Minnetaree, bought her as a wife when she was 13. Lewis and Clark recruited them for the expedition and their son Jean Baptistte or "Pomp" was born on the journey. It was from the Shoshoni Indians that Lewis and Clark knew they must obtain horses when they left the rivers behind and had to cross the Great Divide. Amazingly when they met up with the Shoshoni, Sacajawea recognized the chief as her lost lost brother. They got the horses. Her parents were dead and so was her sister, but she was able to immediately adopt her sister's son. Clark much later took in Sacajawea's son to live with him in Saint Louis so Pomp could obtain an education. What a story!!!!

Although they were only here through lunch yesterday, our son-in-law Rick and our granddaughter Leslie got to hear quite a bit about Lewis and Clark the same as the rest of us. Rick had gotten out of bed early despite the few hours' sleep and taken the van to be checked out. As he thought, it was just a mis-cueing warning light and not a problem, so he felt comfortable for them to continue their journey to Nashville. While I fixed lunch, Gerald took Les and Samuel up to see their cousins Erin and Geri Ann yesterday morning, so that was neat. Erin got another of Leslie's songs recorded to share with roommates back on campus.

I'd managed to take the children's presents and hide them at their Freeport home, but we hadn't gotten Jeannie's and Rick's presents to them yet. So Rick brought in presents for us and took theirs. One gift he carried in was a huge wrapped box that turned out to be Cecelie's handcrafted martin house project. With the help of her mother, I am sure, Cecelie had done quite an astounding research job, excellent paper and beautiful poster plus made the model of a multicompartment martin house--all for a first grade project. Gerald and I also got a clay-like molded bird made by Cecelie also--mine was a yellow finch and his was a blue-black purple martin. My living room coffee table is now decorated with a rather large cardboard accessory, and Jeannie's problem of what to do with the painstaking martin house creation is solved!

Monday, December 26, 2005

December 26th--A Great Holiday

Always I have loved the time between Christmas and New Year's Day. My responsibilities as a housewife are over. Gift getting and wrapping are behind me, dinner has been served, and at least by New Year's the extra dishes are all put away--even if all of them aren't yet today. Yet the Christmas trees are still glowing and I leave them up to New Year's Day at least. (One year when it snowed during break and the children couldn't go back to school, I left the tree up through Old Christmas and the twelth day of Christmas. This week cards will still be coming in from friends and loved ones. I usually have time to look through and enjoy the ones already here. Because there are leftovers to eat for awhile, cooking time is reduced. It is a lovely mellow time of the year where it is proper to give oneself a rest and a true holiday from working. December 26 is a lovely holiday indeed.

Gerald and I spent the morning drinking coffee together, talking, and each reading on our current book. Not only has he been reading the daily account of Lewis and Clark in the Southern Illinoisan, he has also been reading the journal of Lewis and Clark that we bought at the gift shop two springs ago when we took a carload of grandkids to see the movie at the theater at the Arch in St. Louis. I have been reading Kestner Wallace's book and finished it this evening before I fixed us all a bite of supper.

Christmas morning was the first morning in 49 years that Gerald and I woke up alone in a house without a single child or grandchild present. The Eilers were waking up in Freeport since they come every other Christmas, and they were here along with the rest of the families on Thanksgiving. Then there were heading to Naperville yesterday afternoon for celebration with Rick's mother. The Taylors were in Florida with Brian's mother, who has just moved there from the New York area. This was their first Christmas not here, but they don't usually get to come on Thanksgiving, so it all worked out well.

The two local families are usually only here for the dinner and gift opening and visiting, and that was true this year also. On Christmas Eve, after the Cedars had gone to David's family for their Christmas get-together, they then went in the rain to their house--still in process of being remodeled--and slept on the floor just so Samuel could wake up on Christmas morning in his own home again. It has been hard on Samuel, since his parents were originally told by the contractor that they'be be back home in September soon after school started. Then they were told they could move back in by Thanksgiving. They have spent the month of December working much too hard--doing themselves what had never gotten done. Yesterday morning after they had their family time together opening the few presents they had at their house, they came back to Woodsong before noon and welcomed the beds here last night. Samuel was very pleased with their celebration. I think Samuel finally has some hope that someday he will be back home in his own room again. Today friends off work poured into their house to help David, and they are working yet tonight.

Gerry had come in from Mexico on Friday and Vickie met him in St. Louis and took him back there this morning to catch his plane to the border and back to the lodge and his hunting business. It is always good to see him after he's been away although he is always cold in our climate after Mexico and he will be distracted by what may be going on while he is away. Erin was still chilled out from her new cold and snowy environment at Notre Dame. When Gerald took Samuel and Geri Ann on the mule for a ride in the little wagon around the lake in the chilly air, Erin declined to leave our cozy house. Jeannie had dreaded the Northern climate for her knowing how she felt the year they moved to Freeport and the snow started before the Halloween parade and their first winter there was colder than any year since. It was strange not having Tara here on Christmas Day. But appropriately she and fiance Bryan were in Chicago area with his family. So with only nine at our dinner table, we were able to all sit at one table, and the dishes were fewer.

Rick just phoned from Naperville with their change of plans. He and Leslie are going to check out Belmont College in Nashville, and they were scheduled to be here on Thursday only to find out that was also the day we were leaving for Brownsville, Texas, for Tara's wedding. But the Cedars would welcome them here, and I had the upstairs guest room ready for them. However, with a little light flashing on the new van, which is driving fine, Rick decided he would like to have it checked out in Marion tomorrow morning. Therefore, I will be leaving the porch light on and the door unlocked for two tired travelers arriving around 3 in the morning. I am pleased that I am going to get to see them on this trip through here after all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Enjoying the Lights and Attending Programs

Gerald has the outside lights up--something we never did over at the other farm house--and we enjoy the beauty of them as we come up our lane. I've done all the decorating inside that I plan to do. And with the attack of sciatica, I decided to not do anymore Christmas shopping. One minute I am fine, and the next I am in pain, so I don't get too excited thinking about running around stores. I had bought some gifts last summer, and I've wrapped them--even taken some to the houses of the two daughters who can't come to Woodsong this Christmas. Gerald kindly chose the men in the family their gifts--including the one I am giving him. That was a tremendous help.

I meant to bake cookies early in the month for the "Cookie Crumble"--an annual affair where churches take homemade cookies for international students at SIUC. I was disappointed when I was not up to it, but was relieved when our church's representative said there was more than enough without my contribution. I did manage to bake some brownies and one batch of cookies to take some goodies for the trays we take to our church shut-ins when we go carrolling. That was a fun event with a couple of youth going with us to especially please the ones we visited.

Next there was our church's Sunday afternoon youth Christmas program, an evening musical with Katherine and Samuel at their church, and then Samuel's third grade Christmas musical.

Last Sunday morning, I sang in our adult cantata and then again that evening when we presented it at the Carrier Mills Nursing Home. We went to that home this year because one of our dear and long-time members recently went there to live. Her husband is with her every day, and we wanted to give the concert there in her honor and to show support for his bravery. She was wheeled down and looked dignified as always soberly listening to us, but she didn't know us. We hope the hugs from those of us who have loved and admired her for so many years benefited her in some subtle way. It benefited us to know we did this for her. She not only served as a teacher in our church but served as an outstanding teacher at a nearby university as well as traveling all over the nation teaching servicemen. One of our teens laughingly recalled that she always called him prescious in those years she taught him in Sunday School before her illness made it impossible to continue. A large crowd of her fellow residents were there in the attractive hall with her, and it was a pleasure to see their smiles and enjoyment. We were given applause after every song and a multitude of compliments at the program's end. They joined in with great participation when our pastor led us in congregational singing of "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World." When we finished, we were urged to come back again soon. Their graciousness and enthusiasm was a wonderful gift from them to us.

Finally yesterday Gerald and I traveled to Lake Saint Louis for the purpose of seeing Brianna's fifth grade musical and Trent's junior high fall band concert. Trent's concert had been snowed out last Thursday, and we were disconcerted when it was rescheduled the same night at his sister's musical. But Bree figured out that if we got there at ten in the morning to see the fifth grade's presentation to the younger students at Green Tree Elementary School, then we could all attend Trent's concert that night. It was a push to get there that early, but we would have made it.

Except Mary Ellen phoned that she had no sooner delivered both Trent to junior high yesterday morning than the school phoned that he was sick. Although Brianna had been ill over the weekend, Mary Ellen was hoping he wasn't that sick, but of course he would not be allowed to be in the concert that night since he was not at school that day. So she told us that we could slow down and go straight to their house and only have one program to see in Lake Saint Louis. Contrary to her expectations, Trent was even more ill than Bree had been over the weekend, so we felt very sorry for him. Bree's fifth grade musical was called "Lighten Up!" and was a tribute to humor. We heard a lot of jokes and saw some cute song skits, and enjoyed how pretty our blonde granddaugher was. And again we did some group singing that made it seem a lot like Christmas.

Today Gerald and Mary Ellen took me to a nearby mall so I could shop for an outfit for the upcoming wedding of our oldest grandchild on New Year's Eve. Stopping for groceries on the way home, it was late afternoon by the time we got back to farm and turned on the Christmas tree lights.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Snow, Sciatica, and Crab Orchard Open Houses

Plans fall by the wayside when snow makes our country roads slick and dangerous. I had to cancel lunch plans with Deb Tucker when Gerald phoned from Route 13 telling me about the cars off the highway there between Murphy and Carbondale. We just try to stay home as much as possible. That isn't hard to do for me right now since my sciatic nerve has been attacking me ever since the day after Thanksgiving. I am getting better, but I do a lot of moaning. When I move just wrong or stand up, I do some breath taking and sometimes screeching. I never know when I stand up if I will have to walk bent over grabbing the furniture or if I will bounce along without a pain in the world. I finally got up my courage to get down on the floor and do some of the exercises on the sheet the doctor gave me. Our groceryman said it took his wife six months to get over a bout like this. I hope I am faster.

