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.