Thursday, December 25, 2008

And to all a good night

It has been a good Christmas, and we are especially grateful because of all the harrowing traveling our family has gone through. First, getting Erin up through icy
Arkansas last week.

Then this week Gerry and Vickie, Erin, and Geri Ann left Georgia to take Aidan back home to his new baby brother and to his parents who were missing him greatly. Oh, they also had their dog Chloe and Erin's housemate's dog Acie. They did fine until they hit bad weather and ice in central Illinois. Lots of cars in the ditches--and there they were with such prescious cargo. They debated pulling off at Champaign, but phone calls ahead told them the roads on to northern Illinois were okay that night. They kept going and Aidan was home at 2:30 a.m. Gerald was following this trip by phone, and I suffered with them as did Gerald. Today, however, when they drove back down to Southern Illinois, the roads were perfect. And the Taylors had good roads down from the St. Louis area. The Cedars, of course, had no trouble getting out from Marion.

No one has had much sleep lately and Gerry and Vickie are already in bed readying themselves for the trip back to Georgia. Erin and Geri Ann have gone to play basketball in their uncle's barn.

We had 13 for dinner, and all but two of those are bedding here tonight, so our bedrooms are full and couches are made up for the young people. We fixed a nice soft bed of rugs and an old bedspread for Fifi, Acie, and Chloe in the garage.

I'm tired. So Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Getting Closer and Getting Done—I Hope!

Monday Gerald and I went to Carbondale as he had a hearing aide check up, and we thought we could visit some stores to shop. That much we accomplished. We planned next to go on down to Cobden after lunch and go by an orchard for apples and by Bill and Mickey Tweedy’s house for a quick drop-in visit. When it started snowing rather heavily, we decided we better get back to Marion. We did stopping for lunch on the way back to the farm. By then it had quit snowing so hard, and we took time to go by the Dollar Store for Christmas cards and a few other items. I found Aidan a battery-run play chain saw that makes a wonderful noise that I think he will love and his mother will hate me for. We stopped and picked up the Christmas letters from the fast print shop, where we had left them on our way over to Carbondale.

Back home I started working again on clearing up all the insurance papers, Medicare papers, and doctor/hospital bills on the dining room table. Ever since computers were invented, I have been unable to understand what I see on such bills. I hate messing with them. They come so many months after the event/appointment that I get very confused.

I miss the days when we had no insurance. I used to stop as I left the doctor’s office and write a check for $5 a visit if I remember correctly. (Gerald’s ag economics professor said health insurance wouldn’t pay off for a young farm family—and he was correct. The only year we had children in the hospital—two children, one of whom was in two different hospitals—we did have insurance. Gerald had bought group insurance, which a fellow farmer—older and much admired—had started more to help other people than himself. Gerald wanted to support his efforts. The next year we dropped the insurance. (Gerald said we would have been fine without the insurance—using the premium to pay the bills—but it was comforting to know we were covered.)

But we are no longer a young farm family, and times have changed. So we did get insurance many years ago. Yet it would be so nice to walk out of a doctor’s office and know the only paper we’d ever see would be the picture of the cancelled check when we received our bank statement. I have to wonder how much all that paper work costs per visit.

But I digress. I was determined to get those bills off the dining room table and a Christmas tablecloth put on before I started addressing Christmas cards on a table downstairs in the den. And I did it. Never mind that today I got one doctor’s bill back because somehow I had failed to put a stamp on it. I phoned the orchard to see about sending apples to my sister in Texas as I did last Christmas—but they explained it was too cold to ship apples now. Oh. I did not think of that.

Tuesday was made exciting with the belated arrival of Erin, our Texas A&M granddaughter. She started through Arkansas on Monday, where the roads were so bad that her grandfather and father advised her to get a motel that night. The next morning she started out only to soon have a two-hour delay while cars were cleared that had gone into the side of a bridge there.