Since I have been afraid to make any kind of plans for book signings this month because of the sciatica, I thought I would at least take in the Crab Orchard Open Houses today. I couldn't get up my nerve to go to the morning concert at the Methodist Church for fear I would not be able to walk after I got there. After lunch with the family, it took me till almost time for the concert at the Baptist church at 2 to decide to attempt the fun outing. I was glad I went when I heard Jeff Beasley and daughter Krista singing the Christmas songs. Jeff's "White Christmas" is more beautiful than Bing's. I finally met Rosalee Mocaby Fields, who sang and played the piano so beautifully for us, and it was fun singing carols with neighbors and friends.

The big reason I wanted to go to the open houses was to see the Poordo Store. When we first moved to Crab Orchard, our youngest two daughters were invited to a birthday party there as the birthday girl's family lived in the living quarters behind the store. The store has been closed a long time now, and Bill Jones has built a beautiful house beside it. An huge old-fashioned cedar Christmas tree was set up inside the front door. A group was sitting in a circle enjoying the talk and coffee and hot cranberry tea when I got there and they were still talking when I left--just like the olden days. All kinds of refreshments were served as well as goodies and crafts displayed for sale to benefit the community. I brought home some home-made candies and peanut brittle. On the wall were framed clippings of newspaper accounts of the history of Atilla--now called Poordo--and wonderful ancient photographs of the Welborn family and their two-story house that burned in the 1940s. (It sat where Bill Mandrell's house does now.) Bill Jones' mother Pearl Jones was the Welborn's daughter if I got that family history understood right.

I managed to squeeze in a visit to Larry and Kay Woodson's lovely lakeside home filled with family furniture and memories. I enjoyed thinking of our late friends Bill and Altha Brown while there. By then it was almost 4 p.m., when the events were to shut down. So I hurried to Gary and Faye Ellen Chamness's newly remodeled home that I am been eager to visit all summer as the porch is so inviting--even more so with all the lovely Christmas trim. Everything was beautiful, and the living room tree gorgeous, and the tall rustic cedar tree in the back sun room brought back memories of our trees in Jonesboro that Daddy always cut from the farm at Goreville.

Although there wasn't time to visit the library, the business open houses, the quilt show at the Methodist church, or to see the Montgomery log house I've always wanted to see, I had a good time, enjoyed visiting with other Crab Orchard folk, and went home in the Christmas spirit to turn on our lights on our trees and sit and look at today's Christmas cards.

The snow is too dry for snowmen making, but somehow Geri Ann and Gerald found wet snow on our picnic table on the deck and made a snowman there yesterday while she was out of school. It wasn't fair that Samuel had to go to school yesterday when Marion schools were in session and everyone else in the county were dismissed. But at least he got in on the sled riding with Gpa after Gerald and Geri Ann picked him up from school. Today Sam figured out that he too could use the deck snow, which for some reason was wetter, and now we have his snow man also atop the picnic table.

The Crab Orchard School Christmas program had to be cancelled with Thursday's snow, so I understand it was tonight instead. Bet that played havoc with the families that had tickets to the SIUC name tonight.

Our church children's program is tomorrow afternoon at 2 at Center. Neither snow nor sciatica stops the approaching Christmas. I better find time for cards and finishing my shopping soon.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Christmas at Jo's

For the women in Center Baptist Church, going to Jo's for our December meeting and annual Christmas party is part of our life's tradition. We know we will be greeted by luminaries in the yard as we get out of our cars as well as other outside lights. Inside will be old and new decorations--two gingerbread dolls were new this year--one from a niece and one Jo bought at the first Extension Bazaar recently.

I especially cherish getting to see the annual display of tiny ice skaters from Jo's childhood. Each year they skate on a mirror on a table in the living room. After we have sung from song sheets that are so old no one knows who typed typed them, we will hear a devotion and poem or two and have a business meeting before we move into the family room to enjoy the fireplace and beautiful Christmas tree there. In that room those who have drawn secret sisters will try to guess who they are before gifts are opened to reveal the sister. Last but not least, there will be excellent food because Jo Barger is one of the top cooks and most knowledgable persons about foods in the Midwest. We will move to the game room and find the pool table transformed into a large serving table filled with pretty and delectable choices. Most of us have a hard time choosing between the lime sherbert punch served in Santa Claus cups or the hot cranberry tea, and some of us indulge in both. Doing things mostly the same way from year to year has a certain comforting quality that makes such annual events special enough to bring back former members as well as new. Jo might decide to use a different punch some year, but I hope she doesn't!

Among the new ones attending this year were the two babies born to our church members this year. I know it was an effort for the young moms to bring the babies out, but we had lived and prayed through the two pregnancies with the mothers and we were thrilled to have Bobby Jo and Toby with us in their Christmas finery.

Getting back to our traditional song sheets with the words of carols and popular Christmas songs alike: I can always imagine some harried housewife or perhaps it was a working secretary already putting in a 40 hour week someplace laboriously typing the master copy for the memographed sheets. And then, she used green or red construction backs to staple the sheets on. Thus, they were sturdy and attractive. I wonder when she (or perhaps a committee) did the sheets if she wondered if this job had gotten out of control and she really shouldn't be putting that much time and effort into something for folks outside her own home. At this time of year, many women get trapped in those kinds of extra activities, and they sometimes find their pleasure spoiled by wondering if they should be involved at all. I am assuming whoever typed our song sheets not only must have moved from our community years ago but perhaps has already died. I am so grateful to that person. With the ease of computer typing, we could make new song sheets with half the effort--and someday we may have to--but I would never enjoy singing from the new ones as much as I have enjoyed using the old ones. I am grateful to that unknown woman who put herself out to make them. I think of her as I sing, and I wish I could tell her that her effort is still appreciated.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Christmas Is Coming--Ready or Not

Gerald came home from our friend "Bun" Handkins' house the other day and informed me that "Bun" has his candy all ready to offer the carrollers from our church when we make our annual call to his home to share carols and prayer with him. When his Rose was first shut-in, we began going there usually first on our carrolling night, and they always insisted we come inside and have a piece of scrumptious candy. For a few years now, it has just been "Bun" to sing to, but he does not forget our candy. He is 93 and very alert still going to town most days as well as keeping check on Gerald's crops and ducks. Gerald could not keep from boasting, of course, that he had already had the first piece of candy during his visit with "Bun." I still have the candy canes that Noami Richey gave us carrollers and place them on our tree each year in remembrance of her. Funny how much a piece of candy can mean to you when it is from someone you love.

There is a wreath on our front door and a few decorations set out. I meant to ask Gerald to get down the heavy box from top closet shelf tonight but forgot. Mary Ellen's manger scene (a gift from her one year) is set up. The tiny set from our children's babyhood is waiting for me to set it up on the floor by the piano in the living room--although most of our grandkids are getting too old to play with it anymore. (Actually the original set came into our marriage with me as I had bought it for my college dorm room for the Johnson Hall Christmas open house. So the original set is well over 50 years old.) When some of the little hollow plastic figures broke after years of handling, I replaced them with the same size chalk figures I found at a rummage sale someplace.

I am enjoying the lights going up around the community and feeling sorry for the homeowners who fight the blown-down balloon-type decorations each morning that I see when I drive Samuel into town to his school.

I am trying to decide what to do and what not to do during this season of celebration. I've written an annual letter for many years and always enjoy it. But I had been thinking that since I am moving slowly this week with the first bout of sciatica I've ever had that maybe I should not do so this year. Then today I got the sweetest email from a young cousin-in-law telling me she loved to read it when she was a little girl at home. Hmmm. Do I really want to drop that tradition? I started it when cards and letters were the main adult part of the season for me since I really couldn't afford to give expensive gifts. When Gerald got embarrassed after all the critical letters that appear in Dear Abby/Ann type columns each year, I dropped his name from the letters. But by then, I could not stop writing the annual letter because I received so many nice notes from older friends and relatives saying they cherished getting them. So I decided that if those types who hate the letters and consider them brag-sheets weren't smart enough to throw them away without reading them, I would just have to let them suffer. I was not going to disappoint those people like me who really love knowing what long- ago friends and far-off relatives are doing. I even like reading my adult children's annual letters as it helps me review their past years. Just as writing my letter helps me review our year.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Thanksgiving Reflections in 2005

Tara's smile when she came in on Thanksgiving Day is definitely my brightest memory. Her smile was even brighter than the beautiful diamond on her left hand, which she flashed for us. Come to find out, Gerald, who had gone up to Johnston City the night before to Geri Ann's basketball game, had already seen the ring and had refrained from telling, so we could all enjoy the big moment when our oldest grandchild made her exciting announcement. I told handsome Bryan that I was glad Tara said yes; and with much feeling, he said he was too.

We enjoyed having Erin home from Notre Dame and her teammate Christina also. Her California home was too far away for a short school holiday, so we were happy we got to be her second choice.

I had plenty of pumpkin pie for son Gerry--home from Mexico--and a couple of pecan pies also. The pumpkin was from Gerald's garden as were most of the veggies--the green beans that Mary Ellen turned into sons-in-law Rick and Brian's favorite casserole, fried okra, eggplant casserole, turnips, corn-on-the-cob, and the tomatoes in the salad. We also had to have mashed potatoes,sweet potato casserole, pickled beets, celery, cranberry sauce, and Vickie's corn custard casserole to go with our turkey, giblet gravy, and dressing.

