Wednesday, December 27, 2006

T'was Two Nights After

The Christmas trees are still aglow. The Taylors are still in their camper in the driveway. There is still left-over ham and Christmas cookies and cranberry tea. However, the guitar strumming in the living room is no longer there. Our lives are no longer brightened by Cecelie's high-powered smile when she is happy and her effective glower when she is putting on her perfect pout with her expressive little face. There are no shit-zus barking when we step into our garage. Those two hopped happily in their Eiler family's van this afternoon ready to take off for the long trip upstate after their vacation in the country and their visit with their "cousin" Fifi, who is still here but not sleeping in our garage.

Presents have been unwrapped, misplaced, broken, and most taken home. Christmas cards are still arriving and being enjoyed. Cousins were still coming and going today--we've seen not just the Eiler three and the Taylor two, but also Samuel, Erin, Geri Ann, and her friend Cece today. The kids have played inside and out, messed up the "art room," and cleaned it up as their parents ordered. For lunch they enjoyed fish from the lake that friends Winnie and Jay brought for us last fall to stash in the freezer. Elijah helped me roll it in cornmeal while Geri Ann had not arrived back here from basketball practice and while Sam and Trent were still sleeping in.

Tonight the eight here enjoyed pizza that Mary Ellen and Brian carried in when Brian picked Mary Ellen up from her sister Katherine's in town. I made hot chocolate although the weather was not really appropriate for it despite the season.

Things are winding down from Christmas and winding up for the new year ahead. We are facing the fact that our younger cousins are entering the teenage stage that the older ones have passed through. I realize that next year that transition will be even further along. Although I know it is what we really want for them, a part of me is reluctant to see the change.

I still remember when I would take four of these tiny cousins to the grocery store with me during a summer visit. They were so cute together. We'd create a sensation with people smiling at us. They need a grandmother's presence less and less now, and they aren't likely to be lined up going into a store with me. That is good and the way it is supposed to be. They are still cute together--putting on skits, playing games, and having serious grown-up talks with each other. David said they watched a TV show about global warming together and are worried. And probably trying to figure out a solution. Another year will really see a big difference in their maturity level. Now the trees are still glowing and there is still some time left to enjoy 2006 and the way they are now.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Ginger Came Through the Surgery

Good news for Christmas is that Ginger came through her open-heart surgery and two by-passes. Her surgery was delayed until they brought in some needed heart product from Saint Louis, and it took a long time for the surgery to be completed for those waiting anxiously in the waiting room. The Glasco brothers and Ginger's brother tried to keep upbeat telling stories to one another, and eventually we got to see the surgeon and hear the wonderful words that Ginger was okay.

We left at that point and came back to Marion and the farm. It would be another hour or so probably before she was out of recovery, and she had a large waiting room of people there who loved her and wanted to see her. She will probably be able to go home in five days.

Since a stroke five Christmases ago took away her short-term memory, I keep wondering if there is any possibility that a Christmas miracle might take place and this surgery in some peculiar way might bring that capacity back to her. This is not something the doctors mentioned as a possibility; the surgery was just to prevent the likelihood of a heart attack. Pray with me for a miracle. Miracles happen, and this is a good season for miracles.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road

Coming home from choir practice and Bible study on Sunday night, I watched carefully for deer as I always try to do. As I topped the hill beside our farm and just before I was to turn into our lane, suddenly there was a dead skunk in the middle of the road. I only had a second to react, but I thought I managed to straddle the creature as I heard no thump. But from there on home, I could smell skunk. So I parked the car outside in the yard rather than in the garage.

The next day it was raining, and Gerald drove the car to town and put it in the garage when he got home--only to quickly decide the car was not yet ready for polite company. So back outside it went.

We did place the car in the garage yesterday. The scent is diminishing. You have to lean over pretty close to the car and sniff, but that smell is still there in a small amount.

Going back to church last night to catch a ride for our presentation of catata music at the nursing home, I worried I might have picked up a little more scent as I think the skunk smell has been spread over a wider area as people have hit and squashed the poor corpse. No one has had the courage to move it off the road. I certainly haven't.

A dead skunk in the middle of the road always reminds me of that song by the same name back in the 70s. Remember it on country music stations? Our young son Gerry and his sisters all loved to listen to W3D in those days and feel connected to the outside world. Gerry was espescially fond of all the call-ins and had a way of embarrassing his sisters--sometimes deliberately as when he persuaded little Mary Ellen to call in and request "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road." And I think his older sister was embarrassed when he would offer to sell someone else's horse and we would find outselves fielding phone calls from would-be purchasers.

I did not write on schedule last night because I wanted to call my sister Rosemary in Amarillo instead and have a sister talk and wish her a happy birthday. She said they had had the worst ice storm there in 20 years or so. However, her husband and she did get out to the grocery store yesterday afternoon as he drove her there.

This morning I wondered what to write about, and I decided I'd write about our skunk problems tonight. I thought it was kinda funny to share, and it definitely had a rural angle that I am always searching for.

However, I am not in a humorous mood tonight as we just learned this afternoon that our beloved sister-in-law Ginger Glasco is suddenly going to have to have open-heart surgery at Cape Girardeau in the morning at 8 o'clock. I've requested prayer for her, and now I must go to bed so I can get up early in the morning.

We plan to go to Cape as soon as Gerald has what should be a short check-up with his doctor in the morning. I had a check-up this afternoon, and I won't need to see the cardiologist until a year from now. That was lovely news. All I have to do is stay on my medicine and start walking 20 minutes a day--something that I have done in the past more than 20 minutes a day, but that I have gotten lax about. So I have a new year's resolution all prepared.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Cookies Take Flour

Having never tried putting the chocolate chip cookie recipe in a pan to make bar cookies, I decided to break with tradition and try that this morning. I could see that it would save time and simplify the process. What I could not understand was why when I had tried to follow the directions so explicitly the cookies just would not get done. I decided maybe they needed to cool to look right--but they still weren't done and I stuck them back in the oven and kept cooking them one or two minutes more. Finally I gave up, but they just weren't right. "Well," I told Gerald, "I will never try that again."

Driving to town this afternoon to Katherine's and thinking about my bar cookie fiasco, it finally dawned on me what was wrong. Although I had measured out the flour, I must not have added it. Sure enough when I home, I found the unused measured flour on the counter with all the cookie-making ingredients and paraphernalia I had managed to pile on to the counter.

While I do not have a pan of bar cookies, I do have some rich, crunchy, yummy crumbs that I think will make a topping extraordinaire for vanilla ice cream. With a maraschino cherry on the top, I think I've got a new winning dessert. I will put the ice cream in some of the pretty sherbert dishes I've collected from the Salvation Army store. We'll see.

Fortunately, I had also made a couple other cookie recipes, so I had cookies to contribute to the plates we take to our shut-ins when our church carols even though I didn't make the caroling this year.

I am still enjoying the after-glow of our annual women's Christmas gathering at Jo Barger's house on Monday night. The first two people I saw when I walked in were our friends Zella Cain and her daughter Donna, who had brought her. We all have prayed for Zella, who was so upset because she broke her hip right before Donna's son's wedding. Zella is back home from Rehab, and Donna and other children are temporarily staying with her. She handles a walker with great skill and is looking great.

Using ancient song sheets someone typed years ago, we sing and sing Christmas songs ranging from "Up on the House Top" and "Rudolph" to the serious carols.

Another tradition is Jo's display of the little skiers on cotton for snow and skaters on a mirror for ice. Jo has many other decorations for the season, but I look forward to seeing the skiers and skaters every year.

Of course, we all also look forward to the bountiful buffet she prepares for us with a host of various sandwiches, dips, and goodies. And, a choice of her special green punch, served in Santa Claus cups and on the other end of the laden table is hot cranberry tea. If we can't make up our minds, we have some of both.

This year Kim Barger had our devotinal, and she finished with sharing a beautiful children's book The Small One. Our group has a fondness for children's literature, and Kim's having her niece Bethany on the piano bench with her as she read made the story even more attractive.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Errands, Details, Frustrations, Perils

Life in this new century for many Americans is richer, longer, more comfortable, and healthier than anyone could imagine growing up. I read tonight that we are living over seven years longer than in 1967. Average income for women is over twice as high than in 1967. (And men are averaging over $5,000 more income.) The statistic for people 25 and older with a high school diploma has risen from 51.l5% in 1967 to 85.1%.

Going back further than 1967, people my age reminincee of their childhoods without indoor plumbing, one car per family, one phone per family, clothes made from hand-me-downs if they were fortunate enough to have a gifted seamtress for a mother. I remember the size of closets in those days. They did not have to be large. I had two new dresses each fall for school, and I think a third school dress in the closet was probably one from the year before or perhaps that a cousin may have given me. (Some of my favorite clothes were from a cousin I admired. One Sunday outfit was a wine velvet jumper with a pink satin blouse. Those luxurious fabrics still bring a smile to my face when I remember them. Ahhhh.) And, of course, there were jackets, coats, and play clothes. Play clothes were simply dresses too shabby or short for school.

I was expected to take off my school dress when I came in from school and put on play clothes for outside play. I would wear that same school dress the next day. On the third day, I would wear the second dress for two days. I am not sure when we Americans began thinking a child needed a completely new outfit every day.

Unfortunately, some mothers tell about their children using several sets of clothes in one day. My opinion on that is that those mothers need to get a life doing something more important than running a washing machine. However, how they spend their time and laundry soap is their business. Nevertheless, our standards of cleanliness are far higher than those 40 years ago, and sometimes that is a good thing.

I have said all that to say this: despite all the advances and improvements in our American life, there are still plenty of frustrations to test and strengthen our character. (Remember how we were taught that hardships builds character?)

Can you imagine our parents tolerating the constant lost phone calls as our cell phones move in and out of workable areas? How would they have handled the confusion that results when you think someone is talking to you and you turn to see yet another mall walker talking loudly and obliviously on a cell phone interrupting your quiet reverie and thought patterns?