Fortunately she had a book along to read. She also had a tiny black dog with huge ears named Acie to keep her company. No, it isn’t hers, but one she is keeping through the holidays for a housemate. Throughout the trip, she talked to her grandfather as she progressed to Illinois. Finally we were eating hamburgers together at the end of the day and getting acquainted with Acie, who somehow the next day ended up at Erin’s other grandmother’s house down the road apiece, and evidently they have quite a friendship going.

Erin has been busy and keeping us young as she comes and goes from Woodsong. She is connecting with friends here at home, helping her Gma Shirley (the dog sitter) get her Christmas shopping done, and visiting her high school teachers, We like having her around and teasing her about her “good jeans”—the ones with holes all up and down the legs—the expensive ones.

Yesterday I finished my first batch of cards, and today they were mailed. Who knows when the next batches will go out. I have sent cards (stragglers) in July. I like to keep in touch with old friends, and I know they have more time to read letters after the holidays.

I managed to finish my Christmas shopping Tuesday afternoon including a substitute gift for the apples I could not send my sister and husband. Gerald mailed that and her birthday present yesterday while he was in town. Gerald bought the men’s gifts today.

When he took over buying for the guys in the family a couple of years ago, he relieved me of my annual conundrum—what to buy for the men. This year he outdid himself and even wrapped them this afternoon while I was at Katherine’s house helping her when an aide could not come. We had fun going through her gift drawer deciding what she had stored away for various folk. I offered to wrap and was told she wanted that fun. (She had no idea how relieved I was.)

Sam came in with his trombone all excited about his school day. Instead of his regular classes, he had played with jazz band for the Rotary Club and a nursing home with lunch at McDonald’s in between. Two earlier performances this week were cancelled because of weather/illness problems, so he was quite pleased these were not.

Tomorrow we go to Lake Saint Louis for skin checks from a dermatologist there that our daughter Mary Ellen recommended, and we will visit with her family. Erin and Acie are heading to her family in Georgia, where she will also see her nephew Aidan, who flew home with his Gma Vickie on Tuesday. Gerry has been having fun watching cartoons with him, and of course Geri Ann loves having him around. He loves being around “G” and will be excited to see his “E” when she drives in.

After the weekend they will head to Aidan’s house. Tara says Maddux is missing his big brother Aidan. Gma Vickie will get to rock Maddux again while Gpa Gerry and Tara’s sisters meet him for the first time. Erin is taking our presents for that northern Illinois family by way of Georgia. Because tomorrow she is driving an older car of Gerry’s left in a shop here for repair, Erin’s is leaving her vehicle for their return stop from northern Illinois. So the rest of our presents for her family stay here. Come to think of it, it is not just the doctors’ bills that are complicated in this 21st century.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Welcome Maddux Mark Archibald

I haven’t really changed my blogging date to Thursday. We have just been focused on all the excitement of our second great grandchild born Tuesday afternoon, December 9, at Aurora to our oldest grandchild, Tara Archibald and her husband Bryan.

We’ve been busy checking out email photos of Maddux and his big brother Aidan, who will be three in May. I saw more adorable photos tonight posted by Bryan on Facebook. Gerald has taken copies over to his other great grandmother, Gma Shirley. We found out Shirley had her first great granddaughter a week or so ago. We knew Tara’s cousin Jeremy and his wife were expecting at the same time as Tara, but we didn’t know their little girl had arrived. I am sure Shirley has already shown the photos of Maddux and Aidan to great great grandmother Imogene, who lives beside Shirley.

In all this excitement and the busyness of the season, I somehow lost a day. I was actually hurrying earlier this afternoon so I could go to the Wednesday night monthly business meeting at our village church. Obviously, I am a little late.

This morning I took our decades-old Christmas tree and its huge string of lights to the Household Give-Away that the Ministerial Alliance operates. It is only open on Thursday mornings, so I should have known tonight was not Wednesday. But it is easy to get mixed up during this season. I had rushed there because I overslept, but I did get there. They welcomed our tree since they had just given away their last one. Afterwards Gerald and I met at Menards, where he was Christmas shopping and I had seen an ad for pre-lit trees. After our shopping, we had lunch together at Fazoil’s and were pleased to run into Joe and Janet Walker, who live in Marion, but are from our home community, and we had a nice visit.

