Thursday, January 25, 2007

Elijah's Birthday

It is after midnight, so it is Elijah’s 14th birthday. While Sam and I were carrying out our tradition of stopping at Dairy Queen after his dental appointment across the street at the orthodontist yesterday, I mentioned that this 14th was coming up. Sam said with all the maturity of a grandparent, “It just doesn’t seem possible." That is how I feel too. How can our two grandsons born in 1993 be 14?

I know it adds up correctly, but it seems only yesterday that Gerald called me on the car radio as I drove home from work at Benton and told me that little Erin (who was with him going to the old Dairy Queen) had a new cousin. Although I knew Jeannie was expecting in March, the first person I thought of was Erin’s expected cousin in November on the other side of her family, which of course made no sense at all.

When Gerald told me Elijah was already here after Jeannie drove herself to the hospital from Crainville with toddler Leslie beside her, I went into shock. Leslie’s Aunt Vickie was working at the Marion Hospital in those days and Jeannie turned Leslie over to her until Rick arrived rushing over from work in Carbondale just as Elijah was ready to be born.

And when I arrived from Benton and saw this tiny boy in the hospital in the incubator with wires and other precautionary measures, I was not much comforted. But he was healthy and soon at home.

Mary Ellen was also expecting up in Iowa, and her son was supposed to be born first in the middle of February. I was afraid he would be a little late and Elijah a little early, and had been worrying they’d be born on the same day and what would I do? But with Elijah six weeks early and Trenton two weeks late and born on March 2, I got to enjoy time with both boys and their mothers during that first week of their lives. But how could they become 14 so soon????

Sam, while answering the dentist’s question about his age, told the dentist he was nine and three quarters. And Geri Ann will become a teenager on Lincoln’s birthday. Brianna will have that same milestone in October. It is difficult to adjust to how grown up they all are. But then I do not doubt that our only great grandchild will be walking when I get to see him again.

I am reminded of a poem I wrote when Erin and Leslie were quite young down at Chuckie Cheese in Paducah:

Moment in Concrete

Two grand little girls
Play on the concrete parking lot
With a miniature Frisbee
Purchased for ten tickets
Inside the pizza pleasure palace.
Watching, my husband and I
Whisper silently over their heads:
Don't grow up.
Like their parents, they don't hear us.

I am glad they don’t hear us, of course, because I want them all to grow up and be contributing members of the universe, but yet, but yet….could they slow down just a little bit? Thornton Wilder had it right in Our Town when the little girl realizes that we cannot possibly absorb and know how precious each day of life with our loved ones really is.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Catching Up, Working on Tax Records, and Keeping Priorities Straight

At our first 2007 Southern Illinois Writers Guild meeting on Thursday night, we followed our usual critique pattern started by Linda Allen, when she was president. We gather in a large circle and give self introductions as we go around the circle. We might tell about current writing projects or successes or other brief tidbits. If writers want to read a short piece of writing, they have a willing audience. After a kind volunteer with the watch calls time, then even briefer time is allowed for comments from that audience. Although we call it Critique Night, we might more accurately call it Sharing Night, for there is not time for any real critique. The experience of reading work aloud is very important for writers. I’m especially pleased that we can offer this opportunity to our college student members at the beginning of their careers.

Although I did not read this time, I did show Pat Evans’ new book published by Violet Toler’s new publishing house Wayside Publishing. We have needed someone in our area to start such a publishing business for those who don’t want to start their own house to self-publish.

I admitted to the group that I had been focusing on the holiday and family the last six weeks and have written little other than on my blogs. I had no more than explained that I write on Sunday night on AmazonConnect and on Wednesday night here on blogspot when I realized I had not written on blogspot the night before. So here I am catching up again.

What I was doing instead of blogging on Wednesday night was one of my least favorite activities in life--working on records. I hate keeping records--although I enjoy looking at them after I force myself to finish them. I know we can learn a lot from records--like how much I spent on travel expense to a signing where I only sold one book, for example. And how much the “freebies” on one website add up to over the course of a year since I have to pay a substantial postage and handling fee. With gas so high, expenses far outweigh income, so I’m struggling to come up with a year that will show profit. As I understand it, I cannot even count the losses on income tax unless I make a profit three years out of five. Although I only write part time, I don't consider my writing a hobby.

Since I am not getting rich as a writer, right now I comfort myself when I am able to donate a book to a good cause as I did today for a young student’s blind auction to raise money for a mission trip. Also comforting is when someone tells me how much they have liked reading my book. That is my profit. Yes, I have every fan letter in a scrapbook. And one of my favorite memories of my entire life will always be the Murphysboro farm wife who came up to me at this year’s AutumnFest at John A. Logan and told me in great detail how much she loved reading my book. That joy cannot be measured in dollars and cents. I am glad I achieved my retirement dream of finally having a book on the shelf with my name on it.

Sometimes reaching a dream is more important than anything else. A phone call earlier in the week told me that Lori Parks was closing her consignment store in our village--The Cluttered Corner with its many rooms filled with artistically arranged shelves and tables of crafts, antiques, and collectibles. Like all consignment shops, there are always many bargains there. Now she is busy getting vendors to mark down their prices. By February, the store should be full of even greater bargains for fortunate shoppers.

We are going to miss Lori’s business in our community, and she is mourning the dream she successfully started and enjoyed for almost two years. Always positive, Lori looks to the future grateful that she has had such good experiences in life before she is 30. Now she is focusing on the extra time she is going to achieve to enjoy and care for her family as Shannon works at his new sawmill business near their home, and she spends even more quality time with their son Levi.