I am on a rant because today was a typical errand day. Taking the knob (one of two) off my kitchen stove to try and replace them, I found out I have to have the model number and the store will have to order the part. Wouldn't it have been nice if the manufacturer had standard knobs for all their stoves and the store kept them on hand?

The little gadget to recharge a phone in the car had gone bad, so I next took it to replace it. At the mall where the phone walkers were--they were legion--I found out the store it originally came from was no longer at the mall. It had moved. No way was I going to walk into the new Wal-Mart to get one because I'd have to park so far away and I had no time to walk that far. I had to get onto the next errand.

I had to sign papers and take my driver's license by the bank because a bank changing its name (one of my pet peeves) had caused a delay in having the papers ready when we stopped the day before. The personnel thought I needed to bring in my social security card, and we'd spent over an hour the night before finding it, but that was not necessary after all.

I had looked unsuccessfully, but when our electricity went out in our neighborhood unexpectedly, it was still lost. Gerald entertained himself by looking through all the stuff he had rearranged from a former safety deposit box and he found not one but three social security cards of mine there. He did this with a flashlight before we finally gave up and went to bed. Fortunately the moon gave us considerable light, and sometime during the night, the electricity and heat came back on and we were able to discard the extra blanket needed earlier.

Gettng back to my errand day--after going by our daughter's, I hurried on to take advantage of the senior discount at Krogers on first Wednesdays. Everyone who has shopped on that day knows what that is like. Bumping into one another. Visiting with old friends. (I mean that two ways.) Walking from one end of the store to the other trying to find stuff and finally giving up in frustration because it is not where you thought it would be. I spent way too much time there and still came away without the powdered sugar, self-rising flour, and laundry detergent I meant to buy. Oh yeah, after I had picked up my prescription for rapid heart beat, I spent the first part of time in the store looking for bottles of flax seed supplements I've always bought there for my daughter because my sister read where the supplements help MS. But no where were they to be found, and the flax bread I like and always pick up an extra loaf for my daughter was all gone.

At the check-out counter, I was delighted when the young clerk told me I would get an even extra percentage off. I could not believe I'd get another discount in addition to my senior discount but she assured me I would. Unfortunately, when she efficiently checked to make sure I got that senior discount, evidently somehow my new credit card did not show I was a senior. I could simply take my receipt over to customer service, she explained. I am already late, I explained. So I still have that errand to do, and I need to find out how to make the new card reflect that I am a senior. But then I also have to go back to town get the recharging gadget also.

Wanna know why I needed new stove knobs? On the afternoon before Thanksgiving, I efficiently decided to saute my onions and celery. I would have them in the fridge all ready to put in the dressing the next day. I needed to get the dressing on early because the big pan I make needs a couple of hours to bake. (I haven't stuffed a turkey since my early marriage days before the food experts start cautioning of the dangers in that.)

Putting the butter in the large skillet to melt, I decided to put on the tablecloth in the dining room. But it was wrinkled, so I rushed to the drier in the garage and threw in the cloth and a cup of water knowing it would be wrinkle free soon.

At that point, I saw the garden tomatoes I'd wrapped to save for Thanksgiving and realized while I had on my work clothes, I should unwrap some throwing away any rotten ones. That way on the holiday I could hand a nice clean bowl of them for someone to slice. (Granddaughter Leslie got that job the next day.)

Proudly taking in my bowl of tomatoes, which have been better flavored than the ones during the dry spell last summer, I saw the butter now in the form of flames shooting up to the mircrowave above the kitchen range. I must have laid down the tomatoes, but I do not remember that. I turned off the burner, covered the skillet with the large glass top hoping it would not explode, and it did not.

Because I had had to start that day early and spend that morning at the hospital taking an echocardiogram and stress test, both of which I passed, I was extremely organized for the next day's dinner. I had expected a fairly restful afternoon and evening. I had not expected to spend an hour or more cleaning up the black smoke and mess I made. I worked hard and fast getting the smoke out of the kitchen and the black soot removed. My hope was to serve Gerald his supper without his noticing my little absent-minded mistake.

Why? Well, I truly did not want to ruin his holiday knowing I had made another job for him to do. He has been busy correcting problems from a lightning surge last summer, redoing his office, getting photographs made for Christmas, and other projects. He does not need another job. (I haven't done anything but play telephone tag yet with the bi-county health person I hope to check out the microwave door as I am afraid to use it until I know it is not going to give out dangerous emissions.) If we have to replace it, of course, Gerald will be involved. I won't have a clue. (I am not sure if this is learned helplessness or true ineptitude, but I am not very good at a great many things.)

I really did not want to tell him about this fire just before we were all set to have a lovely family holiday and make him fret like I was doing. Of course, the main reason may have been that when I have scorched pans two or three times recently because I was distracted and wasn't paying attention to my cooking, his calm, kind, and exact words were, "Sue, you are going to burn the house down if you are not more careful." My pride kept me from wanting to reward him so quickly for his ability to prophesy.

Believe it or not, he did not notice when he came up for the bite of supper I'd prepared for us. (And he is the observant one in the family. But he just doesn't pay much attention to stoves, and somehow he did not see the blackened underside of the microwave. I think he has just gotten use to the smell of smoke when I cook.)

When it was time to reheat stuff for our gang for supper on Thanksgiving night, suddenly I had no microwave in the kitchen to do it in, and my dirty little secret became public knowledge. Ah well. I have always hoped my lack of housekeeping skills made other women feel better about themselves. Maybe my absent mindedness will make some of you reading my blog know you aren't as distractible as some people!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Christmas Season Is On Its Way

Tuesday was a special day since Union County Writers Group met at the new Country Cupboard (previously called The Potato Barn) and shared our writings with one another: poetry, short stories, excerpts from books, and one beautiful hand-made book that somehow never was passed to me. I know it was beautiful because the original poetry read from the book was beautiful, and anything that Kathy Cotton creates will be beautiful.

Lois Barrett, Pat Evans, and I went together, so we had extra time to visit with one another. Acquiring copies of Pat's new children's poetry book for Christmas gifts for grandkids was a bonus. Violet Toler has just started Wayside Publishing and Pat's book was one of her first efforts. It is a truly well-designed good looking book. Check out Violet's Wayside Publishing website.

Carole Kinder Watkins had just written last week from California about how good the salads and desserts were at Country Cupboard and this week she wrote about how lovely all the gifts, accessories, and consignment antiques were. I saw one large trunk that really caught my eye. I want to go back soon.

I haven't had time to really enjoy Pat's poems yet. In fact, the books are still in the car. Yesterday afternoon I helped Shirley Butler decorate a bit in our church auditorium. Our work was greatly reduced by Butch putting up the tree and some of the most difficult greenery for us. (I think Shirley's story of our struggling to figure out how to put together that old-fashioned artificial tree last year must have touched Butch's heart strings. We certainly appreciated his efforts.) We are also busy encouraging anyone who wants their children in the Christmas program to bring them to Sunday morning services where Kim Barger and our youth group will incorporate the kids into our program for parents and the public.

Since I did not get the persimmon pudding made for Thanksgiving, I made one today; and I just now put it in the downstairs freezer to await Christmas day. I also cooked the pumpkin from off the front porch today, and I intend to get pies baked and frozen for Christmas before too long.

Gerald gave me two really neat serving trays for my birthday last Thursday. They hold photographs under glass. He had one of them all ready and left the other one for me to choose which photos to place in it. So I have had fun looking at photos of grandkids and special places and seeing what would fit where in the tray.

On top of that, I have been going through addresses of our family and friends and getting them corrected so that Gerald can print them on the envelopes for Christmas greetings. I did this myself a couple of years, but then that computer crashed and I never learned how to do it again. He had figured that all out last summer when he sent out letters about our reunion for Baptist Student Union members at SIUC during the 40s, 50s, and 60s.

Mary Ellen called early this morning from Lake Saint Louis. She was driving in ice and couldn't even get up their steep driveway. She was going to have to go get her kids from school even though she had just delivered them to school not too long before. I really thought the ice would be here by now, but so far it hasn't reached us.

We managed to get to Geri Ann's basketball game at Washington School on Monday night but haven't made the last two games. As our dear late friend Rhoda Cline used to say, "It's a busy world."

And we all know it will soon be even busier with Christmas just around the corner. We want to do for one another and make the season bright for our loved ones. We may need to think about the O'Henry story and how overdoing backfired. We may need to do less and give ourselves and our loved ones more leisure time.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanking God for Family and Blessings

Among our many blessings this year was being able to see the Eiler family so soon after last weekend. We had seen them less than usual this year because of various conflicts, so it was very satisfying to have them come in before midnight Wednesday for the Thanksgiving holiday, which also happened to be my 73rd birthday.

Having a baby in the family was another great blessing this year. It had been seven years since Cecelie was a baby, so we are really enjoying our first great grandchild Aidan, who is an extremely pleasant and calm baby--ready to join in and interact with all his relatives and willing to go smiling to any of us.

I had a clean sheet on Mary Ellen’s baby bed in a downstairs bedroom ready for him if he needed a nap. Over nine years ago, Gerald and I drove a pickup to Three Rivers, MI, and picked up this bed and a truckload of other baby things Mary Ellen was passing onto the Cedars for baby Samuel. When Samuel outgrew the baby bed, somehow it ended up at Pondside, so Cecelie used it when they visited there. Here at Woodsong, it has often been filled with a visitor’s luggage, coats, or other items, but no baby.

Aidan refused to stay asleep downstairs long enough to be laid anywhere, but when the family moved up to the dining room/kitchen for our Thanksgiving dinner, Aidan was asleep in his mother’s arms. In the living room, he was laid in my daddy’s little antique crib that so many of our babies have slept in down through the years, and that pleased me.

It also pleased me when he woke up in time to join the other 15 family members before the end of dinner--even though Tara had a difficult time discouraging Grandpa Gerry from feeding Aidan sweets. With pies and banana pudding and Geri Ann’s adorable turkey cupcakes, there were plenty of sweets to choose from. Tara is conscientious in refraining from feeding Aidan unhealthy food. It was wonderful to have Gerry safely home from Mexico and keeping us laughing with his stories and adventures.