I’d decided as a concession to my age that I would buy a pre-lit tree this year for the family room. I may have made a mistake. For one thing, it is heavier than the old tree; and if Gerald had not put it together and figured out how to hook the lights together, I am not sure I could have. The multi-colored lights are so very pretty that I almost hate to add all the boxes of ornaments I use on this tree that I consider the family tree where gifts will accumulate. Maybe I will get those ornaments on tomorrow. Gerald got down the lights that the wind had blown up on the house and added some more before it turns cold again.

The upstairs tree is shining out the living room window. It is almost finished. I still have a few more ornaments to put on as I needed some more of the little hooks, which were downstairs. I’ll take them up in a minute and put the last ornaments on before I ready the coffee for Gerald’s breakfast.

I haven’t decided whether or not to add the beautiful silver icicles that Katherine and Mary Ellen and I had so much fun buying years ago at a sale in Nashville, Tennessee. I used them last year, but I may skip putting them on this year. I would just add a few from the silver box every time I passed the tree, and eventually the tree was covered with the old-fashioned icicles.

This tree also needs to be replaced. It has shed from the moment I brought it home over a decade ago, and now some of the limbs have fallen off. A big reason I went to an artificial tree was I was wanting to avoid fallen needles. I want to have those needles vacuumed up before I place the old wine shower curtain beneath it as a tree skirt to match the wine in the couches there.

I received a special Christmas call this afternoon from my cousin Doug in California, and I caught up news on him and Vera and their three boys. Josh is still in the military and he and his wife presented Doug and Vera with a first grandson Josiah Ray. David is teaching math and Chris is teaching piano. David has already started on his doctorate.

We are getting Christmas cards daily in the mail, and I am thinking about ours. I bought some Christmas stamps but still need to buy cards and make copies of the annual Christmas letter. Usually I buy the cheapest cards I can find now that daughter Jeannie no longer makes cards. Hers were works of art that I was proud of sending and some folks framed. I figured these I send now get thrown away and that is okay. The point is to stay in touch and honor the friendships of the past.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Where Is It? Let's See Now

Mary Ellen called from up the road apiece on Friday that they had discovered the controller for the TV in the den was accidentally in their basket of games picked up just before they left our place to head to their other family’s home. Should they return it? Naw, just wait until Christmas when you come down. They can also then retrieve Trent's black left-foot shoe (a thong it is too cold to wear often now). Later Mary Ellen reports that Elijah’s coat was left in their camper. Brianna’s coat, however, was left at Geri Ann’s Grandma Shirley’s house.

Leslie and Gerald assured me that Erin’s winter A&M jacket was left behind at Woodsong deliberately because she won’t need it down there until she is back for Christmas break. So it is in the coat closet waiting for her. Geri Ann’s charger for her I pod is ready to be taken to the post office. Trent’s Nintendo is on the table in the den. Jeannie left behind ingredients she brought down for a cooking project she started but didn’t get to finish. Someone’s electric toothbrush is still in the guest bathroom. I recovered my purple comb from Katherine’s vanity yesterday, where evidently someone must have been primping with it there.

Katherine got tickled thinking that all over America, families are trying to find and retrieve and figure out where their possessions are after all the Thanksgiving holidays. Most families in our area try to visit both sides of their families, and it is a challenge to keep belongings under control.

I used to marvel many years ago at the goodness and the energy used when my daughter-in-law would bring her little ones to my parents’ home in Goreville and then hurry on to another Christmas Eve gathering at her grandparents. The next day after she and Gerry observed Christmas morning at their house, they would come to ours for Christmas dinner and then onto her folks’ home for yet another dinner.

