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.