Even though the Cedars only live in Marion, it had been awhile since Katherine was able to make the trip out, so her presence was especially welcome. She was able to lie down for an afternoon rest. Samuel had to stay all night to play with his cousins. If not for Aidan at their house, I am sure Geri Ann would have wanted to come back here too after their second feast at Grandma Shirley’s house down the road from us. I hope Tara was able to keep Grandpa Gerry from mis-feeding her healthy baby boy at the next family dinner. If he ever gets a taste of his great great Grandma Borum's chocolate pie, he will have a confirmed sweet tooth for life.

We missed Erin this year as she was visiting a softball friend in California. Davie was having Thanksgiving dinner with a new friend in Seattle, WA, where he is in school. Mary Ellen’s family was in Florida visiting Brian’s mother who has semi-retired there and hosting this year's annual family Thanksgiving get-together. We had prayed for traveling mercies for all the family, and we thanked God for their safe arrival at various destinations.

Leslie’s holiday trip was made fabulous today when her parents took her guitar shopping at the area music stores. Grandpa Gerald went along while I stayed with the three grandkids sleeping in and playing as hard as they could play here at Woodsong. Elijah made him and Samuel scrambled eggs to go with the bacon I’d prepared, and I was able to keep Cecelie from eating pudding until after lunch.

The shoppers had ended up at Mayberrys in Jonesboro and found the Taylor guitar Leslie wanted. Her dad decided now was also the time for her to get the amplifier she needed. She has been borrowing equipment and saving money from her gigs to buy equipment. Now she is prepared for the four-hour gig she has accepted at Happy Joe’s on New Year’s Eve. We were treated at our late afternoon lunch with hearing her play the new guitar. Nine helped eat up some of yesterday’s leftovers. Cecelie got her pudding, and G’ma sent some in plastic cups for a snack on the trip home.

As always, it was sad to see the last van head out the lane--this year with licensed Leslie at the wheel. After the hugs and goodbye waves, I went back inside to put dishes in the dishwasher. Now we pray for their safe arrival and for everyone else’s safe arrival back at their own homes.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Rainy Weather and Sad Times

A Southern Illinois native who now lives in California emailed a group of us, who call ourselves Union County Friends, that she had been back here researching family history in the Jonesboro court house and seeing cousins. She was glad to get back to sunny California. The last couple of weeks of chilly, rainy weather have certainly not shown visitors the best of our autumn weather. I was grateful it quit raining tonight when I drove over to Southern Illinois Writers Guild at Carterville. It was raining last month as I drove to Guild, and I thought it was going to continue this morning's rain into the evening.

At Aldi's yesterday standing in the checkout line, the lady in back of me complimented the woman behind her on her great hat. The hat lady looked really sharp in black blouse and slacks with a great black felt hat with feather band. She thanked the first woman for the compliment saying it had cheered her up because it was her third compliment on the hat--which she told us had been bought 20 years ago even though it looked brand new. She was trying not to be depressed with all the rainy weather--and so she dressed up. We all appreciated her efforts. And one stranger complimenting another stranger brought us all a time of warmth and togetherness despite the weather outside.

Tonight at Guild was a reading circle night, which we usually have four times a year. Anyone who wants to can read a brief selection. As always, there was diversity and great talent as people shared. Perhaps tonight was more intense than usual as one woman shared the tragic story of her daughter and son-in-law's death in a fire, another woman wrote of the horrors of her son being beaten beyond recognition, and then a young college woman shared a poem about her father's death. There is so much sadness and horror in life, some of which is unimaginable as one member expressed it. Yet it seems to help to share our sorrows with one another. And certainly it causes us to realize anew how much our friends, acquaintances, and the strangers we pass on the street may have suffered and survived. We need to be as kind to one another as we can, for we never know how much the other person may need a smile or a hug.

Channel 3's Bonnie Wheeler came in at the close of our meeting just as she had promised us Saturday when she stopped by the Guild table at AutumnFest to solicit books for one of our area's favorite charities. Tonight she graciously picked up the books that members donated to be put into one of the pretty cellophane wrapped baskets for this Saturday night's event to raise money for the Glen Poshard Foundation for Abused Children.

Once again we are reminded of the sadness and violence that completely envelops many of our region's children. The meth epidemic has increased child abuse and neglect. As much as we want smoke-free work places for everyone, even more we need children to have homes free of the chemicals used to make that dangerous high. As Arthur Miller told us in All My Sons, the children belong to all of us. We need to look around us and be aware of the children that need help. If you have some extra time and/or money, ask a school teacher or a pastor to tell you of a child you can help.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Reading, Reminiscing, and Running to Doctors

Suffering my second serious cold this fall and running to numerous medical/dental appointments for family members and myself this past two months, I welcome distractions.

Gerald has kept us distracted with his photography hobby as he is digging into photo albums and making copies of old photos and sharing them with brothers and cousins. We cannot keep from doing considerable reminiscing as he finds yet another special person and special moment of the past.

Reading has always been one of the most pleasant distractions I can find, and I have done more than I should reading from the many books I’ve not been able to resist acquiring at the autumn book fairs that I have been a part of. I would always rather read the book of someone I know than that of a stranger although I enjoy strangers’ books also. I like thinking about the author and his/her view on the book’s topic.

At Sturgis, Kentucky, I saw the beautiful cover of Cumberland and knew I was probably going to buy it. The title instantly brought remembrances of our dear friend Chester Young and his admonition to us while visiting him and Tossie on our wedding trip that everyone ought to see the Cumberland Falls. And so, of course, we did. They were home on furlough from a mission church in Hawaii and we visited them in Tossie’s eastern Kentucky home in Jellico in 1956.

Tossie’s dad and mother had run a grocery store in town, and they still had dinnerware that had been given away to shoppers. We were given a complete set of the white dinnerware with a lovely pink tulip in the middle. There was a touch of brown. I cherished the dishes, which are all used up now. I placed them on a brown tablecloth with the large pink napkins I had bought in downtown Chicago during our engagement. This made a lovely table including the times I gathered pink smart weed from our rural roadside for the floral arrangement in the center.

Later the Youngs returned permanently to the states, and he taught history for many years at Williamsburg. An author and a minister, he was able to finish his third book with Tossie’s help before his illness stopped his writing career and eventually his life.

The setting for this novel was also the area of Kentucky where our granddaughter Leslie and her youth group has participated in teaching Vacation Bible Schools. Leslie has been enthralled with Eastern Kentucky because of those experiences.

I do not read much fiction, and I like it best when I am really reading more for the nonfiction elements than the story. I realized as I read Charles L. Roe’s historical novel this week that I probably had never read a fictional nor a nonfiction book about World War I. My knowledge of that war, which my Uncle Henry Rockenmeyer served in, was probably limited to a chapter assigned long ago perhaps in a history class. (And if I did not do my homework that day, I may not have even read a chapter on the war.) Roe had impressive ability to keep me interested and wanting to know what happened next whether I was in the Kentucky mountains or the war fields of Europe.

I was interested in his heroine Lily and her Melungeon ancestry. I had never heard of Melungeons until a very few years ago when a friend and her sister doing family history told me about them. They were giggling over a staid uncle they thought might be amazed by their discovery. Since my friend is one of the fairest blondes I have ever known, I found it hard to think this was her ancestry, but she was proudly claiming it was, and I could not doubt her. Roe‘s take on this special mysterious medley of humanity in the Appalachians was that the earliest were descendants of the Portuguese and Spanish who came to our coasts in the early 1500s and likely intermarried with the Cherokee. Lily’s mother was Rose-of-Sharon, whose mother named her after finding that reference in Song of Solomon to the comely black beauty. Continuing that tradition, Rose-of-Sharon named her daughter the second lovely descriptive title “Lily of the Valley” but shortened it to Lily to please the family.

The brief mention of Old Christmas in the novel again reminded me of Chester Young, who first taught me about Old Christmas and, thus, caused me to greater enjoy Jesse Stuart’s writing on Old Christmas.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Hills Were Alive With the Sound of Wind and Color

The hills are lovely with muted yellows and oranges right now with an occasional treat of bright red. Gerald has been watching for a day when he thought the color might be at its height, and that day came later than usual this year. Nor are the colors quite as bright as some years, but nature has a way of compensating with a softness of color that is just as delightful as brighter versions of autumn.

Gerald decided Monday was the day for a fall outing, so with friends Mickey and Bill Tweedy, we headed for the hills. We had met at Marion, and I had already been by Katherine’s, where we enjoyed taking Lucy, the Golden Doodle, outside where the sun was bright on the trees and the weather spectacular. By the time we met up to leave, however, the sun was overcast and the wind getting stronger.

At the Garden of the Gods, I felt like I was going to be blown off the top of the high rocks by the winds, but the temperature was great for hiking and the scenery breathtaking. A special treat for me was having someone say, “Sue.” Looking up I saw Jack and Martha Davis, whom I may not have seen since Mother’s funeral in 1989. We had a wonderful visit while Gerald and the Tweedys went ahead. Hearing Jack and Martha’s wonderful stories about my parents was an extreme bonus to an already glorious day.

After oohing and aahing all the way to the Ohio River, we ended up at Elizabethtown for a 2 o’clock lunch on the small floating restaurant there. We had wanted to do this ever since we had high recommendations for their fish when we celebrated our anniversary at the Rose Hotel last June. The walkway over the water swayed, and at one point was slightly damp as we headed in.

When we sat down inside at perhaps the only free table, we could see people were enjoying their fish, but I wondered if the swaying motion of the river would make me seasick. It didn’t, and I actually enjoyed the sensation of movement as we watched the river out the window.

We had a choice of pond fish or river fish, and we all chose the river fish. And it was as good as the recommendations. Fortunately, we did not order the all-you-can-eat, because the smaller portions were almost more than we could eat. (I loved it that I was given a small earth-friendly waxed paper sack for my two pieces of leftover fish and not some huge foam container.)