After the grandparents no longer had their observances on Christmas Eve, life did temporarily get simpler. However, now Gerry and Vickie are in far-off Georgia. Tara, their oldest, is in Aurora far north of us. We are all eagerly awaiting the birth of Tara and Bryan’s second son any day now, so holiday celebrations are definitely complicated. We will welcome whoever is able to show up before, on, or after Christmas.

Jeannie and Rick are entertaining his family at their house for the first time this year, so they won’t be down from Freeport either. She’ll experience left-behind objects at her house no doubt.

We received our first Christmas card on Saturday from cousin Valerie, who wins that contest every year. Our second card came today. I better start thinking about mine. When we can’t get together with friends and family at this time of year, it is lovely to connect by mail. And belongings stay in their rightful place when we visit by that method.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Button for Technorati

I am trying to learn about Technorati. This is a button that I am able to post:

Add to Technorati Favorites

Claiming blog for Technorati

I am supposed to post this to claim my blog for Technorati:
Technorati Profile

I hope this works. I am trying again in hopes it will publish this time.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Still Thankful But Winding Down

There is still a piece or two of pumpkin pie left. Broth from the turkey carcass is ready to be put in the freezer tomorrow. And it will be time to cook something new to go with the left-over turkey from yesterday and the lasagna we had on Wednesday night. My house is quiet right now because Jeannie and the kids have gone into town to the movies. With just one family in the house, there won’t be any questions about who sleeps where tonight.

Mary Ellen and Brian and Trent and Brianna left in their camper this morning heading north to visit their family in northern Illinois. Brian’s mother Dorothy, who had driven up from Florida visiting relatives as she came, followed in her car. (The grandkids will probably take turns riding with her.) Brian’s sister Vicki has her camper all ready for Dorothy’s extended (but brief) visit there to celebrate her semi-retirement and catch up with all her grandchildren in the area.

We were reluctant to see them go, but the cousins had all seen each other, and we adults had done lots of talking around kitchen and dining room tables during the days they were here. The kids had gone to the Crab Orchard High School basketball tournament Wednesday night to see Geri Ann and Erin’s cousin Drew play, and Brianna went to Gma Shirley’s afterward to spend the night with Geri Ann.

We’ve watched the tape of Leslie’s concert at The Curb on campus, heard Lige on the piano, and as we sat around the dining room table Thursday night, we were surprised and pleased to even hear Christmas carols in the living room with Brianna on the clarinet and Sam on his trombone. I extracted a promise from Trent to help me with my computer some weekend when I am calm. I am sure the kids did whatever conferring they needed to do on their ongoing Designia project/book/campground. They have always got something going, and with texting they can keep up with each other even when miles away. And the granddog cousins--Lucky, Leah, Fif, and Chloe had all been here at least briefly to visit the farm.

Vickie and Geri Ann had left her mother Shirley’s house around six this morning also heading to northern Illinois to see Tara and Bryan and Aidan. The doctor is moving up the arrival date for Aidan’s baby brother, and Vickie is needing to see this little family since Tara can’t travel now.

Despite a terrific cold, Erin borrowed Gma Shirley’s car to come to Woodsong for the great hair highlighting project and Leslie’s hair turned out beautifully. After she gets that business degree from Texas A&M completed, Erin’s ambition has long been to go to a cosmetology school and someday open her own salon. She swore Leslie to secrecy so that her own hair would be able to amaze everyone when she arrived. I figured that Gpa’s offer of John Deere green for Leslie had inspired her. Erin’s naturally brown hair looked quite cute with a puffed blond back and streaks of turquoise and black framing her pretty face. Dave brought Sam out to play again after their futile bow-arrow deer hunt.

While I was in town to pick up Leslie on Tuesday evening standing outside at Wendy’s, my cell phone dinged and I assumed it was Les saying they were almost there. Instead there was a photograph of guy and a deer and the caption: “26-point deer shot outside Pyramid Park.” Since Katherine, Dave, and Sam live beside Pyramid Park in Marion, I assumed one of them had sent it. I did not recognize the man in the photo but it wasn’t too clear and I thought it might be one of Dave’s brothers or buddies. I figured hunters had scared the deer into town. I remembered when a wild domestic deer hung out at that park—but that’s another story. The Cedars were as puzzled as I was at the photo.We finally realized the sender must have meant Pyramid State Park and someone had misdialed my number in their excitement.

