Thursday, May 31, 2007

Visiting Jeannie's Family at Freeport

Since Gerald had softball tournaments on his mind, he was quite agreeable when I casually noted that if I went home with the Eilers from Aidan's party, I could stay a week with them. Then he could come up as planned for Elijah's 8th grade graduation and pick me up. I kept meaning to call Jeannie and see how their schedule would be this last week of school. But last Thursday night, I fell asleep on the couch and failed to call her before their bedtime. With two working parents and three children in different school and numerous activities, their lives are incredibly busy, and I worried that one more person in the house could be the burden that broke the camel's schedule.

At this point I decided not to come up here, but a couple of things worked together to cause me to at least throw the idea out to Jeannie. We were set to leave in a hour or so to spend Friday night with the Taylors, when I finally reached Jeannie. Since I would be car-less, I knew I could not help with transportation, but I told her maybe I could help somehow while here. "Just come up and we'll have fun," she encouraged. And we have had.

After the parade, program, indoor picnic, straightening her art room for the next day by removing the now dried paper heads, and catch-up chores for Jeannie and Rick on Memorial Day, we were getting ready for bed and discussing the next day and week when Jeannie gasped and said, "Oh, I've not made arrangements for Cecelie's getting to school. Her baby sitter had to be out-of-town this week."

In the crowded over-full weekend busyness, it had slipped her mind. And there I was in Freeport delighted to be able to walk to and from school with one of the prettiest and sweetest blond second graders in the universe. Jeannie has a small picture in her home that says, "In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths." Proverbs 3:6. Suddenly I felt directed and right where I was supposed to be.

The last two nights we have gone down to Freeport's majestic Masonic Temple for the area theatrical awards established by Dan Stevens of the local AdPix newspapers--Village Voices and Freeport Focus. With a theatre arts background himself, Stevens appreciates all the excellent directors in the local high schools here in Northwestern Illinois. He knows how much work and personal sacrifice such teachers make to see a play or musical to completion. He wanted something done for the theater students similar to conference all-star programs for athletes.

With the two-night donation of the Masonic Temple for rehearsal on Tuesday and the award show on Wednesday, Stevens was able to offer proscenium arch experience to some high school students who had only previously performed in a gymnasium, where probably only the first few rows of the audience saw much of their performance. Now here they were in costume and putting on an excerpt from their school's musical where John Philip Sousa,Elvis, and many other notables have performed. How in the world kids remembered lines from last fall is beyond my comprehension, but these players are extremely talented and versatile enough to do whatever is required of them.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my granddaughter Leslie rehearse on Tuesday and remembered again the fun we had last fall when ten cousins--counting Aidan--descended on her backstage after one performance. Then on Wednesday night we saw not only Freeport's scene from Pajama Game, but also EPC's (Eastland and Pearl City combined) Charlie Brown, Warren High School's excerpt from Seussical, Orangeville High School's from Hello Dolly, and Acquin High School's from Guys and Dolls . While the judges exited to decide which school received the 2007 traveling trophy, we saw a slide presentation of all the schools' year in theater.

The evening began with a recognition of all the directors from these six schools spreading across the stage and receiving a check for their school's program. A bright red cloth was pulled away to reveal a table full of trophies to be presented for various aspects of theatrical production as well as for individual performances. Recognition was given for make-up, lighting, costumes, an original play written by a local director, best special effect, best set design, and a Bright Star Award for a returning student.

Individual awards included male and female leads in musicals and plays and also male and female supporting roles in musicals and plays. This allowed 32 students to be highlighted with individual pictures in the beautiful program booklet, and each time the individual trophy was awarded, photos of all four of those particular nominees were on the large screen in front of us.

Other students were seen in the collection of play/musical photographs in the program booklets, but I hope we were all aware that many hard-working students weren't able to be recognized. Some danced, sang, and acted with great talent and enthusiasm in smaller parts and made the shows what they were, but their names were not the noticed ones except by their families, neighbors, and classmates. Other students climbed ladders, hammered boards, did make-up, and performed other work and often were not even seen by the audience. These are the students who really deserve praise.

Naturally I was pleased when Freeport won the traveling trophy, but I have to admit the biggest thrill for me was when Leslie was given the trophy for the Musical Female Lead. Although I had seen none of the other schools' musicals, I had to wish her nominated cohart Ryan Werntz had gotten the top male award because they played off each other so well.

I know how hard Leslie works, and I was delighted be there and see her receive this recognition of her work. Leslie acknowledges her talent is God-given, but I know that she has made every effort that her gift is not wasted. Her mother recognized that even as a toddler that Leslie would act out whatever she was telling about. As Jeannie heard her daughter singing, she recognized something very special, and she made sure this child lived in the midst of good music and videos and productions by talented performers.

I have to be grateful to the efforts of Jeannie's entire family for all the fun I am having in Freeport. For two evenings, schedules have necessarily focused on Leslie, but I have seen nothing but acceptance on her siblings' parts. But then they know their parents are equally committed to them and the development of their gifts. Frankly, I can barely wait to see Elijah walk the boards at Freeport High School next year.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ahoy, Mate!