Bill and Mickey were enthused about bringing guests there, and our friendly waitress gave us a business card but urged us to phone before coming back as the river was rising. She said they might be shut down for a day or two, so to phone to be sure they were open. We found out the river taxi was closed for the season, so that is an adventure to look forward to next summer. An appointment back home kept us from visiting the gift shop at the Rose Hotel, but Bill and Mickey want to come back to it also.

Yesterday Gerald took another Angel Flight with his friend Herman Hood going to Georgia and bringing up a woman and her son with muscular dystrophy to a Saint Louis doctor. I figured he’d be late coming home, but he was there when I returned before five. I had run to town and then to the Crab Orchard Library looking for George Edwin Parks’ books trying to find his essay on the 109th Infantry that mustered in at Anna and for the most part was all Union County volunteers. My great grandfather and his friend were from Johnson County, however, and there was one group from Pulaski where the officers stayed loyal to the Union. I had seen the Parks books at the Marion Library and gone there last week only to find they had passed them on to another library. Lola Morris has a good collection of local history in our Crab Orchard Library, so I was hoping she might have the Parks books, but I was out of luck. I came home to find Springhouse in the day’s mail and spent most of the evening enjoying it.

This afternoon Gerald needed to take his new laptop over to Carbondale to find out why he was already getting blue screens, so I tagged along and walked over to Barnes and Noble. Gary and Judy DeNeal were entering the store as I was. I was able to tell them I'd enjoyed the new Springhouse, and Gary said they been down towards Makanda and saw the name Glasco on a mailbox there and were we related. I assured him that almost every Glasco in the area (not quite but almost) descended from our great grandfather, who reared nine of his fifteen children by three wives in Union County. We were able to get gas cheaper there at the Carbondale Kroger’s, and found we had the big discount available on our card.

We missed Geri Ann’s first middle school basketball game down at Anna, so we conscientiously drove on to Johnston City after a quick supper stop in order to get there by six for her game. It was fun sitting by Jim and Jean Smiley, but Gma Jean and I were in pain watching Allison play with the ankle that had turned over at the Anna game. The ankle finally forced her out, but before it did, we saw lots of good ball handling and a good little actress bravely pretending her ankle wasn’t hurting.

We couldn’t stay for the varsity game, as we wanted to run by Kroger’s for the 10 percent discount for seniors on the first Wednesday of the month. I got my Thanksgiving turkey and enough other groceries ahead to give us another nice discount at the gas pump. Gerald used that time to read the directions for calibrating the direction signal that was wacky on our car.

After he came in and helped me get the groceries in the trunk, we went to a completely empty corner of the parking lot, which was the perfect place to follow those directions. We had to drive in circles until something on the dash said that the calibration was complete. We drove home on Route 13 going east with a nice red “E” instead of a “W” that we had been getting.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Falling Into the Fall Activities

Gerald ran over to Brian and Mary Ellen’s 100 acres on down the road from us yesterday and found their persimmon trees ready to gather after the heavy frosts we have had. Wildlife had found them also, but he was able to cover a goodly portion his bucket. He hulled them and I washed them and put them in the freezer today. It has been a few years since I’ve had persimmons to make the persimmon pudding that Gerald’s mother taught me to make with her pioneer grandmother’s method. So it looks like we’ll have pudding for Thanksgiving.

At the grocery store today, there was a huge supply of frozen turkeys already. I guess I might as well go ahead and choose one. Last year I could only get a fresh one, which I had never done before. It made me nervous because I did not know how long they had been in the store. I think I prefer the frozen ones although I do hate to thaw them. I especially hate wrestling that piece of metal hooked into the flesh. Plastic hooks are sometimes replacing the metal now, and that is a little easier.

My mother enjoyed the story of one of her fellow teachers about a Thanksgiving turkey. She had anticipated the holiday dinner prepared by her daughter-in-law when she and her husband traveled to northern Illinois where their son was in med school. Mother asked her for a report on the visit, and her colleague laughingly told about arriving Thanksgiving morning. Her daughter-in-law said she had everything ready for the noon meal--except the turkey. She handed her a frozen turkey with the explanation that she would let her prepare the turkey since she had not cooked one before.

Going thru the drive-in yesterday, I was having the girl ask me, "What do you want?" at the same time a call came from Gerry on top of a mountain in the Yucatan saying, "What's you doing?" He was telling me how to spell the mountain to look it up on the Internet while the girl at the next window was asking me for my money. I did not get the spelling. By the time I picked up the two hamburgers for me and Katherine, he had to hang up. But it was a fun call as he was so excited about the archeological discoveries he was seeing on a tour up there. He was finding tourist things for some wives coming with their hunter husbands in a couple of weeks. He is excited about this new duck-hunting venture in a different part of Mexico where the skies are black with ducks above the rice fields. The rice farmers are very glad for him to be there.

I am anticipating the Western Kentucky Book Expo at Sturgis this Saturday. It is by far larger than any of our local book fairs. Unfortunately, that day is also my 55th high school reunion and a Southern Force tournament in St. Louis. Our oldest granddaughter and family will be coming to coach, and our only great grandchild will be there. Actually, he may be in a motel room with his Gma Vickie if it is not pretty weather. Part of the gang will be staying at Mary Ellen and Brian’s, and Gerald may be with grandkids in their camper at a nearby park. Gerry and I will be wishing that we were there. People suspect he may be. Ha. Ha. We’ll see if he can resist seeing Aidan.

Gerald and I got our flu shots yesterday. Do you have yours?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Preparing for Winter and Pondering the Past

The green tomatoes got wrapped and the hummingbird feeders taken down and put in the garage tub to be sterilized and stored for next summer. Gerald had brought in a small bucket of the last of the okra yesterday, and I microwaved some for our lunch, put some in the fridge, and put some in the freezer. Our good neighbors Jay and Winnie Payne brought us a bucket of cleaned fish last night, so I fixed some for our lunch and froze the rest. Gerald ran by Vickie's and found Erin could not resist coming home during fall break after all. I hope I get to see her.

Today I worked revamping an essay that has been revamped many times on my great grandfather William Felix Grundy Martin. Down through the years, we have discovered new information, and so the essay gets longer and longer. I last revised it in 1999 and gave it to our four children as a Christmas present that year.

WFGM's mother was Hannah Alice McCullough Martin Nichols, whom my children called the "Little Apple Doll Lady" because her photograph taken with William Felix's family group looks like the little apple doll heads sometimes sold at craft fairs. Come to find out, my distant cousin in Centralia was calling her the same thing.

Despite all the new information, there is much we do not know about WFGM's life. He enlisted in the 109th Infantry to fight for the Union. This was the regiment that was issued inferior guns and was detached and left at Lumpkin's Mill because the guns were deemed unfit for use in battle. By April of 1863, the regiment was disbanded after losing 237 by desertion and some of the officers having proved incompetent. Like the others in the 109th, WFGM was transferred to and discharged from the 11th Illinois Infantry.

The service record for WFGM says he also deserted and yet it says he was paroled as a prisoner of war near Vicksburg on December 14, 1862, 16 days after listing as deserting, and other dates given in his record are at variance with one another. I get angry every time I read his service record because I do not think he deserted in the normal sense of the word desertion--if at all. I understand there was much Southern sympathy in the l09th, but WFGM was a strong supporter of the Union. He and his three brothers were part of the nine Martin cousins who enlisted with the Union despite their love for their Tennesee relatives. I am grateful WFGM was not one of the 92 enlisted men in the 109th who died of disease although he was very ill at times. I know how much his wife Louisa Jane was missing him as she cared for my grandfather William Henry, who was born three days after WFGM mustered in at Camp Anna. WFGM's younger brother and two of his cousins were among the 34,000 Illinois men who died in the Civil War.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Autumn Rains

Before we left for the weekend at Notre Dame, Gerald had picked the few ripe tomatoes in the garden and half a tub full of green ones. I still need to wrap them in newspaper although I see they are ripening quite well in the tub. I rescued Cecelie's soft fluffy aqua bear and little black-eyed raccoon from the patio, and they are sitting on the fireplace ledge in the family room awaiting her next visit. Good thing I did too because we have had constant rain since we got home at midnight Sunday. Last night the winds howled and over two inches more drenched us.

It was good news to hear from Gerry that rains also came and filled his ponds for the ducks at his hunting lodge in northern Mexico. He will be taking off for the new lodge in the Yucatan soon, and the pheasant-hunting lodge in South Dakota is shutting down soon.

The Archibalds were busy this weekend taking Aidan to the pumpkin patch, and then Tara was coaching Southern Force in the Chicago area. Bryan kept Aidan home out of the cold. We felt so sorry for the players in ND because the cold creates painful havoc on chilled fingers. They had the same trouble in Chicago and one player received a broken finger.

Brian was down and moved the Taylors' camper home. We will miss seeing it and thinking of them when we go by the farm on the Pittsburg road.

It was fun meeting other parents and grandparents at ND including the Bargars from California, where Erin is planning to go for Thanksgiving break. We are going to miss her bad at Woodsong. Actually, ND is on a fall break right now, but Erin could not come home. She is hoping to get in lots of her student teaching at a local school this week while her schedule is free.

Davie is studying photography in Seattle, Washington, and we miss him too. The family is scattered here and yon with everyone working hard at their various studies and occupations. That is a good thing, but I miss everyone. It feels like it has been forever since we managed a trip to Freeport, so I am really excited about plans to go see Leslie in Pajama Game in November.

I missed writing in "Woodsong Notes" last week, so I decided to write a day early this week. Maybe I will even get back on my Wednesday deadline tomorrow--if not, then next week.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Crops Are In!!

What a great feeling when a farm family can say, "The crops are in." Our son-in-law Brian Taylor and friends worked Monday through Thursday on harvest, and all the corn and beans are safely out of the field. It is so scary to have a crop standing tall and beautiful and then to watch the radar screen telling you that rain, wind, and hail are headed towards your area. We have been very blessed with a good crop that is all gathered so early in October.

