Saturday, February 25, 2006

Hanging with Writers and Friends

After my usual Saturday routine of changing the bed linens, putting the sheets in the washer, and enjoying my coffee, yogurt, and bagel with the morning paper, I was off early to get to Samuel's Upward Bound basketball game. I was impressed with the progress in skills that the boys have made.

After a very special conversation with another team member's grandmother who had gone to school to my mother and dad at the Jonesboro Grade School and who took me down memory lane, I hurried down to Union County to treat myself to attending the Writers Group there. It is really too far to go often, but since Pat Evans had sold my book to a fellow church member, I had a special reason to attend: Pat could take her the autographed book tomorrow. At the Stinson Library parking lot, I enjoyed seeing bright red letters on the outside of the downstairs windows beckoning us in with the word: WRITERS. It was very satisfying to know I was wanted inside!

Today the program was done by two UCWG members: (1) our president Joanne Blakely, who does literacy workshops with both adults and children encouraging them to express themselves through poetry and (2) Barbara Steffans, a friend from long ago, giving instructions on binding a book--for those who might want to gift a grandchild or someone special with a very personal copy of a handmade book. And there was lots of chatter about upcoming meetings, workshops, conferences, places to submit, and writing experiences as the members found delight in communing with others who share their interest and enthusiasm about the solitary occupation of communing with our computers.

Afterwards it was fun eating Chinese on the main street restaurant there in Anna with Pat and also Lois Barrett, who had driven all the way from Harrisburg, defying those who want her to slow down after her surgery. Lois was sporting a T shirt with her name and her book's name: When the Earthquake Spoke on the front and on the back an actual picture of the cover of her novel about the 1812 earthquake in this region. After a laughter-filled lunch, I headed back up Route 57 to the farm to get ready to travel to Harrisburg ourselves for the 25th wedding anniversay of Basil and Melody Holmes.

The Holmes' church have a school and a youth minstry in the old Malan Junior High School at Harrisburg, so there was a large auditorium for the solemn and impressive ceremony, where their three beautiful daughters and others sang, and Melody and
Basil renewed their vows with a salt covenant--something I had not seen before. Their declarations to each other of their continuing love and of being each other's best friend brought tears to most eyes.

Next we moved up to the school's cafeteria for a lovely dinner and visiting with friends, and we got to see the bridal couple kiss again. After the wedding cake, we saw their anniversary dance. It is good to see couples still in love after 25 years together.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Snow Didn't Stop the Trail of Tears in 1838.

I went to bed early to be rested to head to Marion, Kentucky, which would be quite an adventure for me. I was planning to go to Samuel's basketball game at 8:30 in Marion, IL, but leave early to meet Pat Evans in the church parking lot and take off to Harrisburg and eventually cross the Ohio River to Marion, KY, and meet Dallas Cain and a group of Cherokee including someone from Tahlequah. My hope was that one more person, who is especially knowledgable, might know or hear about someone who "owned" Priscilla, the little slave girl freed on the Trail of Tears in 1839.

With snow all over ground and travel advisories coming in on our little radio/warning system that someone gave us for Christmas once, it was obvious when I got up at 7 that this was not a good travel day. Before I had called her, Pat called and agreed. I called Dallas and he too had decided this was not the day to go to Kentucky. I don't plan to even go down the lane for the morning paper or for our mail when it arrives.

Gerald and his brother Garry along with our son-in-law Brian and our grandson Trent went to the annual farm show at Louisville, KY, early yesterday morning. In our phone call last night, Gerald thought the weather would still be good today and encouraged me feel competent to drive to the gathering in Kentucky. Now I must worry about their group getting home safely. We avoid going north this time of year after more than one harrowing trip back from our daughter's home in Freeport. But the trip to Louisville has not usually been a concern.

Nevertheless, I am thinking of the ones up north. Leslie is involved with the state speech contest today, which is in the Chicago area this year after being at Carbondale last year. So I know their family had to leave Freeport today. My friend Roberta's granddaughter Katie is also representing Johnston City High School at the state speech contest in radio speaking, I found out last night when we talked on the phone. And my granddaughter Tara and new husband Bryan are up north, where his family is giving a lovely reception for them. Fortunately we did not accept that invitation although we would have loved to be there.

Tara's mother had already made flight arrangements in December to be in Las Vegas to see Erin play at the opening tournament of Notre Dame's softball season yesterday. We were not surprised when Gerry managed to make arrangements to leave his lodge in Mexico so that he could be there with Vickie to see those important first games of the season.

ND lost their first game yesterday (barely) and won the second. By now they have played the third game, and I am expecting a phone call any minute from Gerald about the results of that one. I got excited when the phone rang awhile ago. I did not appreciate the recorded phone call from Bruce trying to make me rich by a home business that involves making phone calls. I am on the do-not-call list, but I still get these irritating interuptions by phone.

Grandma Shirley is taking care of Geri Ann while Vickie is away, and we were all relieved when Geri Ann got back from the volleyball game at Anna Thurday night, and the threatening tornadoes did not develop, just as I was glad to be home safely from the Writers Guild at Carterville the same night.

Except for Samuel's basketball game across town this morning,I am hoping that the Cedars don't have to leave home today. I bet the snow was pretty through their many windows and skylights. I suspect Mary Ellen is tooling around in the Lake Saint Louis area showing houses whether there is snow or not. Brianna is probably snuggling in if she doesn't have a girl friends' outing or unless she decided to run around with her mother.