Two or three years ago our son Gerry brought his dad a large open boat he had been using for fishing down in Mexico on the ocean. After the vibration eventually wore and broke the ribs on the bottom of the boat, they were welded. The guides said the boat was no longer safe on the ocean, so Gerry brought it home.

Needing a plug and some other repair, the boat sat behind Gerald’s shop. This spring Gerry brought back an outboard motor for his dad, and Gerald has spent his spare time this week to get the boat ready to use with the motor.

This afternoon he made his maiden voyage, but he had to leave his project because we needed to hurry to the softball tournament at Harrisburg. After our heartbreaking loss to Pope County and their great pitcher, we tried to cheer ourselves up with dinner in Harrisburg at the best Kentucky Fried Chicken buffet in the Midwest. It was fun seeing friends from Crab Orchard and Johnston City. Then in the parking lot as we left, we enjoyed walking around and viewing the three vintage Model A’s that belonged to a group, who’d come from Indiana to eat.

Gerald was itching to get back to his boat floating. I hitched a ride with him, and together we enjoyed the lake with its evening sounds of frogs and katydids, geese, and fish flopping. In the past, when we rode on the lake, it was with Gerald peddling the paddle boat, so having a motor do the work was a new experience with a new kind of steering.

I liked going close to the island and seeing all the vegetation there that we cannot see from the house. Honeysuckle climbs high into the many trees on the lake side, and the thick green growth of wildness is pleasing. As we entered the channel Gerald created a couple of summers ago in order to make the island, Gerald had to learn new skills in steering the boat, but we had a smooth ride. That side of the island is more civilized looking with daisies on the bank mixed with the grasses there. We passed by the many ducks and geese and saw the gosling we thought had disappeared--it is already at that awkward adolescent stage.

Finally after a few rounds, Gerald threw in the anchor and fished awhile throwing back the two he caught. It was dark now, and we headed back to the house.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Nature's Beauty and Human Creativity Make Life Good

Honeysuckle perfumes the air, and blooming daisies are waiting to be picked to tell me whether or not he loves me. However, a recent report on the radio that ticks seem to be more prevalent than usual this spring will probably keep me out of the fields. I will just have to believe Gerald rather than the daisies.

I am terrified of ticks. Mostly because of lyme disease and Rocky Mountain fever, but also just the idea of the little critter daring to attach itself to me or a loved one and suck blood sickens me. Gerald is out in weeds and woods and fields all the time, and he had his first attached tick several weeks ago. However, I was calmly sitting at the breakfast table on a recent morning reading my newspaper as usual one morning, and I felt a tickle. There on my arm was a little visitor. Fortunately he was still quite easy to get rid of. Evidently Gerald had carried it to the table on the paper when he walked down the lane and back to get the newspaper as he does every morning.

Country living does have its drawbacks, but those are overshadowed by the great beauty that surrounds us these glorious spring days.

Tonight I will be going to Southern Illinois Writers Guild to hear Cheryl Ranchino Trench talk to us. After a career in marketing, writing, radio and business, she has started her own company as a marketing consultant called Communications 8, and I am eager to hear about this career during her retirement.

I'll leave Woodsong early to do errands on the way to Carterville and may even pick up Roberta Shrake, who is using this cool afternoon to gather books from her garage to donate to a local school. Roberta wants to go tonight if she has time and energy left after her garage duties. If she does not make it tonight, maybe she can go next month to hear Bobbi Smith, a romance writer. I’ve not read any of Smith’s romances, but I heard her talk at our guild’s 2004 conference, and I definitely want to hear her again.

We have great diversity of writers from all genres in the guild, and something I have learned from all the diverse program personalities we have heard down through the years is that there is more in common among good writers than differences because of genres. All of us can learn from each other regardless of our interests. I have also learned that most writers are involved in other artistic endeavors in addition to writing--often they are great visual artists, photographers, musicians, crafters, or actors. The need to express and the principles of art flow from one area of talent to the other, and I am always inspired by speakers who share their experiences and expertise.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hummingbirds Return from Mexico, and I Made it to Southern Recycling!

My guilt level shot up Sunday afternoon when I saw hummingbirds on the deck looking for supper. Here they had made it all the way to Mexico and back, and I had failed to have their sugar water ready for them. The next day I looked up our two feeders stored over winter in the garage. Yesterday I finally made their treat and hung a feeder on each end of the deck.

Sitting on the swing there last night reading, the little birds kept the air humming with their fast-beating wings. At the same time, the martins were chirping and swooping by from their perches on the nearby house. At the edge of the lawn, the geese were making their nightly noise as they zoomed in flight across the lake usually in sets of three. Frankly, I did not read very many pages as I watched and listened to the evening show.