I can remember Gerald struggling to get our crops in by Thanksgiving--and one horrible year when he did not finish until Washington's birthday. Of course, he was doing it all himself with his own combine. And there were years when the combine had to have tracks to get through the muddy fields. The bad years make the good years even more appreciated.

Yesterday also ended the middle schools' baseball and softball seasons with the state tourneys for both in the lower half of Illinois at the Pinckneyville fields. I did not get to go to the Tuesday game when Carterville beat us. That linded us in the semifinals yesterday against O'Fallon. With a score of 5 to 2, we won third after nine innings. Cartervlle triumphed for first place over Marion, who won second.

Sunday morning I awoke with my first head cold of the season, but I felt fine on Sunday and Monday. Just a little runny nose. I have this theory that by my age I have already had all the various viruses and so I won't have many colds--and if I do, they won't be serious. By Tuesday, however, after I had taken Katherine to get stiches out and hear the good news about the biopsies, I was feeling tired out and miserable with runny eyes and nose. I went home as quick as possible.

My misery has continued through today although I did not cough as much last night and I could tell when I woke up that I am going into the final stage of this cold. I sat in the car yesterday to watch the game to keep out of the chilly air. Later I was to learn that Geri Ann had been ill throughout the game, but played anyway. She and her teammates are definitely tougher than I am. I cannot imagine having the courage to slide with bare legs in dirt filled with gravel. They do not hesitate. Our younger generation is quite impressive with their work ethic and physical strength.

She and her family are already in Indianapolis tonight for a weekend softball tourney with Southern Force. Tara and family will be meeting them there as she is coaching the 14 and under girls, while her dad coaches the 16 and under team.

I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Eilers from Freeport. They usually arrive in the middle of the night. It is a long way down here. With the Columbus Day holiday on Monday, Jeannie and Leslie will be going over to the SIUC open house that day. Tomorrow they will go down to Belmont College in Nashville, TN. Elijah and Cecelie will stay here, and on Sunday we will celebrate Jeannie's birthday one week late. I am homesick to see all of them--especially Lige since he did not get to come the last time the others did.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Rocking Aidan and Enjoying Harvest Time

After a busy two days attending our BSU convention, I was tired. An email announcing that our first Union County Writers Group anthology was available Friday night for pickup at a reception at Bethany Village at Anna would have been ignored--except for a kind invitation from Lois Barrett to ride down with her.

I knew I was too tired to write that night, and if I tried to read or watch TV, I'd fall asleep, so I accepted Lois' invitation. I was so glad I did. The beautful book edited by Kathy Cotton featured her cover design as well as some of her writings. The fall colors of the cover of Harvest of Words was repeated on the lovely refreshment table. There was even a cake decorated to match the anthology cover, and Betty Hickam brought a million-dollar pie she'd learned about on a recent Ophrah show. The anthology means much more to me now that I have met many of the other authors, and it was so much fun getting their autographs on my copy. The only thing left wanting for me was Pat Evans' and Violet Toler's presence. I can get their autographs later, but I knew they would have liked to be there and I would have liked to see them. Of course visiting with Lois going down and coming back to the farm was enjoyable as always.

The next morning I woke up and decided to take another hour's rest knowing Gerald would wake me in time for us to go to the state tourney game at Pinckneyville at l0:30. Imagine my shock when Gerald came into the bedroom after 9 o'clock and said, "We have five minutes to get ready to leave for Pinckneyville!" He had gotten caught up in his photography hobby downstairs and let time slip away. I think I made the deadline and assumed I'd skip breakfast, but Gerald had my bagle toasted and sprayed with margerine and a large covered container of coffee all ready for me as I dressed. Then we caught up with Mary Ellen by phone and she was taking Trent to be with Samuel for some free item David was going to take them to get from Toys R Us. Gerald and I crawled in with Mary Ellen and Brianna and took all the shortcuts that Gerald has learned about from years of going to the Pinckneyville ball fields. We were late, and only saw the third of Geri Ann's three hits, but it was a good game that ended right.

One of our big reasons to hurry there was our eagerness to see our four-month old great grandson, whom we had not seen since he was nine weeks old. Bryan had brought Tara and Aidan down, so Tara could see Geri Ann play as well as her Pinckneyville team, which she coached last year. He favored us all with smiles and let his great aunt Mary Ellen give him his bottle. (Mary Ellen likes Aidan, she says, cause he made her "great.") Then though he is not much on rocking, when he got sleepy, he let Great Grandma Sue rock him to sleep in her canvas lawn chair. To hold a great grandson is indeed one of life's greatest blessings.

After eating Chinese on the square and then back to the ball park for more Aidan watching, we eventually went back to Marion to pick up our car and a few groceries and head to the farm. Later that evening the Taylors came out with Samuel along and we got our belongings straightened out and to the right person.

On Sunday Katherine and David and Sam and the Taylors came for noon dinner--again increased by Mary Ellen's green bean casserole and dressing from their family's supper the night before. The kids were more interested in playing than eating, which reminded me of our kids and their cousins a generation back. We enjoyed the afternoon before everyone had to go their separate ways.

Gerry and Vickie had gotten up at 3 a.m. to go to Notre Dame and see Erin play in a practice game there, so the Archibalds were going to meet up with the Johnson and Borum relatives for their Sunday dinner. They needed to see Aidan too, of course. Tara and Bryan were assigned the privilege of taking Geri Ann and friend to a PomPom picture or practice or something so there was no chance for Aidan to stop by the farm even though Grandma Shirley lives down the road and around a curve or so from us. (But Gerald and I both got to go by Gerry and Vickie's house today and get a fresh report from their visit with Erin and I got to feed Aidan his bottle. Bryan had to return to Aurora last night because of work, but Tara stayed over to see tomorrow's game and will then take the train from DuQuoin back home to Aurora.)

I ended Sunday with a prayer walk with fellow church members praying for our school, our teachers, and our young people.

Monday, September 25, 2006

More softball after dentist, dermatologist, doctor

Gerald and I barely made it to Benton this evening to see the last inning of the regional championship game for middle school girls playing softball. The game had been rained out on Saturday. The scoreboard said 1-0 when we arrived, and it was a relief to ask a parent fan and find Johnston City had the run.

We had debated whether we should go or not since Gerald got out of the doctor's office later than expected for a quick follow-up. But when you have sat through two-hour games followed by extra innings as we have sometimes done, we could imagine that the game might be barely half over and we decided to go to the game. The final inning was quick as was the entire game. I am sure the quick game was a relief to Johnston City people since they needed to scurry on to see the Homecoming football game that had been cancelled also on Saturday. Was the trip worth it to see one inning? We both agreed it was. Now the girls will travel to Pinckneyville on Saturday for the state tournament. (There will also be a state tournament for the softball teams in the northern part of the state.)

I started my day with a 9 a.m. dental appointment in Johnston City. I am still being very careful with my tooth because all the dentist did this morning was to create a longer post for me and put a temporary cap back on. I got done in time to pick Katherine up for her appointment with dermatologist at West Frankfort. I enjoyed the renovation of the former city hall while I waited for the completion of the minor surgery she was having done. Only then was there time to refill the gas tank--and I wished I had waited longer when I saw the reduction of price during the afternoon. That is not exactly true. I get very nervous when the marker hovers near empty, and it is worth quite a bit to me to feel the relaxation that comes when the tank is full again. We were almost ready to do a bank errand at a second bank when Katherine realized the time and the reason for the increased pain, nausea, and dizziness she was feeling. We left the bank deposit errand to hurry in to O'Charley's where she bought my lunch and she was able to take her belated meds with her food.

After I took Katherine back home, she fellowshipped with Lucy, their new Golden Doodle, who'd been alone all morning. I got to see Samuel and Josh coming in from school carrying the terranium Sam had made for a class project with two lizards--one he had found and one Josh had given him. Then I dropped off the empty med bottles from our church for Hands of Hope Clinic and hurried on to the agreed-on parking spot to meet up with Gerald.

One of the blessings of my wait there was reaching down to retrieve a lunch mint that I had dropped, and suddenly I saw my lost cell phone there under the front seat. I had searched and seached both Thursday night and Friday morning so I don't know how I had missed it. Although I have a great dislike for cell phones, I sure was glad to have it back. That same day I lost the phone, I had also lost a coin purse, so it made me feel less incompetent to have at least found one item!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

MRI, Softball, Copyrights

I am really too tired to blog, but I am already one day late on my self-imposed Wednesday deadline. Rather than be two days late, I'll write a bit.

I started the day getting ready for the Southern Illinois Writers Guild meeting tonight and ended the day going to that meeting.

In between I took Katherine for a needed MRI and another medical appointment,and then we went through the drive-in for a burrita for a 3 p.m. lunch at her house. Next I tried to turn in empty med bottles at Hands of Hope, but for some reason they were closed early. On to UPS for finally getting my coffee pot returned there. I'd received a new one because of arcing danger, the warnings said. It has barely been much more than a year since I went through the same thing with this coffee pot and made perhaps a poor decision to accept a new one for the bargain price of $40 I think it was. The company made it as convenient as possible to return the faulty pot, both last year and this. I know the coffee pot would not likely arc, but we all want to be safe once we have been warned. To busy consumers, this kind of recall is one of 21st century's annoyances--kinda like the spinach scare. Then I ran up to the beautiful Benton City Park to see Geri Ann pitch for Johnston City as they played West Frankfort in the regional tournament. I finally found a place to park in lots crowded by those attending a track meet as well as all the softball parents. Thinking I was late, I hurried across the swinging bridge to the ball fields only to find out our game did not start until 5:30 instead of 4:30. I watched until 6:20 guessing I could make it to the Guild on time. We were far enough ahead I was confident we were going to win. I hurried on to Writers Guild. I should have left at 6:15.

Professor Sue Liemer of Southern Illinois University Carbondale gave us a fascinating and informative presentation on copyrights, and everyone left a little smarter than we began. Finally back home at l0, I ate my supper sandwich while I read the newest Heartland Women that Lois Barrett had brought to share with the Guild. And now I have even made a only one day late blog entry. Yeah for me. I am going to bed.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

After the Conference....