Jeannie and Rick had arrived with Leslie, Lige, and Cecelie at midnight all the way from Freeport. Although I had carefully put on the outside porch light before I went to bed, somehow I overlooked that the door had been locked. I don't know how long they stood in the chill before I heard their arrival and let them in with much excitement since Lucky and Leah dashed right in also before the kids grabbed them and put them elsewhere. Before going to bed, I had put sheets on the living room couch for Les and fixed a pallet on the floor for Elijah. Cecelie still fits in the tiny youth bed that I moved upstairs to her parents' bedroom. When people ask me why we built such a large house for retirement, I ask them if they want to come at holiday time and sleep on the floor like people do here at times.

Mary Ellen and Bryan, Trent, and Brianna arrived from Lake Saint Louis on Thanksgiving morning. Their Fifi acted just as happy to see her cousins Leah and Lucky, as the human cousins were to see each other.

Katherine, David, and Sam had only to come upstairs to join the festivities since they are temporarily here during house remodeling.

Another special Thanksgiving memory was the presence of five unusual water fowl (large for ducks, small for geese) that graced our lake. They let us come within four or five feet of them and were not afraid of humans. Gerald could not find their picture in any of his bird identification books, but after discussions with his brother Keith, he decided they were Egyptian geese--wings of beautiful browns with white feathers under their wings showing when they flew, pinkish-red beaks and long pinkish-red legs. Like the rest of our guests, they have gone on to other places now, but we will think back on their presence with us fondly.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Virus Alert Shuts Us Down

After being a part of a group of ten local authors at Cata's book store at West Frankfort, I dropped by Geri Ann's middle school basketball game and then on to Southern Illinois Writers Guild, where we had a good meeting reading and critiquing one another. Back home again and going to do my nightly chore of deleting junk emails and expecting to relax surfing the Net, I suddenly faced the dreaded "Virus Alert" from Norton--a first for us. Norton admitted defeat with this particular virus, and I did not even know until the next day how to pull their little warning window aside and read our email. By then I was packing and getting on the road for my adventure to go back to Cata's for an individual signing, up to my brother and wife's to spend the night at Mattoon, and then on to Freeport to see granddaughter Leslie sing in Working.

Jim and Vivian proved my best book signing yet as they generously bought books for many relatives for Christmas! We had a good overnight visit Friday night on my way to Freeport and another one Sunday night on my way home from Freeport. I got to see both Judi and Beth, but missed Willow's first birthday visit when Josh and Leana brought her by on Saturday. But I loved hearing about it.

I cannot say enough good things about Freeport High School's music and drama department. The musical Working based on Studs Terkel's 1970s interviews of workers in Chicago was an excellent choice for high school students in the throes of trying to decide what they want to work at during their adult lives. And the music and acting and choreography were all fantastic. So was my granddaughter Leslie, of course, who played the part of a housewife and sang about that career.

I had a great weekend and got home Monday. Gerald had spent Monday downloading various hoped-for solutions to delete or quarantee the virus, but he finally took the computer back where we bought it and it is now being freed up of the virus. I am writing on an old computer that does not work too well.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Wengers enjoy celebrating 25 years of marriage!

After spending most of the day at John A. Logan at the Autumn Fest signing my book, I scurried home to the farm to meet Gerald and get back in the car and drive down to Lockard Chapel Church, where Terry and Debby Wenger were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

Such celebrations always make me think of Virginia Kelly's remark after her inlaws' beatiful 50th celebration on the lawn next door. I got there late (after hitting a neighbor's dog in the road and being very upset--the dog lived and was fine), but by the time I arrived, it was at the end-of-party period when people were sitting with shoes off and the stress over, and they were reviewing and summarizing their emotions about the event. I've enjoyed that memory. Virginia said something to the effect that there is so much bad in life that we cannot celebrate that it is especially important to celebrate the good -- marriages that have endured are so valuable that we need to contemplate and rejoice about them.

It was indeed very good Saturday to sit at table with cousins and see the happiness on the bride and groom's face as they cut their anniversary cake while loved ones took photos. The smile on their son's face would not have been so bright if they had not endured the trials that all marriages must endure to last 25 years. Hearing his parents repeat their vows could only give him feelings of security and joy. It was especially important to us since just a year ago we were grieving together at Aunt Clela's funeral dinner and then more recently at the funeral for cousin Jo's beloved mate. Seeing her children and grandchildren surrounding Jo encouraged us as we think sadly about her deep grief, and we know she will be all right.

It was a good day in Southern Illinois celebrating artists of all kinds at John A. and celebrating marriage vows that are sincere and lasting.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Basketball games replace softball.

Another sign of fall and the approaching winter season, is the beginning of basketball games. Instead of going to see softball, now we are heading to Johnston City to watch Geri Ann play basketball with the middle school team there. I had gotten most of the girls' names in my head last spring, but I am having to relearn the ones who weren't playing softball with her this summer and the one or two new girls. So far their team has done very well with only a couple of losses. We have been leaving after the junior-varsity game as it seems we are always rushed, and Gerald says the bleachers are hard. Ha. So I still have to relearn the names of the eighth grade team. It is difficult to have supper and get to Johnston City by six, so last night we left the Cedars to prepare their own supper and we enjoyed a quiet meal at Bob Evans after Geri Ann's game. For years, my social life consisted mostly of visiting with other mothers at Crab Orchard ball games. (Gerald often could not go as he would be still working at the hog barns.) Now a big slice of our social life is sharing ball games with other grandparents.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Pumpkins and Flu Shots--It Must Be Fall!

Katherine and I got our flu shots without incident at Bi-County Health and did not even have to wait in line.

We had jack-o-lanterns on our front porch for the first time in years. The Cedar family attended their second annual weekend family camp at Little Grassy a few weeks back and brought home two. One of the camp activities is to let parent/child carve pumpkins together. Besides the traditional face, one of ours had a wolf on the back, and Sam's had a pair of bats. The camp has a Saturday night ceremony and lines up all the lighted jack-o-lanterns. After a final lighting here on the 3lst, I threw the rottening remains out into the field along with one of Gerald's garden pumpkins that slowly slumped into a decaying pile before I got around to cooking any.

Today I will start cooking a couple of the pumpkins and pulverizing the flesh for fall pies. Erin is bringing a softball friend home for Thanksgiving vacation since the friend cannot go to her California home until Christmas break. I will have to have plenty of pumpkin pie for the holiday.

Gerald carries in turnips from his patch, and we have had them on our table several times. And it would not be fall unless one of the Glasco men produced winter radishes. Gerald's dad always grew them in great quantity along with turnips and huge fields of fall spinach. He'd gather all the largesse into the back of his pickup and visit his elderly friends at housing units. The women would come out running with aprons or dishpans to fill with the autumn vegetables that brought back memories of their own country gardens in previous years when they were in better health. Gerald's brother Garry produces the winter radishes now, and Gerald brought them up from Garry's place. I will be certain to save one back for the Thanksgiving meal.

After he had saved seed from our very productive okra this year, Gerald plowed up the garden. I've finally got the last of eggplants cooked and in the freezer for a casserole, and I've wrapped the last of the green tomatoes cousin Doug and I picked the evening before the first frost. He asked why I wrapped them in newspaper, and I could only say that someone told me to do so once upon a time and I've done so ever since. I know it helps if one spoils to have it wrapped. I always intend to still have tomatoes for salads yet on Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Book Worm Awaits while I'm stuck on Route 57!!

The plan was to leave Wolf Creek Antiques in Goreville at 3 and be at Book Worm in Carbondale at 4 p.m. when Carl and Kelly Rexroad suggested I come Saturday. Sounded like a good plan, and Anna was kind to scurry me out of her place and onto the road. I was zipping up Route 57 when the traffic came to a standstill. Almost to the exit for Carbondale, I thought I was through the road contruction area, and I was in the right lane to take the exit. Lodged between two huge trucks, I could not see ahead, but I figured we'd be moving again soon. After l0 minutes, I phoned Book Worm that I might be running close on the time. At 4 p.m. I phoned them again.

Teenagers kept walking by and so did one family with two little children. Oddly none of them ever returned. It seemed as if they were going to a precipice and falling off. I wondered if they had a driver to leave behind in case the traffic started up. Two men beside me in a four-wheel drive studied their map for an alternate route and decided to risk going through the very very steep ditch in the median to go back south and try to go up Route 37. They waved goodbye and warned me not to try it in the car, but I was in the wrong lane to do that stunt anyhow. They had phoned someone who evidently told them we'd have a two-hour wait as a semi was lying across both lanes ahead. I worried the driver might have been killed, but right before we started moving a man came from up there and said only the driver's shoulder was hurt. The next day someone told me that the wind had flipped over the huge truck.

Next I enjoyed visiting with the young couple whose car moved up to the spot the pickup had occupied in that left lane. They had just come from Branson and were eager to reach their home in DuQuoin. She gave me a flyer on a great show they had seen, and I gave her one of my cards telling about my book after I had described my dilemma of trying to get to Book Worm.