I remember well the excellent article Lori wrote for Tammy Waters’ community newspaper when Levi was born. She wanted the community as well as her family to be educated on Levi’s medical condition and all the surgeries he would be going through. A talented homemaker, business woman, and writer, Lori will no doubt accomplish many more dreams in the coming decades. I picked up my checks for the books she had sold for me and my unsold books. I left the store knowing that while profits are important, family priorities can be even more important.

Running on up the road to our village library, I got to visit with my friend Loretta and get some books for winter pleasure. Pleasure is also sometimes as important as profits.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Warm and Worried January

Like many other parts of the nation, we are enjoying the spring-like weather here in Southern Illinois. We hear reports it may end soon, and we cannot be surprised about that. It is that time of year.

Like the rest of the nation, we are concerned about the war in Iraq. While Gerald and I agreed before it started, that we should not enter another country, the fact remains that we did.

(In fact, I was so convinced by Colin Powell's address to the UN that there were WMD there, that I continued expecting to find them long after everyone else was saying they weren't there. I kept thinking Hussein must have had something to hide or he would not have been so uncooperative with the UN inspectors. And I trusted Colin Powell that he would speak the truth in an international gathering. And though I did not think we should have gone in, after Powell's speech, I thought maybe I was wrong.)

I never did understand what Iraq had to do with 9/11/01, and I guess we know now that our leaders were telling us wrong on that also.

Now what? Like the rest of the nation, we have relatives who will be sent AGAIN if we continue fighting. I don't want that. I have prayed they would not have to go.

Yet the fact remains that we went in to Iraq. What will happen if we leave now? I stopped my work this afternoon and listened briefly to two American mothers who had lost sons over there. They had opposite opinions. Who should we believe? I have not the faintest idea. I do not want this infant democracy to die. I do not want the people of Iraq (that we said we were trying to save) to suffer any more. I want those Iraqi children to survive the same as I do the children of America. I do not want American service men and women to have died in vain.

We surely have gotten ourselves in a mess. How I wish we would have stayed in our own boundaries and minded our own business. It has hurt me when I heard our leadership say we should be glad we are fighting over there and not here. That seems so immoral to me. Why should we be glad that we let little children over there be killed? I cannot see how a war over there is making us safer--and no matter how wonderful our troops are to help those little ones, the fact remains that the the poor people of Iraq are in a war zone of our making. I am glad that Hussein and sons were stopped. But I am not sure that the so-called Civil War is less harsh on the Iraqi nation. How do we measure human misery? How do we know what would have happened if we had done things differently? How can a civilian citizen with no certain information have a opinion on what we ought to do now?

I will be listening to the President's speech tonight like so many of you. I certainly won't have the positive emotions that I had when he spoke to us from the battleship. I do not have any idea what we should do now. I don't expect to know what I think when he finishes.

It really does not matter what I think. I did not think we should go in, but we did. Regardless of what anyone thinks, we will have to watch whatever happens.

I will continue to pray for the Iraqi people and for our troops and the families of those who died on foreign soil. I will continue to pray that somehow someway good will come out of this evil mess where the Garden of Eden used to be.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Smiles on the Eve of Epiphany--Old Christmas

The trees are down and packed tightly into their worn cardboard storage boxes, tied with string, and put into the closet for another year. I started dissembling the downstairs family room tree the day after New Year's, but I did not get around to taking down the tree in the living room until today. (I'd been involved with providing Katherine transportation to medical appointments on Wednesday and Thursday.) While the ornaments are boxed, they aren't all in the closet yet--but at least they are in the bedrooms near the closet where they will go tomorrow--I am hoping.

The house looks bare, and that is always a good and peaceful feeling after the visual richness of the holidays.

I really was thinking today was the 12th day of Christmas or Old Christmas as it is called in Appalachia. However, I was wrong. You need to start counting on December 26 as Day 1, and that brings you to January 6th or tomorrow for Old Christmas when early pioneers would make their cabins resound with the cry of "Christmas Gift" when the children woke up in the morning. (The gift might be an orange or stick of candy, but it was as thrilling to those children as our elaborate gifts are today.)

Usually I have taken down our trees the day after New Year's, but I remember one snowy Christmas vacation when our children were all at home and school could not resume because of the icy weather. That year I left the tree up until Old Christmas since they were at home to enjoy it. And I almost made it that long this year.

Yesterday I left the Cedar household in a happy state. I had already said my goodbyes inside and gone to the car. I was sitting in the driveway counting 37 cent stamps to see how many two cent stamps that I needed to use with those year-old dinosaurs. (The last time I had tried to buy two cent stamps, the post office did not have as many as I needed. And then that errand got put on a back burner.) I was not in the happiest of moods since trying to keep up-to-date stamps and postcards is one small frustration of this century.

My counting concentration was interrupted when I heard a tapping. There was Davie tapping at my car window with a big grin on his face. Since I thought he was in Seattle, Washington, for a moment, my brain swirled in confusion. He had played a fast one on everyone and surprised us. After a hug, I was so excited that I left the car running, lights on, and door wide open to rush inside after him as I could not wait to see Sam's reaction to his brother's unexpected arrival. It was so much fun to hear all the happy squeals of joy and excitement inside. I left in a great mood with a big smile on my face like the ones inside. I am still smiling as I write about it.