We are winding down and enjoying Jeannie’s family since they won’t be with us at Christmas. I hear people up in the kitchen home from the movies.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Cup Is Squashed Down and Running Over

[Note: This entry was started on Thursday night, but because it was finished AFTER midnight, the date above is the date it was finally published.]

Driving home from Writers Guild through snow flurries tonight, as I approached Woodsong, it dawned on me I did not blog last night.

I had ridden up to Cahokia yesterday afternoon with fellow Trail of Tears Association board members to meet another board member at the library there. We had to finish before their 7:30 closing. After a quick stop at a drive-in for coffee and hot chocolate to keep us awake for the ride home, I was back at our house in time to blog—if I had remembered to do it.

When I got home on Monday night from an inspiring Black Heritage Tour in Saint Louis, I knew I would have much to blog about this week. Yet when I came down to the computer last night, I found emails from our Glasco Family genealogy group, and suddenly I was visiting a extraordinary site that an unknown distant (very distant) relative had placed online. There were photos of our family tombstones and documents that were just amazing to me because of all the work that had been done and generously shared.

Before the end of the evening at midnight, I had actually corresponded with the photographer and had learned much new information about Gerald’s large family tree here in Southern Illinois. I went to bed and slept soundly feeling the satisfaction that learning new family facts brings to a genealogy buff—even though I keep saying I have quit working on family history since it is such a never-ending process that takes you further and further back in time and leaves less and less time for current life.

I woke up with the glad anticipation of a friend coming for lunch. Jari Jackson retired back to her hometown of Marion, and I was going to be privileged to hear fascinating stories of her newspaper career at many of the largest papers here in the Midwest. After an afternoon of visiting, suddenly we both realized we had to end the visit if we made it to Writers Guild tonight. Later we met again in town to ride over to Carterville for the Guild.

Over twenty writers gathered to share their writings or just to listen to the others. We had poetry, short stories, articles, and parts of novels to entertain us. Our president, Jim Lambert, read from his ongoing effort to meet the challenge of writing a novel in a month. We were saddened as he took us from Death Row to the execution chamber with his character.

We listened to poetry that rhymed and poetry that didn’t and enjoyed both. A children’s book by a probation officer made us both sad and happy. Jeremy Melvin’s novel turned my stomach with fear. He made us all want to hear the end of that book. Pam Braswell said she had been writing “feel good pieces” and her essay about her early walk in the meadow with her horses proved she had succeeded. The humorous work of others made us laugh. One poem made us remember Virginia Tech.

We never fail to be pleased by the diversity that exhibits itself. Tonight we were also inspired by a stroke victim’s haltingly presented poem explaining her difficulty with words. To contemplate her year-long come back from speechlessness was encouraging to us all to overcome our more minor hindrances.

Maybe it was good I forgot to blog last night. There is no way I could really convey all we saw and experienced on Monday’s Saint Louis trip, which began with a visit to the Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott case started and went on to the Eugene Field house where his lawyer father, Roswell Field, no doubt lay abed at night thinking about how he might help Dred Scott secure his freedom. I wish I could let you hear as we did Scott Joplin’s music on the player piano when we visited the house where he lived in an upstairs flat and gave piano lessons during the day. On to lunch at the Black Heritage Museum, we saw exhibits there that made us realize anew the absolute horror of slavery and to puzzle at humanity’s unbelievable capacity for cruelty. We traveled through Saint Louis cemeteries, and some put a Lincoln penny on Dred Scott’s tombstone. (I’d planned to do that, but an unexpected nap prevented it.) Finally our guide left us, and we started our trip home in the motor coach, which is outfitted with screens throughout that enabled us to watch videos coming and going. How sadly different were our comfortable luxurious well-fed lives than the lives we had contemplated that day. When a mike was passed among us for comments, one touring member expressed the hope that our new President will bring us another step closer to the justice, equality, and freedom that our democracy aspires to.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Autumn Activities

Members of Southern Illinois Writers Guild offered their books at our table Saturday and Sunday at the annual AutumnFest at John A. Logan College. We also display and sell our anthologies, but we have noticed a big decline in buying since the rise in gas prices. I enjoyed the day there Saturday with other writer friends.