After another long wait, suddenly traffic was moving--but only the left lane was cleared, and I was in the right lane. But the young couple stayed their lane and let me in and I got to Book Worm shortly after 5 p.m. over an hour late. Judy Travelstead had left a book on the table there for me to sign for her, and Joyce and Ken Cochran from the Jackson County Historical Society were visiting in the area and came back a second time to get the book. We had a good visit about Emma Glasco Schwartz, who at age 40 had married Joyce's grandfather and gradually became not just "Emma" but "Granny." As a young orphan, Emma was raised by her grandfather Dr. Jesse Glasco and went with him in his buggy to help deliver babies and care for the rural sick around Alto Pass. Only after her obituary appeared, did I find out that she had come back to live in this area. How I wish I could have heard her stories.

The Rexroads were most kind and understanding, and the plan is that I'm invited back later when their store remodeling is finished and they have a grand opening there. Of course, now I have discovered about the best-made plans!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wolf Creek Antiques on Broadway in Goreville

Getting to spend time in Goreville always makes me happy. I can drive up and down the streets there and feel emotions I cannot experience anywhere else in the universe.

When I drive or walk on Broadway, I can see the former building of the Baptist church and instantly feel the sleepy-warm heat of a summer day during sermon time with the drone of a fan overhead. I can remember Mrs. Green teaching our Sunday School class up in the choir loft during the summer months we spent at Mt. Joy Farm. And I can remember being jealous of her daughter Evelyn, who was my age and played the piano so well. And I think I remember my sister reminding me it was because Evelyn practiced more than me--which would not have to be very much to have outdone my practice time. Later in Marion, I became reacquainted with Evelyn at the ball park where our sons played ball, and where she was now Evelyn Malcolm of Pittsburg. Then I was saddened in recent years by her passing.

I can remember being one of the "flower girls" at my grandmother's funeral as I asked to be. In those days, girls carried in and out the beautiful flower arrangements for the church house during the funeral service. I knew I was considered too young to be one of the flower girls, but since I wanted to be, the adults talked it over and allowed it. My grandmother's casket had had been brought down to the church house from her home there on Broadway.

I can remember at an earlier time being disappointed when I thought Grandma had made a yellow cake for dessert, and it turned out to be cornbread. I can remember loving to sleep in her feather bed on the old-fashioned fold-up bed--a large upright piece of furniture. I felt cozy and secure knowing if the roof leaked my head was protected under the top of that fold-out bed. I remember loving to look at the many trinkets in her trinket case (now in my front hall). And I loved playing with the collection of broken jewelry and "pretties" she saved for me to play with. I can remember sitting on her porch with my cousin Jack, whom I adored, when he was down from Detroit. I liked knowing my grandmother knew everyone on the street and so did my daddy. When we sat on the porch in the evening, I liked hearing Myrtie Dennison's wonderful laugh from the corner brick house and knowing that everyone on the street heard it too.

When I go down the narrow little street parallel to Broadway, I can imagine my grandmother's lovely rock and flower garden behind the tiny house where she used to live before the house on Broadway. And I can remember sitting on the porch swing of the corner house there on that street and Collins--visiting on a hot summer day with some friend of my grandmother. Since my grandmother died when I was six and had already moved to the house up on Broadway by then, I have no idea how young I may have been when she lived in that little house. But I know I must have felt a great deal of love to be able to feel so much of it yet just by driving down that street.

I can also remember the Fourth of July excitement on that very street when it was roped off and there were horse races there. And there were sack races and greased pig races in town too. And out at the farm later we would have an entire wooden case (24 bottles) of soda pop--a rare treat befitting such an important holiday.

I can remember having to wait once for Daddy at Fluck's grocery store up on Broadway for some reason. I felt awkward and out-of-place among men gathered there. Uncle Charley was there and bought me a soda out of the icy-cold water in the red storage case.

And I remember my dignified mother sitting on the little built-in metal seat on the front of General Vaughn's store, and I think sometimes people were sitting there on feed sacks--everyone enjoying the chance to visit and socialize while they were in town for Saturday afternoon shopping after they had sold their eggs and cream at the back of the store.

I cannot go to Goreville without being flooded with such memories. But I wasn't in town to reminince. I was in town to autograph books at a signing at Wolf Creek Antiques. What a beautiful venue! Booth after booth, upstairs and down, of lovely furniture, dishes, and objects from yesteryear. So I was unable to help myself from making more trips down memory lane even inside. And with each cousin or loved one who came in to get a book, another wave of emotion and love for Goreville enveloped me. And Dixie and Jim Terry were there to hear me read from my book even though they had a half a dozen other events to attend that day.

After a wonderful day, Glen Billingsley came in at the last minute--said he had been fishing and almost forgotten--but there he was. What a thrill to see an old friend of my father's, who down through the years has become my friend too. (Actually we are distantly related since two of the Billingsley daughters several generations back married Hugh Craig, and the second sister and wife became the mother of my great grandmother Louisa Jane Craig Martin.) Among other things Glen has done for me was sending me the papers proving I had a horse thief for one of my ancestors. Sometimes friends give us more than we ask for.

What a warm atmosphere Anna Scheidt has created at Wolf Creek with family and friends coming and going, visiting, and telling stories--just like the men and women used to do sitting on those feed sacks in front of General Vaughn's store. How I enjoyed meeting her mother, Mary, and thinking how fine it was for someone born in Brooklyn to fit in so very well with the friendly family-minded folk of Goreville.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

After Glow from Sturgis Signing

Saturday was a fun day -- one that pushed me a trifle out of my comfort zone. I grew up a little bit that day. (And I met a wonderful senior citizen role model Ethel Tucker whose book From Pilot Knob to Main Street would inspire everyone that they can still write the book that they want to write. She was so beautiful and charming that I found myself hoping someday I can be even a little like her when I am in my eighties.)

I really did not want to drive to Sturgis by myself although my husband and everyone said it would be easy. And it was. Gerald printed me directions from his trip maker and also drew me a little map, which was very helpful. I had already looked Sturgis up in the atlas and had it laid out to take in case I got lost. Which was really silly cause the way was so simple.

Somehow I had heard of Sturgis, KY, many times, so I assumed it was a larger town than it was. It was my size town, and the scenery in Kentucky driving there was so beautiful. And a high percentage of the people there must be book lovers. I could not believe the wonderful foot traffic as people came all day long to buy books from the more than a hundred authors sitting at tables prepared for us.

The early morning drive was somewhat difficult because of heavy fog and a bright rising sun shining through it--especially at Shawneetown as I approached the bridge. I am always a little spooked about driving over bridges, but the fog was not that heavy on the bridge. I was sort of proud of myself that I arrived plenty early while a very young man said he arrived late because of the heavy fog coming down from Evansville. I just felt real competant and grown up that I had driven by myself although I still regretted that because of her surgery Lois Barrett had not been able to make it with her When the Earthquake Spoke. Of course, this was a rural drive, and I am a very experienced rural driver. It is city driving that is difficult for me--I can't read and process the signs quickly enough to be comfortable, and Gerald's directions to just "read and follow the signs" does not help me a whit.

I promised myself I would not buy any books, because I knew I would be at risk surrounded by all those authors and their books. I did really good too. I could not resist my tablemate's historical novel when I found out it was about her fourth great grandfather, who was one of George Rogers Clark's 75 men who made the "impossible" expedition through overflowing swampland across Southern Illinois during the Revolutionary War. I have already read A River Away with great fascination. I finished it at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning. Marilyn Dungan's five years of research stored in four file drawers was obvious and made this novel's look at history especially meaningful. I wanted to buy Marilyn's latest book about her son a Kentucky veterinarian, but I resisted.

I was pleased to meet David and Lalie Dick, who have done so much writing about Kentucky. Although I hung around their table as briefly as possible for fear of buying more books, there was no way I could resist David's beautiful hardcover that was a biography of Jesse Stuart. Seeing the dedication to Naomi Deane and the youthful photo on Jesse on the cover, I am looking at it longingly and with great anticipation. Is anything greater than having a special book that you want to read all ready and waiting just for you?

When I stopped at the post office in Sturgis to find out where the convention center was, I saw another person inside and I was able to guess he was there for the same purpose I was. So I did not even have to go inside. I just asked for his directions. That author turned out to be Lee Martin, whose Turning Bones flyer was given to me some years ago by Gerald's librarian sister Ernestine. I have meant to order it all these years--it is in one of the genealogy piles of paper in my office. I did get the opportunity to ask him where his Martins came from, and found out they came from Pennsylvania and not Bedford County, Tennesee, so I guess we aren't related. (Or at least it would have to be even several more generations back if some of our southern Martins did happen to come down from Pennsylvania, which is a possibility I have heard mentioned.)

One of the delights of the Western Kentucky Book Expo for me was meeting several Illinois people, who had also ventured across that Shawneetown bridge through the fog: Mary Jo Oldham Morgan and husband Larry Morgan, the librarians from Harrisburg who were wearing "I am reading Silas House" buttons advertising their book promotions going on in Harrisburg, and many others whose names I failed to remember. Larry, who shares my alma mater Anna-Jonesboro High, had once hauled anhydrous to our farm for Gerald back when he had worked for Winfred Brown, and we had numerous connections of area people and places. Mary Jo had seen my book and sent him over to look at it as she thought he would be interested, and I was so pleased to autograph it for him. (Isn't it strange how the mention of a long-ago hometown friend, such as Winfred Brown, so warms the cockles of one's heart!)

The Harrisburg group had also had Lee Martin recently as one of their featured writers. I went up to his table a couple of times, but he was so popular that I could never find him unoccupied with fans and I did not want to interupt. That is for the best, cause I might have had to buy a third book.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Cousin Douglas Martin on his way to William Jewell

Because he was invited to William Jewell College this weekend to participate in the induction of his father, Homer Martin, into the college's Athletic Hall of Fame, my cousin Doug used the trip from his home in California to come here first for a visit with his family before going onto the Kansas City area.