As Carol Cross explains, it is not expensive to belong to Southern Illinois Writers Guild--if you don't like to read, that is. Of course, almost all writers do love to read and need to read to perfect their craft. And being around writers with books to sell is a terrible temptation to people like me. As much as I tout libraries, I still love owning books. I like to mark them, take notes, re-read them, loan them, look at them on the shelf, and cherish them.

So after a SIWG conference like Saturday's, I not only come home inspired and with my brain buzzing with new information and ideas, I also have a new stack of books to peruse. I find it hard to get much else done because the temptation to buy the books is replaced with the temptation to devour them--whether I really have time to read or not. Some are for Christmas gifts, so those need to be wrapped.

Jon Musgrave had a few copies of his newest book The Bloody Vendetta shipped down overnight, and they were delivered to the conference, where I got my preordered one hot off the press with his inscription that I got the first copy. That was a thrill. Years ago I read the Milo Erwin book, but I am eager to read Jon's updated information combined with his. The rest of Jon's books were to arrive today, and he was probably already signing them somewhere as he will be this Saturday at the Women's Health Conference at our SIWG table there. We were at the same table yesterday with Deb Tucker at Club Day at John A. Logan College. We had two students become new members of SIWG!

One of our presenters at the conference was Doris Wenzel, who co-authored Ten Sisters, the story of her siblings and her, who were separated for many many years. Some of the children went to Cunningham Children's Home, where my friend and former co-worker Bunny Wolfe worked raising donations and educating about the home. Because of Bunny, I get the home's newsletter. I am sorry to say I've never donated, because Gerald and I naturally have given for years to the Baptist Children's Home through our church. But the book made me think again what I think every time I get the newsletter: I need to make a donation to this important place. I learned a great deal from the book about the resilience of children and of the pain of being separated from siblings. I am eager to see the PBS documentary about the sisters next spring. I loved the picture book version of the adult book called Ten Little Sisters.

I traded books with Wendy Culver, and that too was a sad story without the happy ending of the ten sisters. I started to read Velma Crow's book, which is a Bible study, but I realized I needed more time to concentrate on that type of reading.

Tonight I can barely stand to put down The Advocate, a murder mystery by Bill O'Shea, who is donating all his profits to CASA and women and children's shelters. Interestingly he has a four-year-old character named Michael, who echoes the superior ability to take care of himself that the ten sisters exhibited. Bill, who once worked as policeman in Chicago, intrigued us with The Foot Post, a few years back. Now living in Southern Illinois and volunteering with CASA, this private detective is an extraordinarily compassionate man who is raising awareness of sexual predators through his writing. I like to watch Bill interact with people. His empathy and skill with others' emotions is impressive. He always makes me feel understood and cared for. If you get a chance to have him sign a book for you, I am sure he will make you feel the same way. And you can also feel good about where your money is going to help children.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Packing Goody Bags for the Conference

After a day of trying to get the laundry area of the garage straightened up a bit before the repair person comes tomorrow, it was a relief to get off the farm and drive over to John A. Logan and pack the goody bags for our September 9th conference.

When we moved to this house, the buyers of our other farm house did not want our old washer/dryer, and so we stuck them in the garage here. The new set went in the downstairs laundry room and was not even hooked up for almost a year, and I got in the habit of using the old ones in the garage.

However, we had another family living with us two of the first four summers, and then during the third summer here we had frequent family weekend guests before the Taylors moved their camper up to Wayside Farm for the weekends. So the two sets of laundry appliances have been a blessing, and both sets have been greatly used.

I was upset when the old washer went crazy one day and just kept washing that load of clothes for hours before I caught on what had happened. I called a repair place I was fond of the very next day. They were swamped and haven't been able to get out here. So tomorrow another repairman is coming.

In the summer, our garage is frightfully hot, and I just ignored the dirt and messes since I was no longer doing the laundry there. Today was the day of reckoning, and fortunately it was a lovely cool day and the work was pleasant, but by noon I was tired.

After preparing lunch and cleaning the kitchen, I barely had time to run by my daughter's and take a few things left over in the garage from a long-ago camping trip on our island. Since West Nile has been found in our region, I thought she might be able to use the mosquito sprays, etc.

I picked up Ernie Brasher in a nearby neighborhood. Ernie had said she would help and she had already gathered more goodies than anyone for our bags--thanks to her continued volunteer work with the lung association and asthma walks and their donated items. I had wanted copies of Heartland Women for our bags but no one had contacted the paper until Lois Barrett did today. In walked a smiling Chandra Green carrying 92 copies for us. Talk about community service! With five of us at the college pitching in, we made quick work of the task, and some of us kept visiting during the supper hour. It was a restful way to end an busy day.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Southern Illinois Writers Conference Saturday, September 9, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Although I tend to be an obsessive rule observer, I have always clung to the belief that rules are made to be broken. One of my personal rules has been to write different posts on my blogs. However, because I think our upcoming fall writers' conference is so important, I am breaking my rule and reproducing here the blog I also write on the Amazon plog. If you read it there, you can skip it here!

Excitement is building for our third Southern Illinois Writers Conference at the Ray Hancock Conference Center at John A. Logan College on Route 13 at Carterville, Illinois.

Two Illinois publishers are scheduled to be there and share with us. What a wonderful opportunity for you to discover what publishers want! And what a bargain! No pre-registration is necessary since lunch is off campus. So come on out and register between 8:30 and 9 a.m.

To compensate for the higher gas prices this year, Southern Illinois Writers Guild is offering this terrific day with information, inspiration, and fellowship with like-minded writers and aspiring writers for only a $l0 registration fee. The morning will feature five break-out sessions with something for everyone to choose from. Keynote presentations by the publishers will be in the afternoon.

Doris Wenzel started her publishing company Mayhaven at Mahomet in 1990 and publishes books for children and adults, fiction and nonfiction. Already a successful writer herself, she has now helped many other writers create books to be proud of. She is the co-author of Ten Sisters and the children’s version of the true story called Ten Little Sisters. A PBS documentary is planned to be aired later this year about these separated siblings. In addition to her writing for newspapers and magazines, Wenzel taught at the University of Illinois, worked as a communication consultant for a financial institution, and won The Richter Fellowship and the Lincoln Academy Award for researching and writing the play Without Discretion about the life of Mary Todd Lincoln. Check her out at

Ray Elliott, former Marine, oilfield roughneck, farmer, high school English and journalism teacher, started his publishing company Tales Press in Urbana in 1998. After a l0-year cultural journalism project in southeastern Illinois about the general store era of the early 20th century, Elliott started Tales Press with the desire to continue preserving history and culture of the Midwest. He publishes both fiction and non-fiction, and he also continues writing his newspaper column, which has been published in central Illinois for over 25 years. The website for Elliott is

In addition to a two-hour workshop by Joanne Blakely, founder and president of the Union County Writers Guild, there will be four other 50-minute sessions to choose from which should guarantee that every would-be writer can find what they are looking for.

Fresh back from the summer in New Mexico, Blakely has written two books, and the second edition of Catfish Are in the Elkhorn (a Whiteside County history) is planned for release next summer. Her workshop will offer hands-on creative expression to help break writer’s block and to enhance writing experience for people of all ability levels and backgrounds.

Michael Meyerhofer, lecturer at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, will be sharing with those interested in writing poetry. Meyerhofer, whose poetry has appeared in countless publications and online, won the Liam Rector First Book Award from Briery Creek Press for Leaving Iowa. Since then he has published two chapbooks. He won the Copperhead Poetry Contest from Southeast Missouri University Press, which published Cardboard Urn: Poems in 2005. His second chapbook The Right Madness of Beggars won the Ucceli Press Chapbook Competition. Meyerhofer was nominated for the Pushcart award in 2003.

One of the area’s best known nonfiction writers, Jon Musgrave, will present on self-publishing your book. He will also discuss print-on-demand publishing. Musgrave is the author of recently published Slaves, Salt, Sex, and Mr. Crenshaw and the forthcoming The Bloody Vendetta of Southern Illinois as well as four previous books. A former newspaper reporter, Musgrave is the current editor of SAGA, the quarterly publication of the Genealogical Society of Southern Illinois. His much viewed website is located at

Dixie Terry, another of one of the region’s most published writers not only in local publications but also in many regional and national publications, will present on writing for newspapers and magazines. Her cookbook From My Kitchen Window based on l0 years of food columns for Springhouse is widely used and she is a regional editor for Taste of Home and a columnist for several publications. She writes widely not only on food but on people, community events, antiques, sports, and travel, and she often throws in a bit of humor as she shares remarks about her favorite husband and her active family of children and grandchildren. She also wrote a shrimp cookbook, a book with the history of Goreville and is planning another book of her food columns.

Ruby Jung will be presenting on building your own website on a shoestring. Both a poet and an essayist, Jung’s writings and beautiful photographs appear on her website called Ruby’s Tuesdays. She writes for and has photographs in the annual regional almanac The Waterman and Hill-Traveller’s Companion published by her husband, Jim Jung and on his website. In addition to poems and other writings in numerous publications, she has served as an editor of the Southern Illinois Writers Guild anthology for three years.

The Southern Illinois Writers Conference will end the day with an open mic coffee house.

You may use any parking lot to enter the building and go down to the caferteria turning north going up the hallway past the Terrace Dining Room Annex where the SIWG usually meets. Continue until you come to the conference registration. However, the shortest way to the Ray Hancock Conference Center is to use Parking Lot D on the north side of the building and enter there.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Texas Trip and Terrible Softball Game

Gerald made it to Texas yesterday and stayed with friends Don and Helen Ruth Dillow last night. By then he had learned that our friend Bobby, who lives in a nearby town, was in the hospital with diverticulitis.

This trip has suddenly changed its nature once again! When he was trucking, Gerald always stayed in Bobby’s camper in the back yard and they laughingly called it the Conrad Hilton. Although the Dillows wanted him to come back to their house tonight, Gerald is in the camper since Bobby is to be dismissed tomorrow.