Our village church will be having our Thanksgiving feast this Saturday night. We can’t have it the next Saturday night because that is in the middle of deer hunting season, and some on our young adults will be occupied securing heart-healthy venison to feed their families this winter.

Because I am to bake one of the turkeys with dressing for the dinner, I bought two on Monday. One is thawing in the fridge for this Saturday, and one went into the freezer for November 27.

We are excited at Woodsong because it seems like all four of our children and spouses will be present for Thanksgiving Day. I am not positive how many grandchildren can make the trip here, but there will be a house full. I think the Taylors are going to move their camper down from the other farm. If the beds and couches fill up, we’ll put blankets and bedrolls in the middle of the living room floor.

I made sure I grabbed some more of the turnips from Charles’ garden that he is sharing with us at our church. I’d already used the first mess, and I wanted some to cook for Thanksgiving Day although Gerald and I may be the only one who eats them.

Preparation for the coming holiday has centered on who is going to highlight Leslie’s hair when she arrives from Belmont. It will not be the first hair adventure that has taken place at Woodsong. Gerald joined the discussion and volunteered claiming he had experience at coloring things and was accustomed to working cheap. However, Leslie declined his offer of his variety of coloring agents—John Deere yellow and green aerosol paint and Kiwi brown shoe polish. So it looks like Erin, who has long pleased her sisters and their friends with hair-dos for special occasions, will get the job.

Our Writers Guild will be having a monthly reading tomorrow night at a local coffee house, and our anthology editor is bringing the newest anthology which is just off the press. We are all eager to see this latest volume. Our grandson Samuel is having his first middle school band concert also tomorrow night, and I am not sure I will be able to make both of these events. I may have to wait to see the new anthology at our regular meeting the next Thursday.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

At the Base of the Mountain: Tough Times Ahead

My tears came as I watched President Elect Obama give his heartwarming acceptance speech in Grant Park. The crowd looked like a Norman Rockwell painting of America—all ages, all colors, famous people and ordinary people. One young white woman was so overcome with emotion that she was on her knees with her head in her hands sobbing. I understood.

One of my favorite shots was of two young white men, who were mature enough to have voted in previous elections, facing the front with joyous smiles as they waited for Obama to come join the crowd. I understood that too. I saw them again a time or two today as stations replayed last night’s events, so I knew there was something about their vitality, expectation, and excited happiness that also attracted the ones editing that film.

My tears came again when I saw the tears of Jesse Jackson, and I smiled as I watched Oprah smiling as she blended inconspicuously with those around her. And I cried and laughed as I watched the emotion and delight of black Americans there—some very young and some very old. I knew I could never fully understand their emotions. Spike Lee said this morning in an interview that he was still processing and sorting it all out. This was too big for any of us to understand. But the recognition that from now on the world is different has continued to fill the TV and computer screens today.

More than one commentator quoted Obama’s warning that we have difficult times ahead. We have enormous problems that can’t be solved in a year or a four-year term. But we can work together, suffer together, stick together, and get through together the problems we are in.

I have often heard people say that they were poor during the Depression, but because everyone else was, they did not know they were poor. I also have read accounts of those who lived on tight budgets in crowded student barracks on the G.I. Bill following World War II, who said that those were some of the happiest days of their lives. The camaraderie of living in community with those in the same circumstances made for warm friendships and caring neighborhoods.