Uncle Homer had gone to William Jewell in the 1920s to finish his college and attend the nearby seminary to prepare for a preaching career. (It was at Leeds Baptist Church, that Uncle Homer went to work at the automobile factory and, thus, became involved in the union cause.) While at the college, he continued his hop, skip, and jump career also, and his school record of 47'4" still stands. Doug explained that though his father rarely, if ever, talked about his jumping career, he saw Uncle Homer jump the entire width of their back yard once. Doug also explained that the current triple jump replaced the old hop, skip, and jump in which the jumper stopped between each of those steps. I have always loved Daddy's story about their boyhood when the Martin boys would practice their hop, skip, and jump during the time they allowed the horses and mules to rest while they were plowing on their family farm.

After camping on the way here and stopping at Amarillo to see my sister and brother-in-law Rosemary and Phil, Doug camped at Ferne Clyffe last Friday night before coming to Woodsong on Saturday morning. He returned to his campsite that evening, but the rain and colder weather made him agreeable to occupy our waiting guest room on Sunday. So we did a lot of talking about family history, his three sons and wife Vera, books, his writing career, and religion. On Monday he returned to Ferne Clyffe to dismantle his tent since it was too wet the night before. On Wednesday our cousin Dick Stanley took him over the usual Johnson County sites that our family holds dear plus some new ones, and on Thursday Doug visited our cousins Dave and Norma Martin, and David took him down to the Cache River bottoms. On the boardwalk there looking over the swamp, he had the excitement of seeing a water moccasin within near range of his shoe. And he was proud to take a photo to be able show the California folk. Enjoying the outdoors and being pleased with a snake story to tell is definitely part of our family heritage.

Tomorrow I must get up early and drive down to spend the day at the Western Kentucky Book Expo in Sturgis, KY. I was invited to go with Lois Barrett, author of When the Earthquakes Spoke, and I am saddened to have to go by myself while Lois recovers from serious surgery. But by Christmas, we expect her to be going full force once more, and I am hoping this time off will give her an impetus to finish that sequel she is working on.

I've just enjoyed a slide show of Gerald's beautiful photos taken at South Dakota, where Gerry is to lease a pheasant hunting preserve in 2006 and then also Gerald's last weekend photos of son-in-law Brian's landscaping at their new home. When they had barely moved-in, a landscape man came to their door telling Mary Ellen how bad their lawn looked and he wanted the job of fixing it. She assured him that if he would come back in a few months, Brian would have a great looking lawn. The photos prove her confidence was well founded.

Gerald gets to go back to Lake Saint Louis this weekend to see the only pre-season fall games of Gerry's 18-and-under softball team for 2006. Last weekend he saw the second tourney of the new 14-and-under team that Geri Ann plays on. We had taken Lois and Tom down to Joelton, TN, the Saturday before that to see the team play together for the first time. By now, many of the girls are also caught up in volleyball and basketball school teams. So this is the end until the real softball season starts in the spring.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

October Glories and Memories

Pumpkins from Gerald’s garden sit on our patio interspersed with orange mums. We can enjoy them looking out the family room window. I have gotten out the “autumn box” stored away in our tornado shelter since last fall. Now our little raggedy fall doll is hanging on the front porch again saying, “Welcome.”

I wanted the farm to reflect the season because we have friends here from California for a high school reunion. Fall is my favorite season. (I say the same thing about spring. And in both seasons, I believe at the time I am telling the truth.) The changing of the seasons is one of the reasons I chose to live my adult life here in Southern Illinois in this beautiful land between the rivers. We thought that the trees would be at their most glorious when Lois and Tom came. They had planned a tour of the East by train to see the leaves of New England before arriving here.

Unfortunately, the leaves turning in the East were delayed this year. And now our coloration is just beginning instead of being at its peak.

Fortunately despite the late fall season, what we do have that the East did not are childhood memories. Growing up in Union County on a farm until her father’s much too early death brought her family into town, Lois cherishes every location, person, and event stored in her memory of her homeland. She has lived in California since 1951 and had a successful and pleasant life there. But she still reads the Anna Gazette-Democrat looking for news about those of us she left behind.

I am one of the lucky recipients of her Gazette reading. Every once in awhile I get a fat envelope full of goodies--news about Glasco or Martin family members that Lois knows I can use in family scrapbooks and family history research. I suspect I am one of the few housewives of our area who has her own personal clipping service.

Lois and I are in constant email contact--sometimes passing back and forth two or three emails a day. With her planning all the details of their elaborate autumn tour, her writing slowed down this summer. And with our daughter’s family temporarily living with us while they remodel their home, I have also slowed down on my computer time. But we still share our lives and our children’s lives with each other frequently. I thrill to her daughter’s and granddaughter’s theatrical successes, and pass them on to my theatrical grandchildren. Lois hears about their performances in Freeport and also our softball games. I knew when her daughter received her teaching certification, and she heard about my granddaughter’s start of a teaching career.

It was over 50 years ago that Lois, Lynn, and I stood in Jonesboro at the head of Cook Street and said goodbye knowing Lois was leaving the next day.. The leaves were aglow then too with beautiful colors, and I can see it all clearly in my head. Despite the lumps in our throats back then, we were young and eager for what life was going to bring us, so we did not know how sad it was. The three of us were not together again until 50 years later when we all had dinner in California one night. The leaves are starting to gleam with gold again, and when Lois and Tom leave this time, I will know how exactly how sad such farewells are.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Meeting Writers at Union County Writers Fair

The Union County Writers Group hosted a Writers Fair at Stinson Memorial Library in Anna today in cooperation with the county's Colorfest. Joanne Blakely, our president of UCWG, did a great job organizing the day, and as always it was fun to socialize with fellow writers.

It was also fun to read from my book Down on the Farm in my childhood home territory, and I was able to read the Ben H. Smith poem I'd left out of the book for fear of copyright infringement. I truly believed the poem from the Gazette-Democrat was in public domain, but a slightly different version had appeared in a 1937 Houghton-Mifflin anthology and I was a little uneasy about using the poem without permission. I thought the version in the Gazette was slightly better than the anthology version, and I enjoyed sharing it.

I partly enjoyed sharing the poem orally because I resent the way the copyright law is sometimes used by book publishers. The law interpreted in a very subjective way, and no one really knows what "fair use" is. Trying to get permission to use a few words and especially a poem is putting yourself in position to jump through numerous time-consuming hoops. If you have a deadline, the hoops become impossible. And instead of helping the author as the copyright law was intended to do, often authors are denied recognition that would benefit their works. GRRRR.

After Ben H. Smith's death in 1951, the same year I was graduated from A-J, his column "Where the Hills Slope Upward" continued for many years with reprints of his poetry plus poems and letters of local authors and former residents. I wish the Gazette would reinstate the column. It was a fine thing for Union County.

Joe Neil Steward, Anna-Joneshoro graduate and a Hollywood actor for 20 years, came up from Knoxville and served as keynote speaker. In addition to reading from his novels (he has four), he began his presentation by reading a powerful Civil War poem that spoke volumes about humanity's dilemna in wartime.

G. Brooks Kohler came up from Nashville and read us one of his stories. Although he is one of our younger members and living in a major cosmopolitan area on Music
Row as a full-time screen writer, it was interesting that he along with others who shared the mike were predominatnly writing with a rural voice.

Joanne and Linda Kall had organized a writing contest for young people, and it was indeed a pleasure to hear them read their winning selections. Linda emphasized that of the 30 entries, all were excellent. Several other young people were present also throughout the day, and some partook of the open mike.

Workshops to spur creativity were participated in by all, and I think we writers all went home glad we could attend the Fair and interact with and inspire one another. Since I don't get down to our meetings as often as I'd like, it was good to see Violet Toler, Mary Sadler, Betty Hickam,Joanne Kowaleski again as well as to meet some of the many new members UCWG has attracted--Lisa Kirby,Ron Schmenk, and a long-ago friend Barbara Steffans.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Johnston City Girls Are #1

Johnston City junior high softball team played yesterday against Carmi and won 3-0. It was a good game well played by both teams. JC got ahead in the first inning, however, and stayed there throughout the game. They were one happy group of girls when the game was over.

We had gone up to Pinckneyville at 1 p.m. to see Tara's Pinckneyville team play Carlyle. That too was a good game, but Pinckneyville lost 2-0. With such a young team winning fourth in this state tourney, I suspect Southern Illinois softball teams better watch out for Pinckneyville next year.

Tuesday we burned up at the games; yesterday we were cold. Such is the life of softball fans. I try to wear hats and use sunscreen when it is really hot, because in the back of my mind I am hearing Dr. Poulous scolding me if I don't. And the next time if I get a third skin cancer, I won't have her teriffic skill as a surgeon to patch up my face. Unfortunately for her patients, she has retired..

When we got back to Woodsong after the games, I was realizing it was a little late for my plans to make mini-meatloafs in a hurry from the ground beef I had thawed. I had cooked a large pot of green beans that Gerald had picked and broken for us. These green beans had come up volunteer after he had plowed under the last of the July beans. I was still trying to figure an alternate menu when we walked in the kitchen. There were wonderful smells there, and David was at the stove finishing up supper. He had the table all set, and fish and macroni and cheese was ready to eat with these wonderful fresh green beans. Today we had the meatloaf.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Big Sis vs Little Sis

Well, Johnston City junior high girls beat the Pinckneyville Panthers in the state semis yesterday at Pinckneyville 2-0. We were proud and happy for Geri Ann, who definitely contributed to that win. We were proud and sad for Coach Tara, who had taken a young team with no experience so far in their first year.