One of the disadvantages of a large family is that we can be strung out from here to yon, and there is always the possibility of travel accidents. On this snowy frigid weekend, I will be glad when everyone gets back home to their own snug beds again. But I know they won't stay there long.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Volleyball, Valentines, and Viewing Very Old Videos

Geri Ann is now into volleyball games, and we hadn't been able to go to any because of conflicts. We finally made a game last night. For that matter, we have only seen one of Samuel's Upward Bound basketball games on Saturday morning thus far. It is difficult to do all we want to do. And,of course, seeing the away-from-here grandkids in any of their activities is always a very rare treat.

My valentine celebration could not have been more perfect. Gerald took us to dinner and then we went on to the one-woman (almost) play based on the book about the fictional diaries of Mary Todd Lincoln. The author of the book was also the one-woman (almost) actor in the play. The "almost" is because Lincoln spoke and was shown in silouhette behind a screen occasionally. I had never seen that done before, but it was very effective. Then at the reception afterwards, Gerald bought me the well-researched book by M. Kay duPont and she graciously signed the books for all of there at her table. What a delightful evening seeing and talking to friends at the Civic Center and being allowed into the heart and mind of Mary Todd Lincoln and her husband for 90 minutes. I have already started the book, but made myself put it down.

Gerald has been viewing old videos for a few days now. He was doing so on Saturday, and I was miserable wanting to join him. I could hear the giggling and very young voices of our long-ago grandchildren drifting up the stairway, and it took discipline for me to not go to the family room. But I was preparing for a presentation on "Priscilla on the Trail of Tears" at the Genealogical Society of Southern Illinois the next day. Spending the day watching videos wasn't the plan. But this week, I have joined him. It is startling to see the now grown-up grandkids once again as the delightful tots they were back then. And it is sad but stirring to see our parents and some friends we no longer have with us.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A Warm Winter So Far

All this wonderful "spring" weather we have been having in Southern Illiois has caused our ducks to think it is nesting time. We have had all seven of the ducks Gerald raised last summer along with the two geese, who think they are ducks, wandering in our front and side yards looking for nesting spots. I am grateful for the warm weather for all those that have avoided the potentially high heat bills that would have occurred if we had a "normal" winter with much cold weather. I am also grateful for the Cedars who are continuing to work on their house. It is much more pleasant to do so in warm weather than in bitter snowy cold weather. We occasionally have a biting wind at some point in the day or night, but overall the weather has been especially nice this winter for our area.

I ran by the Cedars for the first time in awhile this afternoon and ended up staying with Samuel while his parents were out on business. Josh came over and the boys played in the park. When they came in with bright rosy cheeks, I teased that they had on too much rouge on their cheeks. Not to be outdone, Josh told me I should have seen the mud on their shoes before they scraped it off in the grass. Sam and I were two inches taller, he declared.

I am enjoying the driving the new car since it has been repaired with a new computer module from Texas replacing the defective one. Then the other 17 computers had to be reprogrammed so they could talk to the new module. I am glad somebody understands all this. At least I hope somebody does. Of course, I never understood how old-fashioned cars worked, so I don't need to expect to understand how computerized ones work. I can remember in high school general science class believing that I understood how refridgerators work. Occasionally I think about that and wish I could remember. I hate to think how much I have forgotten over the years.

We enjoyed a visit from our friends Willitt and Carolyn Pierce as they passed through our area from north of Chicago on their way to visit a son's family in Atlanta and then on to a time-share in Florida. They were also going to visit some high school friends of Willitt in our area who have retired from a career in Africa as missionaries.

On Saturday a number of us signed books at the first Winter Book Fair at the Illiois Centre Mall. Our tables were scattered from one end of the mall to the other, so the writers missed getting to visit with one another as we often do. But it was good to see Kestner Wallace again as his table was next to mine. His children were with him, and when he substituted for Violet Toler as a reader, I was told his daughter read for him. My table was just outside the community room, and I wanted to go hear that and other presentations, but I couldn't leave my table of course. Also on our end of the hall was Lois Barrett getting to make her first signing since her surgery, and she was accompanied by her two sharp teenage grandchildren: Noelle--already a published poet--and Matt Fowler, who serves as Lois's webmaster. I appreciated Pat Evans showing up to show support for Southern Illinois Writers Guild members who were there, and it was great to have her at my table when it was my turn to read. It was also exciting to have Deb Tucker, our Guild newsletter editor, wandering around taking photos for our newsletter--photos will be a first for us.

Sunday was a potluck at church after morning worship, and as always the food was too good. We have some exceptional cooks. There was a big pot of beans, corn muffins made with yeast, a wonderful bowl of cooked cabbage, and just about anything else one might think about wanting to eat on a winter day. The pies and cakes on the dessert table were almost too pretty to disturb. Our hostess Shirley Butler had the basement dining rooms decorated with bright red and white Valentine accessories and tablecloths, so our meal was in a visually delightful environment.

As we sat talking after the meal in that pleasant place, confidences were exchanged as someone at our table asked probing questions of our oldest active member. Zella Cain raised two handicapped children as well as four handsome healthy ones. The questions came because several of us have children and grandchldren with disabilities, and Zella has always been an inspiration to us. Zella did not disappoint us as she shared some of the ways she coped and talked of the pain that comes when we see our children suffer. We came away knowing what we already knew: there are no easy answers and no one knows for sure what is always the right thing to do. Yet we also knew that Zella had made it through the difficulties and has a host of descendants and friends whose lives are made stronger because of her example through trials and tribulations.