Gerald has been well taken care of. The caregiver of Bobby’s mother invited Gerald to the house for beans and cornbread for supper. And then he said that she came knocking at his door this evening bringing him ice cream for a snack. Gerald always enjoys the Blue Bonnet ice cream that Bobby keeps in his freezer. Gerald is comfortably settled for the night and ready to read until he falls asleep.

I drove the pickup over to Carterville this afternoon to see Johnston City middle school play softball there. Since we have won five or six games straight since the season started, I thought this could be our first loss as Carterville is always a difficult school to play against. I was not prepared to see us lose 10 to 0. Hmmm. We just could not seem to hang onto that ball. Some of our girls play summer ball with Carterville girls, so although the rivalry is strong, it is also very friendly. I wonder what the coach said in the after-game team meeting. It was very hot this afternoon, and a loss like that makes it seem even hotter.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Seeing a Cardiologist in Saint Louis

Thanks to Mary Ellen’s help, we believe we have finally found a cardiologist who will not only see Gerald but will also listen well and who explains things extremely well. Our summer full of bad experiences was beginning to make me cynical. I am feeling better towards the medical profession tonight.

After coming back from Springfield with the heart almost immediately going out of rhythm, Gerald was seen by the local doctor, who wanted Gerald to see a cardiologist as soon as possible as he thought he might be hearing something else. Some local heart doctors were on vacation, and those not were over booked with patients of the vacationing doctors, so an appointment was hard to come by. Gerald could have seen a Paducah doctor on Monday, but Mary Ellen really wanted us to go to a doctor nearer her and the St. Louis hospitals. So we waited, and we are extremely glad we did.

We received lots of reassurances but also a heart monitor, which will pick up on anything that might be acting up besides the not-so-dangerous atrial fillibration. We left the doctor’s office feeling very calm and assured we were doing the right things at last--and with an important prescription for the medicine Gerald should not have been taken off of back in May. We think now his blood pressure will soon be back to normal, and he has plans for finishing some dirt work he started below the lake and for taking the early summer trip he had had to postpone. And now maybe his wife will relax and quit badgering him to be careful and stay out of the heat.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

On Schedule but Out of Rhythm

I guess the least I can do is write a paragraph or so tonight to try to stay on schedule since I try to write on Wednesdays. I relax by both reading and by processing the world by writing.

We aren't feeling too relaxed around here today, as Gerald's visit to his local doctor yesterday confirmed what we were fearing: his heart is out of rhythm. Gerald had noticed some irregularity on the monitor in his Springfield hospital room as the nurse was dismissing him. He asked her about it, but she said there was some leeway in irregularity and implied it was okay. I wondered if she knew what she was talking about or if she was just trying to make us feel better since the doctor had told me his heart was back in rhythm. Gerald called the doctor's office nurse in Springfield as this dismissing nurse told him to do, but she was busy then, and she has not had time to call back. Wanna bet she never has time to call him back? GRRRR.

[Addendum on September 1: I was wrong in the paragraph above written on August 9th. The doctor's nurse called Gerald back yesterday to set up an appointment for follow-up. Of course, he told her he had a different cardiologist to do the follow-up. He did not tell her that the second cardiologist was so obviously superior in ability and willingness to communicate that we felt embarrassment to even compare the two doctors. The nurse said she had actually called him back on August 8 and left a message on our answering machine for him to call her back. Since our answering machine is working perfectly these days, and we did not get such a message, do you suppose she perhaps misdialed and left his message on someone else's answering machine? She even said she had documentation that she had made a call to us. Isn't that amazing? I really think I was home all day on August 8, as we were anxiously waiting for that phone call since we were given no instructions at the hospital. Ah well, I was wrong that the nurse might never call us. She said she did, and in addition to that, 23 days later she called again to make another appointment.]

Gerald has stayed in today most of the day out of the heat, although that is very difficult for him to do. He is definitely an outside person. He only rode the lawnmower this evening after the near rain had really cooled things off here. Our neighbor offered to mow for him, but Gerald claimed it was too much fun to let Scott do it instead of himself.

He had some 200 plus letters to get out for the annual BSU Reunion, and he was able to finish that job since he woke up at 3 a.m. His sleep apnea mask woke him up again, and once he wakes up, he is up for the day.

Fortunately the technician came today and brought two new masks for him to try out. I do not know how anyone can sleep with those things on their face. (Of course I am the kind of person who cannot even stand to wear a necklace for any length of time. I used to be unable to keep glasses on. I would never know where they were, but young Mary Ellen was very observant and she would know where I'd left them. I was in a terrible mess when she left for college. Now I need them so badly that I no longer unconsciously take them off as I used to do.)

After it cooled this evening, I went out and picked the okra. I will need to put it in the freezer tomorrow morning. That was the first time I have been in the garden all summer. I have shamefully neglected the few flower gardens I have. But I have not wanted to be in the terrible heat we have had.

In addition to the okra, I have been cooking green beans, corn, and serving up lots of sliced tomatoes. Made a really good vegetable soup last night to go with our supper sandwich. And I filled all the hummingbird feeders today with the syrup I cooked for them.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Gpa Has Rhythm

When I called home to Woodsong on Friday afternoon after the doctor had said that Gerald's cardioversion was successful, it was sweet to hear the enormous relief in Samuel and Trent's voices. Brianna yelled, "Hallejah!" I had failed to realize how concerned the children naturally would be. Mary Ellen explained to them that now Gpa has rhythm! We just pray that his heart stays in rhythm and does not revert to the irregular beat.

The house still contains the remains of last week's busyness. I have gotten most of the VBS stuff back home that adorned the dining room table week before last and was then carried to our classroom for last week. I am doing the put-away by baby steps. From the classroom to the car. From the car to the garage. I actually have everything that belonged in the garage put properly away. The house stuff was carried back to the dining room table, then separated on the buffet counter, and the downstairs stuff carried downstairs and placed on the fireplace sitting spot. That is also where I put all the collected stuff left over from the grandkids' play. Maybe tomorrow I will put it all away. Baby steps. Baby steps. I always find it interesting that when the grandkids come to play, I frequently find things afterwards that I had not seen nor thought about for years. But broken jewelry, odds and ends, poles, etc. all can be used for pirates' costumes, club houses, daggers, art projects, and other purposes.

Gerald's early spring decision to reduce his garden has not impressed me as very successful. He was out early this morning and picked a huge tub of beans and later in the day a large bucket of tomatoes. I am kept busy trying to give vegetables away as well as cook them.

With the VBS grandkids gone home, it was great to have Erin show up Sunday afternoon. She'd driven in the day before from Notre Dame, where she studied economics and statistics in a six-week summer session. That is much too short a time for those subjects in my opinion. She was not complaining, however. And it is great for her to have those out of the way before ball practice starts this fall. It was fun talking to her and hearing all the plans for decorating her dorm room this fall.

Then this afternoon her sister Tara showed up with nine-week-old Aidan, our only great-grandchild. We were thrilled to watch what a wonderful mother Tara was as she had him cooing and making every effort to move his mouth to imitate her. His black curly hair is unique in both families, but there it is. Tara drove down late last night in hopes he would sleep during the trip, and he did. She had to clear her former classroom of her books from last year, and Erin got to babysit.

Tonight they are feasting down the road from us at Gma Shirley's house. Aidan's great great Gma Borum and Great Aunt Janice will be happy campers getting to hold him again. Tomorrow Tara must get Aidan's birth certificate before she starts the long drive back to Chicago area. Since Tara's mother and dad and Geri Ann are at the national softball tourney in Oklahoma City, they are missing out on this visit. But Aidan talked to his Gma Vickie on the phone anyhow.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Back to Springfield

With all the VBS stuff going on, I was too tired to blog last night. It has been a good week, but is ending early for me as Gerald's blood tested thin enough on Wednesday for the Springfield doctor to okay his coming back tomorrow to complete the therapy designed to put his heart back into regular rhythm.

So I will miss the last day of VBS with the kids. The co-teacher is highly qualified and she will complete our part in the last day (which we call Park Day at Veggietown)quite well without my presence. I will also miss eating the picnic luncheon at the pavilion afterwards, which Jo Barger always generously prepares for the kids, workers, parents, grandparents, etc.

Mary Ellen is coming down tonight (if all goes well) to take the kids to this last day of Bible school. Five years ago she also got called down to finish the week. That was the time I was trying to neaten up the ball park where our kids had left water cups, and I did not see a concrete barrier and fell into an end of a bleacher with a rough edge. I kept telling everyone I was fine while the grandkids looked scared and people kept telling me I could not get up. An ambulance quickly arrived and because of that, I got into ER rapidly to receive stitches. Katherine and David took care of the kids treating them to McDonald's, etc., until Mary Ellen arrived from Lake Saint Louis. The next day, she took over my class and Gerald and I attended the picnic only--to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary there. VBS and our anniversary have often been close, but not this year with our the late August date for VBS.

Every morning I have started the day at church blind because the humidity is so high that when I step out of the air-conditioned car, my glasses fog over and I cannot see with them on. Of course, I can't see very much with them off either. Despite the heat, the classes, which are very small, have been extremely well behaved and, thus, just a joy to teach.

And the heat when we take our play time outside only causes the kids to appreciate the church air-conditioning that much more. It always feels so wonderful when we step inside, go to the rest room to wash our hands and sit together at table to enjoy a snack and cold fruit juice. How I pray that children all over the world could know snacks and nutritious food when they are hungry.

Since our grandkids are older, I have not handed them offerings as I did when they were younger. I thought I would just see what would happen. I was very touched when Brianna quietly said she forgot something. She came back upstairs with money in her hand for our offering, which will go to alleviate world hunger. Later without my saying anything, Trent said he is going to give all of his offering at one time on Friday.