We stayed for the other game after ours to see who would play our teams on Thursday afternoon. Carlyle will play Tara's team for third, and Carmi will play J.City for first place. Both of those teams looked good.

After the games at the city park, we enjoyed getting to take Tara by her third grade classroom in a lovely new building with air conditioning no less. Then we got to take her to supper back at DuQuoin and see her house. Athena was glad to see her too. We were proud of her all over again.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Can you spell Bus?

Laughter ruled at the annual reunion of Baptist Student Union members from the 1940s and 1950s at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Meadow Heights Baptist Church in Collinsville hosted us last Thursday and Friday and shared their lovely facilities and a great deal of their talent with us. One highlight for me was hearing the folk song from the 30s when one singer shared "Arkey, will you tell Okie that Texas said there is a job in Californie." How haunting that song was to capture the bravery and the hope and shared helpfulness during one of the most desperate eras of our national life.

Sentimentality and some sadness were present, but with Helen Galloway, our CEO extraodinaire, leading us, continual laughter quashed other emotions. Her extemp comebacks were fast and furious, wacky and wonderful, and she kept us enjoying ourselves.

One of the stories Helen told us was one she heard when she first joined BSU. A group of BSU students had gone to Ridgecrest on a chartered bus with BSU prominently displayed. They pulled out of a filling station and the mountaineer there exclaimed that those dumb college students did not even know how to spell "bus."

We missed those who were unable to come back from last year--some because of death. Before we listened to the song Prof Quinn sang for us a year ago, it was good to get an update on Phronzie Quinn and know she has a good caretaker. We prayed for George and Leona Davis who had never missed before, but were hindered from attending because of George's illness.

This reunion was started by the 1940s group, but they started inviting us "young ones." And we are glad they did. (The Lu Steele era group had met two or three times but had ceased meeting long ago.) I even enjoyed becoming Rosie (Martin) Parks' little sister again as her and Phil's friends asked about them down in Amarillo. I started college known as Rosemary's sister, but I got some revenge when she and Phil came back on campus after his four years in the Air Force. For a brief time, she got introduced as Sue's sister.

Using "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" as her theme, Helen had assembled fascinating decorations including a wonderful vintage car outside to greet us as we entered the building. And she couldn't resist a few in-print laughs tacked on the many chenille bedspreads and housecoats paraded on the walls of the fellowship hall where we enjoyed excellent soup and sandwiches Thursday evening and a lavish feast on Friday noon before we moved into the auditorium for a final song fest and the reminiscences of Jack Shelby.

One of the reunion highlights for Gerald and me was visiting back at the motel Thursday night with Betty Bettis Cox and Carol Smith. Betty had masterminded our meeting again when Gerald came back to SIUC from service, and Carol had sung at our 1956 wedding. But the richness of their present lives was what thrilled and inspired me. I felt energized hearing what they were doing with international students and impressed by their knowledge of what is taking place in the world. It is very good to get off the farm sometimes and see and hear what other folk are doing.

Wendell Garrison, Gerald's former roommate and a groomsmen at our wedding, was there for the first time, and we enjoyed meeting his wife Mary as we also enjoyed visiting with another of Wendell's roommates Ernie Standefer and his wife Doris. And it was great having Don and Helen Ruth Dillow back in Illinois after their move to Texas. Betty and they live relatively close in that big state, and she rode up with them. Helen Ruth wanted to come not only to see us but also a 101-year-old friend up in Springfield, whom she had to leave behind when they moved. All the music at the reunion was great. I teased Helen Ruth that she didn't play the piano for worship back at Pennsylvania Avenue (where Don was our pastor) like she did when she boogied down on the Route 66 song.

When Gerald and I were quite young back in Clear Creek Association, I can remember hearing an even younger Rayford Raby play the piano. Although I never saw him after that and was not acquainted with him at that time, I had followed his career in the Illinois Baptist where I recently read of his retirement. After studying at Julliard, he had become music director at an Alton church and was there for 44 years. It was a joy to hear him play again.

Another special friend I met again at last year's reunion (the first one we attended) was Becky (Ferris) Searle from our Johnson Hall days. And Betty and Darrell Molen, and on and on--too many special people to mention. One of the recurring themes in people's remarks was that the people in that room were the people who had shaped their lives. That was true for all of us, and it was good to be together with such dear and important people from our past.

We took off after the last session to continue our trip towards Notre Dame for the weekend. I was regretting having to miss the final sermon and also the Joy Singers who were going to make an appearance at our services at Center in the village of Crab Orchard that night. Cliff and Jane Sims were headed home to stop for that service. Come to find out, they drive over from Harrisburg to participate with the Joy Singers at Marion First. As we said our farewells, this was a final example of the way members' lives have intertwined and blessed one another down through the years.

Monday, October 03, 2005

More softball, softball, softball

Both Geri Ann's Johnson City team and Tara's Pinckneyville team won their Saturday games at the state tournament for middle schoolers or junior high age. Although a sixth grader, Geri Ann got put in to pitch with bases loaded and JC went on to win. Tara is head coach at the junior high and Pinckneyville upset Murphysboro, which had been considered the top team in the tourney.

So here with go again. Tomorrow the Glasco sisters and their teams will face each other to decide who wins the state tourney in this end of the state. (I don't know who is playing for state champions in the northern end of the Illinois.) No matter who wins, the winning sister will once again shed tears for the loser just as happened last spring when Pinckneyville High School, where Tara is assistant coach, knocked Johnston City High School out of going to the state tournament. This kind of competition is difficult for grandparents.

We did not get to see Geri Ann and Tara's teams play Saturday because we were in Notre Dame seeing Erin play against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Parkway (University of Wisconsin). Three visiting teams were on campus that day for the second set of practice games, where each school played two games. Vickie had stayed in Pinckneyville to watch the other daughters' games, and Gerry came up to Notre Dame, but we kept up with the play at Pinckneyville through cell phone conversations.

Gerry, Vickie, Tara, and Geri Ann had all gone up the previous Saturday for the first set of four games. Notre Dame won all four practice games, and that will be all they play until the real season begins in the spring.

We were upset to see Erin limping from a knee injury and were grateful the coaches did not have her play the entire two games. She did catch a few innings, played first base in the second game, and was DH. She did well in all positions, but grandmother had a lump in her throat as she watched Erin walk with an iced knee after each game.

Saturday evening Gerry and Erin came to our hotel room, and we all watched the Notre Dame football game on the television set there. We enjoyed taking Erin out to eat during the weekend, and on Sunday we got to walk all over campus and see her dorm room and meet a couple of her roommates. As we had been told, the campus was very lovely. Since the football game was at Purdue, the campus was not congested.

We drove home through central Indiana, and Gerald drove the entire way. He suggested we stop at Kokomo for a root beer float as he wanted to see if he could find the house where Mary Ellen and Brian lived one year. We did find it, and Gerald got to see the wall he built at the end of their driveway so they could park their camper there.

We were back home at Woodsong by l0 p.m. tired and happy. We had left home after lunch Thursday to attend the Baptist Student Reunion at Meadow Heights Baptist Church in Collinsivlle, so it had been a long weekend. I'll have to share our reunion experiences tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Incredible Come-Back Kids from J. City

Yesterday Gerald and I hastened up to West Frankfort to see Johnston City and Carterville play to decide which team got to go to state softball tourney for the middle school/junior high age group this Saturday at Pinckneyville.

Immediately Carterville got a run in the first inning, and they stayed ahead of us throughout all their seven innings, which ended 5-3 when we went into the bottom of the seventh with Johnston City batting. Unbelievably, the JC girls got three runs and tied the score 5-5.

We went into the 8th, and Carterville got a run making the score 6-5. The fans felt disappointed, but not surprised since C'ville had been leading all along. JC did not give up. Suddenly in the bottom of the eighth, we had two players on and a girl got great hit, and the next thing we knew we had won 7-6. It took most of the JC fans a moment to process what they had just seen. The JC players went wild and most of the girls were crying and laughing at the same time.

Everyone felt terrible for Carterville as our girls and theirs are great friends from summer ball and they had played so well being ahead the entire game--until the very end.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Softball, softball, softball....

Gerry started Friday morning in Mexico, but managed to catch a plane out of Houston to Nashville, TN, where he rented a car and was home in time for Geri Ann's first game in the regional junior high girls softball tourney at West Franklfort. We arrived at the park just after Carterville had beaten Benton. The game we saw Johnston City play against Herrin was impressive. Both teams were good, and we were pleased to win 5-3 and be able to play against Carterville on Monday.

Before we left the park, granddaughter Tara, who coaches junior high softball, had called her mom to let her know that Pinckneyville had just won the regional up there by winning against Christopher. (Their region had started a day earlier, so she was playing in the championship game.) We left the park laughing at the image of Tara being dashed with a bucket of water for winning.

After a trip to the bank, showers, feeding the dogs and such, Gerry and Vickie and Geri Ann headed to meet up with Tara at Mt. Vernon, and they drove onto South Bend, where they were to see Erin play her first two practice games for Notre Dame yesterday. She was designated hitter in the first game and catcher in the second game. And Notre Dame won both games, one against Detroit Mercy and one against Wayne State.

Gerald was terribly tempted to go to Notre Dame also, but he stayed home and ended up getting all of the dirt work he's done on west side of the lake strawed thanks to our neighbor Scott. And with today's rain, he is glad it is completed. He also picked the okra, which we had for dinner today and did a number of other tasks.