Earlier in the evening, Gerald planned to haul our trash to the burning pit he created northeast of our house in the meadow. After loading it all on the “mule,” he noticed the seven deer feasting there and called to me to check them out. So before I sat on the deck, I sat on the front porch watching the deer. They bravely stayed there as they watched Gerald approaching and didn‘t budge until he was almost upon them with his vehicle. Then they all gracefully loped south.

I’ve been planting a few flowers around the large rocks Gerald placed beside his shop on the edge of our front yard. Not too many of the flowers we planted last summer survived. As I poke around planting, I jump every once in awhile when I suddenly realize that what looks like grey mud is moving. We have several fat frogs making a home there, and once I get over the startle, I love seeing them.

Since I had a Trail of Tears Association Board meeting this evening in Carbondale, I used the trip to get some errands done. I stopped in Marion at our daughter’s, and then went on to get a stuffed pretzel at The Mix in Carterville for a quick lunch. Next, I checked out Barnes and Noble on the edge of Carbondale and bought a book by Roger Lipe that I had been wanting. Then I spent a happy hour wondering through Hobby Lobby giving my eyes a feast and thinking of possible future Christmas gifts.

My main goal, however, was to finish the task I did not accomplish the day of our last TOTA Board meeting. I have a rule that I should not drive extra to recycle since using gas might defeat any help to the environment. However, since our Marion recycling center burnt, the accumulation of glass in our garage was really bugging me. Back in March, I loaded the trunk with my two large boxes of glass needing to be discarded, and confidently started to the north side of Carbondale, where two or three people had told me Southern Recycling had moved from the days I used to take stuff there when they were in the heart of downtown Carbondale. That day I wondered around in the industrial park and on roads where I thought people meant until I ran out of time and had to quit. I was quite chagrined to have to unload my two boxes of glass back in the garage that night.

Today I allowed plenty of time and armed myself with the address and phone number. I was sure I had just overlooked it somehow before. I had been told you could actually drive inside the building and unload your unwanted debris. Surely, I would find a building that large.

When I did not see it this time either, I stopped and asked a couple of people, but they had never heard of the recycling center. It did not help that I could not read my own handwriting and thought my “W” was an “N” for North. One man, who hadn't heard of Southern Recycling, said he had heard of West Chestnut, but not North Chestnut. He was right, of course.

But a guy working on his truck knew where the recycling center was and gave me good directions, but either he got his left/right mixed up or I did when I heard him, so I wondered out of my way turning right when I should have turned left. I went around a couple of curves as he said--but in the wrong way. By this time, I was out in the country and enjoying the drive at least. I tried not to think what burning gas did to the environment.

Finally, I did what I should have done in the beginning, called the phone number, and got directions. The very friendly voice gave me directions although I realized later she did not know how far north I was when I told her I was in the north side of Carbondale. She said Davies Street would run right into West Chestnut. And it did, but I was way north of anywhere that I could find Davies Street.

Nevertheless, her nice voice and laughter on the phone gave me confidence that the place was about where I had now decided it must be, and I found West Chestnut and the convenient recycling drive-in center. I was immediately helped by an employee there, who turned out to be a neighbor of mine down at Creal Springs. I was glad to meet him, but even gladder to get rid of those boxes of glass and the huge box of newspapers I had accumulated. And gladder yet to know I will not have to look the next time I want to recycle in Carbondale. I still had time for a couple more errands and got to my 6 p.m. meeting on time.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Spring Green is Overwhelming Us!

Our irises are lavishing lavender blooms outside the family room windows. Unplanted fields are rife with the bright yellow of the wild mustard. The rains here have brought forth so much green that driving through the countryside is almost overwhelming with greeness. No wonder I claim each spring that it is my favorite time of the year. (I claim the same in autumn, of course.)

I’ve planted spring petunias in memory of my mother in the flower box that was one of the many gifts my friend Phyllis and her daughter Patti heaped on me over at Pondside Farm back in 2000 when they visited there during her Anna-Joneboro High School class reunion.

One of the two little yellow rose bushes we planted last summer survived the winter, and one did not. I bought a small inexpensive rose plant at the grocery store yesterday to replace it because I am not likely to get to the plant nursery in another town where we bought last summer's bushes. Yellow roses are always in memory of my grandmother Sidney Martin, who had an old-fashioned yellow rose hedge out by the well on the farm. These flowers were tiny button roses that I no longer see anywhere. Years ago I traveled down to the old farm home hoping to get a start of the rose bush and found the person living there had lost that yellow rose to a harsh winter the year before.

Last night after coming home from helping to decorate for our church’s women’s banquet tomorrow night, I realized I should carry the pretty little rose bush over there first before I plant it at Woodsong. Then others can enjoy it. The first time I bought petunias for the flower box, I carted the box in the trunk for outside decoration for that same annual affair, which had a garden theme that year.

This year the theme is “Putting Your Best Foot Forward,” and our volunteer cook, Jo Barger, was there last night with her marvelous collection of Aunt Mae’s vintage dress heels to put on the tables along with candles and Aunt Mae’s and others’ jewelry strung out on the multi-colored pastel clothes. The tables looked beautiful when we left.