The newly-wed daughter of our pastor and her new husband are in Zimbabwe this week with others from Marion Third Baptist Church. Their being there is an amazing story since one of their passports accidentally was run through the washer-dryer and the cover ruined. They were told by the Chicago office that would look like it had been tampered with and would prevent their going unless replaced, but there were no open appointments for replacing the covers. However, the African trip became possible after all thanks to a blessed cancellation, numerous phone calls, many prayers from people in several states, and a dedicated father who braved driving them to and around Chicago and back to the Saint Louis airport in a rushed trip. I suspect some kids over in Zimbabwe also had a good time as our kids did at Center this week. A Sunday School teacher went along on the trip to Chicago and arranged their overnight stay there with her aunt and uncle and the overnight stay in Saint Louis with friends or a niece. People were generous and helpful all through the ordeal, and our VBS kids have been diligent in praying for Chris and Aimee on the other side of the world.

I had prepared a "pickle pot" which holds problems for the kids to solve, but it was a glass pickle pot and I decided that wasn't safe. So I emptied and washed a gallon plastic jug of pickle relish. After the hot soapy wash, I let it sit open two or three days and then put in the pickle-shaped problems and put the lid back on. The kids have been amused and some almost nauseated when they pull the green paper pickles out and the smell is very authentic. We've had lots of laughs and some serious thinking as well this week, and I wish I could be there tomorrow.

Most of all, I pray for success with the therapy tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

In a Pickle--Time is Running Out

It is almost time for the annual visit of grandkids during Vacation Bible School at Center. I hope that I am almost ready.

We got a late start on VBS preparation this year because so much was going on with our congregation--still is for that matter. To try and alleviate stress, it was decided to repeat a week of Veggietown lessons from many years ago. Our pastor had our lessons saved for us, and while the material is vaguely familiar, I still have a great deal of study to do before now and Monday morning. Seems like it was just last year that I got rid of some of the materials I had used the first time way back then.

What I did not count on was having someone accidentally jump a curb and run into our back passenger car door while I was inside the mall last week the very afternoon before we were to leave at 5 a.m. next day for Springfield doctor appointment. And that “quick trip” to Springfield was supposed to just be for a second opinion to back up the first. We probably broke records in recent years for a slow trip home from Springfield because of all the storm-caused delays. And unexpectedly, we have to go back again this Friday for follow-up. So for those and other reasons, an over-full schedule was expanded considerably this past week.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed telling the Heartland Rotary Club about Southern Illinois Writers Guild on Tuesday morning. If we are not detained in Springfield, I will be able to read from Down on the Farm as planned for the reception for showings of the Historic Structures and Farm Machinery in Art at the newly refurbished Little Egypt Art Association building on the Marion Square on Saturday afternoon. As I searched the book for appropriate readings about old farm houses and machinery, I was somewhat surprised to find much more than I needed for the 15-minute reading.

Our Guild is also planning a third Southern Illinois Writer’s Conference on Saturday, September 9, at John A. Logan College, so part of my brain is working on that. SIWG is pretty excited that we have two Illinois publishers coming: Doris Wenzel from Mayhaven Publishing in Mahomet and Ray Elliott from Tales Press in Urbana. This will be an incredible day for anyone interested in writing. And this year because of gas prices, we are making the registration fee just $l0 instead of $35 and hoping we will have enough extra people attending to make up the difference. People can go off campus to local cafes to eat, so the conference will be affordable for students and those on fixed incomes. This is going to be a great bargain and I hope a productive day for writers in this region.

I will be taking my Bible and lesson plans along to Springfield for more study and prep. I have the new pickle pot ready for the kids to use to determine what to do in some of the pickles they may find themselves in. I am just hoping I will be ready and not in a pickle myself on Monday morning.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

July Heat Wave; Computer Crisis and Joys

The heat wave throughout much of the nation has affected us in Southern Illinois also. Not me cause I am able to stay mostly under AC. But I worry because of Katherine's MS and I worry because Gerald was up against a deadline on a project with our neighbor, and he has worked outside in his shop right through all of this heat. He has come in with his clothes wringing wet. But tonight he came in celebrating, nevertheless.

Tonight Gerald and Scott tested the two spray rigs they have been building for weeks now. The sprayers worked. In the cool of the evening, I went out and watched them try out the first sprayer. One will be shipped to Florida tomorrow and another to England. Since he has to help load hay or straw bales in the morning before he goes to physical therapy, Gerald will still be working out in the heat. I must say he is tough.

Because we had two blue-screen shut downs at the first of the week following by another crisis on Monday night, I have spent a couple of days getting at least some of my documents backed up. I am terribly negligent about back-up. And I have never arranged to keep back-ups in another place in case of fire as I was told to do in a class early in the history of computers. I considered it excellent advice, but I have failed to follow it.

I have warned all my email buddies that I may be shut down with a crash anyday now. But once I started warning people, our computer has worked perfectly. Well, slow, but just fine otherwise. So we will see what happens. I am pleased I have the back-ups accomplished. Certainly not everything as I got terribly bored, but I hope the most important documents. On an older computer, I used to back up important emails, but then I did not know how to retrieve them from the disk. So I don't back up emails anymore.

Computers are so amazing and mystifying to me. I have been receiving emails of a friend's son and family on a mission trip to Morocco. The same Texas friend is also sending us up-to-date information about a mutural friend in a nursing home in Nebraska. I am also checking Jon Musgrave's blog and audio entries from over in the Ukraine with a mission team from Marion Second Baptist. I am in closer contact with cousins than I have ever been in my life since I hear from them regularly at least with forwards while in the old days, we might only hear from each other at Christmas. And like much of the population, I have found family history on the Internet that I never dreamed I would ever be able to discover. And like much of the population, I will go through a difficult withdrawal period if and when we crash.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rainy Summer Days Are Very Welcome!

Gentle rains have started and stopped for a couple of days now at our house, and we are grateful. Gerald's garden plants seem to be taller every time I look out the kitchen window. He brought in the first tomato and a huge head of cabbage. So we had slaw with our hamburgers tonight.

We are most grateful, of course, for the rains on Brian's crops. I imagine Gerald has seen the the corn and soybean fields both days, and he will undoubtedly take me by the first time we are out running around together. Going by fields with Brian's crops is a part of his summer activity. And our friend "Bun" Handkins checks them regularly also. It pleases us to think that someone in his 90s is still involved with life and watching our crops.

Gerald was awake at 4 a.m. and stayed awake until it was time for him to take a friend to an airport in Indiana for the friend to pick up his plane being serviced there. So when Brian called from Lake Saint Louis tonight, Gerald was sound asleep in his comfy chair in front of the TV, which works better than a sleeping pill for him.

I stayed up later than I should have last night reading the fascinating blog of a paraplegic, who has accomplished amazing things. So I was still asleep when the phone rang this morning--very late this morning. A saleswoman was following up on Gerald's first foray into looking for a stone to put on our cemetery lot. We are very proud to have one finally purchased. I was quite horrified when he told me at supper last night what stones cost. Yikes. What a waste of money. I wondered if we could take one of the huge left-over rocks Gerald used for our new rock garden and just bolt a piece of metal on it or something explaining who we are when we die. But our children might not like that, so we will probably be conventional. But I can think of a great many things I'd rather do with that much money than to buy a tombstone--I would love to give it away to all sorts of people and causes. Now that would be fun. I don't see anything fun about spending money on a rock. GRRRR.

For some reason for the first time since we have lived here, we have a bluebird visitor who likes to sit on our upper ledge of our living room windows and look in longingly as if it would like to join us. The baby martins are giving their lungs lots of exercise chirping loudly and flying excitedly all around us as we watch them from the deck. The yellow finches brighten our day as they eat thistleseed from their bag hanging down over the patio. As Pat Evans observed, the rain does not deter the hummingbirds from their feeders. They keep me busy making them sugar water.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Quiet Fourth of July

Busy with our various projects, Gerald and I did not go far yesterday on the Fourth of July. In the past, we have sometimes gone to a community barbeque or to a bash our daughter-in-law sometimes hosts. But we had been celebrating with the famly for a week during Jeannie's visit, and it was good to have a restful day. After running to town for a prescription, Gerald did run up to Gerry and Vickie's house and found our little Geri Ann suffering from one of the many viruses in our community. (She is fine today.)

Although Tara, Bryan, and baby Aidan had squeezed in a trip down here to get a truck load of stuff from their house in DuQuoin and hurried back to Chicago area on Monday, we had not seen them during their too-brief visit. Jeannie and daughters hit it lucky and happened by at the right moment to get to meet Aidan. Of course Gerry and Vickie had delighted in seeing their daughter's family and holding that new grandson again. When Gerald asked about how much Aidan might have grown, Vickie looked sad and Gerry said, "She is suffering post-partum depression." We don't think he was really kidding. I suspect there may be a trip up in that direction when Erin plays softball at Elgin.

Besides the wonderful rain we had, our only treat for the holiday was a ride around the farm on the "mule" for Gerald to show me some dirt work he has been doing--a favorite past time for him. He had worked that morning again leveling a spot on the west side of the farm. An old pond must had been therein days gone by, and he was smoothing it out. Today he moved the kids' swing from the tree in the north fence row over to that newly created flat area. Our neighbor thinks we need a picnic table there.

Mext we traveled on and looked at the lake spillway that he was making some adjustments to. Because of the rain, water was pouring out of a pipe in the bank there.

As we continued around the lake, we enjoyed seeing the 26 geese we now have at Woodsong because they were swimming on the lake. We don't mind the frequent inconvenience of having to slow the car when they cross the lane in front of the car as they busily come and go to the wheat field and we don't mind their being on the edge of the lawn, but we get upset if they wander too close to the patio. But they are a pretty sight on the lake. We think the ducks are a pretty sight no matter how close they come to the house. Yesterday the island was alight with Queen Anne's lace and the bright yellow blooms of black-eyed Susans, and it looked like a big bouquet. But the narrow back channel and some areas of the lake are covered with algae like last summer, and those areas are not so pretty.

Yesterday we prayed for peace and democracy in Iraq and other troubled spots around the world, and we thought prayerfully about our service people and their families. And we remembered the several groups from our area that are in other lands or about to go to other lands on mission trips. And we will continue to pray those prayers after the Fourth of July also.