Brian and Trent were down for the weekend in their camper. Now Brian is meeting Mary Ellen and Brianna to let Trent be back for school tomorrow while Brian stays down to work on their farming. Trent and Samuel got in quite a bit of play time. Something about electricity, lemons, paper clips, and something they'd found of Uncle David's came up when they re-entered the room after they had excused themselves from the Sunday dinner table to go play. I suspect they were wondering themselves how safe it was, for David immediately left the table saying, "I know what you are planning on doing, and you aren't going to do it." Ha. Gerald says it is always interesting when there are a couple of boys here--this time it was a little pile of rocks on the front porch. (Katherine explained they all came out of one of Trent's pockets--she saw him pulling them out.)

Ruby Jung and I had spent some time at Ernestine Brasher's on Thursday folding and assembling enough copies of our new Southern Illinois Writers Guild anthology to sell at the Hunting Fishing Days at John A. Logan College. Ernestine makes wonderful coffee and peach cobbler, by the way. I didn't get to stay as long as I wanted, for I needed to pick up Samuel from his school, which was nearby.

Then I spent Saturday at our Guild table at the Hunting Fishing event.And this year I not only got to sell the Guild anthologies, but I had my own book to sell. That was exciting. It was fun seeing so many people including David and Samuel and my nephew DuWayne and wife Vickie. I didn't have any former student come up this week, but one of my daddy's students did. Rita Kirby had been reading Dixie Terry's plugs for my book, and she came intending to buy one. It meant a great deal to me to get to autograph a book for one of my late father's students.

When I got home I had a phone message that I can have a book signing at Carbondale's Bookworm on November 5th and then later in the evening my friend Joyce called from Denver, Colorado. That was icing on the cake.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Priscilla of the Trail of Tears and Conference Champs

In terrible heat for two afternoons, we have watched Geri Ann and the other Johnston City girls play softball in their conference tourney. We played at Christopher Monday afternoon and the sun was almost unbearable. I guess because of the rain, yesterday's game was played at Johnston City on the home field. After a two-inning overtime with Carterville, we did win the conference championship.

We will probably play Carterville again soon in the regional tourney, which starts Friday afternoon at West Frankfort. Girls from Carterville and JC play together on a summer traveling team, so the kids are buddies and the intense rivalry is friendly.

Talking to another grandmother up at Sesser under a big shade tree, where we had both sought refuge from the blazing sun, I learned she was from the Mulkeytown area and actually related distantly to the Silkwood family. In asking her about the Priscilla legend, I learned that her children had been shown a photograph of Priscilla. I know that Chloe Davis and Ruby Henderson tried to find the photo they had heard about for their books, but they did not find it. I had wondered if one really existed. But this is testimony that the photo existed during my lifetime. Does it still exist? What a mystery.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

September Saturday in Eygpt

I was upset about having to miss Geri Ann's first tournament game yesterday morning, but as it turns out, Johnston City had a bye, so I didn't miss a game after all. I was involved with our Southern Illinois Writers Guild table at the annual Woman's Health Conference at John A. Logan College.

Because of some printing difficulties, our 2005 anthologies had not yet been folded. But Ruby Jung sacrifically folded a dozen and brought them over for our table. We sell this yearly collection of diverse local authors as a fund raiser for the Guild. Poems, plays, stories, articles--you name it. We've had them all in the four years we have accomplished this project.

Our first anthology, edited by Carol Cross, had an essay by Hualing Hu, and we had just learned at our meeting Thursday night that Hualing has sold the movie rights to her book American Goddess at the Rape of Nanking: The Courage of Minnie Vautrin. And this year Illinois will be commemorating the birthday of Minnie Vautrin. One of the joys of being a writer is being able to make people aware of information they would not otherwise have. Hualing has done that for us here in Illinois--sharing with us this heroine from Secor, Illinois, who bravely saved so many Chinese women from death.

Again it was fun seeing friends, meeting strangers, and talking up books at our signing table. Once more I had a former JALC student come and thank me for showing a special interest in her when she took an English class and exhibited special writing talent. That is a blessing of book signings that I had never imagined might take place. And it means a great deal. Most teachers are introspective enough to wonder if they did a terrible job teaching. So you will make a former teacher's day if you tell him/her if you enjoyed that class ten years ago. I felt a joy I cannot explain to know those days when I was sitting up to 2 a.m. grading essays were truly appreciated. (I liked grading essays--but did not like spending the time it took to do so.)

Anne-Marie Legan had joined me, and Deb Tucker came at noon. Lonnie Cruse was in and out as she had to do a presentation for the conference at 1:30 and then afterwards she joined the table. I had to leave at noon to gas up our car and head down rough rough Route 24 to Vienna for the Trail of Tears Association meeting at the library community room there. I had not had time for breakfast and only grabbed a hamburger at a drive-in window and ate it on the way down. So the yummy home-made refreshments served us by the local DAR was more than welcome. And that gave us plenty of incentive and the proper atmosphere to socialize and network with all the others interested in the Trail of Tears. There are small highway signs along Route 146 declaring it the Trail of Tears route, but some years ago the good metal markers near Route 57 and then at Dutch Creek disappeared. No one seems to know what happened to them. Did someone steal them? Did someone take them down and store them in a warehouse someplace? Citizens hope to see them replaced someday.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Books, birthdays, and ballgames

On Saturday I had my second book signing in the afternoon at Waldenbooks. It was great having Pam (King) Boan come out just to get my book--she had phoned earlier in the week. And it was good to see a former colleague from teaching days at Marion High School--she and her husband were walking the mall, so she stopped twice and talked a bit. I was filled with admiration for some walkers who went by my table repeatedly. I needed that exercise! And it was neat to meet a former neighbor from the other farm and her daughter and visit with them. And especailly gratifying to visit with a former JALC student. And it was wonderful to meet new people--some of whom also live on a farm--and some who did not. I had a little toy tractor placed on the table the store provided, and children liked that. For someone who likes people watching, an afternoon observing the mall traffic was an interesting experience. Some folks, for various reasons, said they would stop by this week to buy the book--but with only two copies left at day's end, they may have to wait if they don't get there first.

Gerald and I stopped by Barnes & Noble today to see if they had the two on the shelf yet that the assistant manager had told me they would order to see how it would sell. But I could not find the book there. A clerk had told me the book would be placed in the parenting/child care section back by the children's book store rather than with the Illinois books. She was very adamant that they do not have a "local author's shelf" but rather an Illinois section. Since my book is definitely about this region, it would make more sense to me to place the book there, but that particular clerk said it had to be classified as it was on the computer. HMMMM. I personally have been told by both a friend and a niece that they ordered the book and had been phoned to pick it up. I think they got their books in about a week. But I don't know what happened to the two copies I was told were ordered. Hope someone is happily reading them in this region!!

I assume Book Worm has the books they ordered by now although Gerald and I didn't have time to stop before or after he had the series of medical tests offered today at Lakeland Baptist Church. (I had my tests the other day when they were offered in Carterville--but they gave me the last time slot, so Gerald had to wait until today.) As soon as Book Worm gets their extensive remodeling done, I've been told I can have a signing there. They are very kind to local authors.

Saturday was David's birthday. I am notoriously forgetful about our three sons-in-law's birthdays with one in July, one in August, and one in September. I am usually about two weeks behind when I remember. So last year I bought three cards that said what I wanted to say to them, wrote their birthday checks, and mailed them all three at the first of the summer to make up for all the belated cards. But this year I have been back to my old bad habits, so Brian and Rick got their cards late. With David here in the house while their house remodeling is going on, I was determined not to be late with his. So the night before I put his card at his plate for breakfast. And Saturday morning I put together the cake I'd baked Friday night. I wasn't here, but Brian and Trent and Bree had dropped by (and had to fix their own lunch) and when the Cedars got home from their cabinet appointment, they and Gerald, when he got back from Geri Ann's tourney game, all had a birthday party of sorts. Of course, Sam had made his daddy cards the night before also, so David had started celebrating with Katherine and Sam when he first got up. And he continued celebrating through the next day with his family, so this year he had more than one timely celebration.

Erin's birthday was Sunday, and we all were a little sad for her to be so far away. Vickie went up and spent the weekend with her at Notre Dame, and they had a good time. I mailed her our card on Friday--so I am sure hers was belated also.

Today we stopped by friends after the Carbondale errands and visited with them until time for Geri Ann's ballgame at the diamond there at the beautiful new Tri-C elementary school. Geri Ann only got to bat once, and Molly walked her, so Geri Ann got her assigned job done. It was a good game even tho we lost. And the pitching on both sides was great.

There is a full schedule of softball games this week, so Geri Ann and her grandparents will be busy going to games.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Dog Days of Summer and Doing Dishes

It has been hot today. Gerald and I ran up to see Geri Ann's softball game, and the sun beamed down. (Of course, he had been working outside all day before we went as well.) Since Johnston City won 16 to 1, we got to quit after four innings which was good in the heat.

We came home, and I fixed spaghetti and meatballs with canned sauce and prepared meatballs from Sam's Warehouse. With a salad and cookies and canned peaches for dessert, supper did not take long to prepare for the five of us. Spaghetti clean-up is not my favorite thing, but the truth is I don't usually like any kind of kitchen clean-up.

I don't mind pitching in and helping at others' houses because we visit as we work and enjoy the time together. And I sometimes enjoy such communal clean-up times in my own kitchen. My cousin Dot called the other day from California, and we both laughingly remembered the same thing--being in our kitchen at Pondside washing dishes and talking just as hard as our Rockenmeyer genes would allow us to talk, which is pretty hard.

