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.