Another reason I would rather wash others' dishes than my own is that the dishes are different, so I am not as bored. I used to visit second-hand stores and buy a couple of new five cent dishes when my children were all at home--a pretty new dish or two helped me not mind washing dishes so much.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

At my friend Carolyn's house, she shared her recent reading and mentioned a book with a funny title about a dog in the night or some such wording. Soon after I returned home, my friend Pat said I needed to read this book with a strange title and it was in our Crab Orchard library. The book is about a child whose brain has an unnamed difference from most of us.

I mentioned it to Mary Ellen and she laughed and said she had the book and had told me about it. I knew she had when I read the book--because I remember our long discussion trying to figure out what a prime number was. I have read the book and still cannot tell you. I just finished it this afternoon.

Although no one knows what is inside another human being's brain cells, author Mark Haddon may (or may not) be fairly accurate in describing the thought processes of his fictional character--young Christopher Boone, who sets out to discover who murdered a neighbor's dog. Haddon now teaches creative writing for the Arvon Foundation and lives in Oxford, England. As a young man, he worked with (taught??) autistic individuals. My friends said Christopher was autistic or perhaps had Asperger's Syndrone, and the librarian said someone told her the book was about a savant. It is a captivating story and the adjectives on the fly leaf include: brilliant, moving, amazing, superb achievement, bleakly funny, heartbreaking, observant, clever, suspenseful." One reviewer compared him to Oliver Sacks, and Oliver Sacks called the book "very plausible."

The diversity of human life is astounding and confusing and disturbing. And rewarding. And the adujustment people make who need to adjust to such diversity is heroic. Thank you, Mark Haddon.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Visit to Pondside

Coming home from my first book signing on Saturday, I stopped at the home of Bruce and Robyn who bought Pondside Farm almost four years ago. Robyn loves to read, and I wanted them to have a copy of the book that tells of the 1960s happenings in their home.

Although they had kindly invited me over any time to see our former home, I hesitated. It has been very difficult for me to look at old photographs of Christmas at Pondside (although I love viewing the Christmas pictures we have taken since here at Woodsong). I remembered only too well being invited by Mrs. Sullivan (who took care of my mother) to see the house her grandson and wife and twins bought after Mother's death. Mrs. Sullivan was being kind, and I was interested in seeing Mother's former home with pretty new carpeting and so forth. But being in those familiar rooms was very unsettling to me and I had to fight tears. I was not sure I could bear going back "home" to Pondside.

When I stopped, Robyn insisted I come in, and again I hesitated. I had not really intended to go in. But I did, and interestingly, the changes there were so extensive (and lovely) that I had no feeling of being in our former home. Carpets were replaced with hardwood floors, and there was a fireplace added in the corner of the living room. The wall and pantry between the kitchen and dining room had been removed, and the result was spacious and in no way resembling the former kitchen/dining rooms. New cabinets made the kitchen shine. The laundry/utility room was now divided into a smaller laundry room and a sewing room. The family room was the same size--but with hardwood floors and a big pool table in the middle, I had no sense of being where I used to live. I loved the way they had made the house look inside, and I went away happily without tears or any kind of sadness. I can go back "home" in memory, but I no longer have to fear being overcome by emotion by returning to the house there.

It was fun meeting the little granddaughter, who had been born shortly after they moved in. Her mother had been the only one in their deer hunting party who got a deer that season, and the baby girl was born a few days later. I wanted to get the baby a little camouflage sleeper like I got for Samuel when he was born, and I went to every place in town I could think of to acquire one. People would say such and such a store had them--and they would be out when I got there. Finally, I gave up when the child was a year old and I had not yet found the camouflage sleeper. Now I finally got to meet her, and since her parents are living next door to Bruce and Robyn now, she is a member of our former neighborhood.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Labor Day Weekend

It has been a busy weekend in some ways but not typical as we neither had much company nor went anyplace.

Today I stayed home all day--always a rare and welcome treat. Brian had taken their camper from Wayside Farm last weekend up nearer their home so they could camp out with friends this Labor Day weekend. He brought it down this afternoon. Trent and Bree came with him, and he dropped them off to play with Samuel, which was good. By the time I got around to fixing supper, they needed to be on the road to be ready for work and school Tuesday, so they didn't stay. Since we were eating up leftovers, that was just as well. Ha.

Gerald and David and Katherine had all spotted our mother deer and twin fawns recently, so that was part of our supper conversation. Sam and I haven't gotten to see them yet.

Saturday morning I woke at 6:45 to happy young male voices floating through the house from the kitchen. David said he had set the alarm for Samuel and Josh for 6 a.m. rather than the 5:30 they preferred. Since he had to take Josh back to Marion for soccer practice at 9:00, they had to get their play in early. The night before, I had had ambitious thoughts about frying the pound of bacon in the fridge for these young adventurers, but the boys sounded quite content fending for themselves in the cereal cabinet, and I have little ambition or conscience when I first wake up. Gpa Gerald said he had heard them all the way to the end of the lane when he went down on his morning walk to pick up the newspaper at the roadside. By the time he got back to the house, the boys had great plans for his taking them on the "mule" and then on the paddle boat around the lake, and Gpa was kind enough to comply.

Saturday afternoon I had the first signing for Down on the Farm: One American Family's Dream, at the Crab Orchard Library, but I was somewhat torn as a friend's' brother was having a funeral at the same time. However, it was good to have several friends and my pastor and wife (after the funeral) show up and to get to visit with them.

It was especially good of Jane Perr to drive down from West Frankfort to buy a book. When I was working in family literacy in Franklin County, Jane was a wonderful volunteer at our Family Partnerships group. However, the thing that always impressed me most about Jane was that she did so much volunteer work anonymously for elderly friends in addition to organized volunteer work. If someone was blind and needed help feeding her cats or someone needed a ride to visit a child in prison or whatever, Jane quietly met that person's need.

In the present crisis, our very national survival may depend upon the generosity of Americans. While at the church house on Saturday morning, I happened to answer a phone call requesting supplies to be taken Tuesday to First Baptist Church in Marion, where a semi will be loaded to carry donations to Brookhaven, Mississippi. Churches there have opened their doors to over 14,000 citizens who had to leave their homes. The churches are feeding the people, but personal and medical supplies are needed, and this is something folks in Southern Illinois can help out with.

At our Sunday dinner table, David shared that a truck of food from the food pantry at Marion Second Baptist Church had already gone to another community in Mississippi. And we read in the paper where Monte Blue is collecting supplies to take to the community where Kelli had started college before the hurricane hit.

We had a good evening service at our church last night with the younger son of a new family being baptized. This brought several visitors. His previous pastor came and baptized him and spoke to us. Although the visiting preacher said it was appropriate to ask why just as Jesus did, there are times when we should not dwell on the why God allowed something to happen. His message based on Jesus' explanation (or actually lack of explanation) for tragedies in Luke 13:1-5 made it clear that we are not to presume to judge why a tragedy happens to someone else. Rather Jesus said to worry about ourself and repent. Bad things do happen to good people -- as we have all observed during this week of national tragedy.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Life is so unfair.

It is difficult to enjoy our pleasant life with all that is going on in New Orleans and the Gulf coast. As always it is the poorest of the poor who are hit the hardest by a natural tragedy. That is not to say that the richest of the rich have not suffered terrible losses also. The only difference is that the rich usually have friends with resources, so that they can get out of town, afford a good motel room, and know they will survive economically when the crisis is over. For the poor who survive, they may never recover. On the other hand, they may get a fresh start and be better off than ever before.

All over America prayers are going up for the stranded, the bereaved, the rescue workers, and for the generous people of Texas and Tallahassee, and other areas where people are sharing homes, money, food, time, and effort to alleviate the awful suffering. May God guide the American people through this time of despair where people who are still in shock from the hurricane and flooding are being asked to cope with uncivilized circumstances.

I finally got to one of Geri Ann's softball games this afternoon. The weather was hot but soon a gentle breeze made it quite comfortable. People were very aware of the crisis in our nation, and as they watched the chldren play a game and cheered them on, the conversation would revert to the Gulf coast, worries about relatives not heard from, and what they were donating to help out.

Samuel has his friend Josh out to spend the night. I was here at the computer with all the lights in the room blazing, but they were so caught up in their bionicals and play that they did not realize when they came into the kids' "art room" that I was around the corner from them. I did not realize they didn't realize until almost the end, but it was fun overhearing their unedited conversations and play.

It was also fun picking up a Marion Daily Republican and reading Dixie Terry's interview about my book Down on the Farm and then going to the Illinois Centre Mall this afternoon and seeing my book on the shelf at Waldenbooks. I knew how much effort Gina Horton and Shawna had put into getting the book ordered and into the store, so that made it extra nice. Tomorrow I will have my first book signing at the Crab Orchard Public Library in the village of Crab Orchard.

I never see our library without remembering the ten years we spent as a Reading Center affiliated with the Shawnee Library System. Volunteers would go a few hours a week and sit in the old school building (now destroyed and replaced by beautiful new facility)and freeze to death in cold weather and burn up in summer. I can remember wearing three pair of sox and climbing very slick steps to get into the Reading Center room and not a patron would show up all Saturday morning. No one had the the library habit in those beginning days. (However, Jean McCamish always encouraged us by letting us know that even if we did not have patrons some days that the school library and students all had some great benefits from the Shawnee System because of our presence in the old school building next door. That encouragment was all that kept me volunteering sometimes.) Now thanks to fantastic efforts of our director Lola Morris, the other librarians there, the volunteer board, and the taxpayers, we have a beautiful comfortable building, a constant flow of patrons, activities for preschool children, and a community that definitely has the library habit.