At this time of economic crisis, we have an opportunity to readjust our values and learn to exalt in both companionship and challenge. People experienced that last night at Grant Park and in living rooms across the land. And because we live in a global world, in lands across the sea.

Now we need to get to work to better our nation. Jobless families may need to plant food on their patios and in vacant lots until new jobs arrive. We need to keep our food pantries full. Let’s conserve the resources of our planet Let’s not lazily put good items in our landfills if someone in the community needs that mattress or chest-of-drawers. If we have the ability to create jobs, let us do it. Let us help one another build strong families. Let’s all work to educate ourselves to a higher level than we now are. We can learn from Obama’s grandmother the value of hard work and from his mother the value of education that caused her to get up before dawn to give her son extra tutoring.

Let’s teach ourselves to have courage just as those young men and women who went to Iraq had to have unbelievable courage to function. Let us learn to love one another whether we can understand one another or not.

I was touched last night by Senator McCain’s speech and today by President George Bush’s sincere expression of good will towards the new President. As Barack Obama is fond of saying, only in America. Only in America can that kind of cooperation and respect between opposing political parties take place. Regardless of whom we supported, almost all of us voted for the candidates we thought would be best for our country. The issues are complicated, and it is not surprising we don't all agree on what is the best solutions.

We can rejoice that the democracy will go on. Whether it goes on successfully or not is up to all of us. We can face the future with fear and despair. Or we can acknowledge the dangers and the fear, but do so with dignity and courage that we can get through whatever challenges lie ahead.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Nice Fall Day

Fifty years ago today one of my fondest wishes came true. I had a new baby son. So naturally I have thought about Gerry all day today.

After I had put on a roast for our noon meal, I had time read a bit of Charles Frazier’s thirteen moons and regretted having to stop just when I got to the part of the story about the Cherokee Removal.

Being able to leave a clean kitchen to come home to barely gave me time to make it to the optometrist appointment at 2:30 in Marion. But I arrived early even after circling the block to find their beautiful new building, which still did not have an identifying sign since Dr. Power had only moved into it on Monday. Remembering the news account of a car accidentally slamming into his old office and sending patients flying, I knew he was relieved to be in a brick building with a little more space between the building and parking lot.

There I had a couple of concerns taken care of. On Saturday I had received notice from the insurance company that the over $200 left on my bill for glasses last December was not covered. I had already paid $95 in December and assumed the rest was all paid off. Immediately the women in the office assured me that this was properly covered because of its being related to the cataract surgery I had just had. They said the insurance company did this all the time and a simple phone call from them would fix it. (Why do I suspect that the insurance company enjoyed using the doctor’s money all this time?)

Then the doctor himself relieved my concern about the cataract on the other eye. I was afraid that it might have become so much worse that I would need to have the surgery before Christmas, which was exactly what I was planning to do when I had made today’s appointment many weeks ago. He assured me, however, that I could have the surgery safely with the new procedures despite being on coumadin. But also that it would probably not hurt for me to wait the six months until I am off coumadin. We talked politics during and after the exam, so the entire appointment was pleasant and interesting.

Then I was on my way around the block to Dr. Kaarsbery’s office in this newly developed professional park out by our new hospital. She wanted me to have another INR reading today to make sure she is adjusting the coumadin dosage correctly. Last week the reading had been high. A single prick on the finger and the meter assured me I was in the normal range this week.

By now it was getting cool and dark. I had to put on the jacket in the car that I’d avoided wearing. After a quick visit with Katherine, I was back to the Kroger store to pick up the prescriptions I had left there to be filled. I bought as few groceries as I could get by with because it was past supper time and I needed to hurry. With three baked chicken thighs from the deli and fresh fruit, I figured I had sufficient other foods to fill in the blank for Gerald’s supper. We were eating within l0 minutes after I arrived home, and I emptied the car after supper and Obama’s infomercial.

It had turned out to be a good day—just as it was 50 years ago.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Coming and Going

The presidential candidates are all over the map meeting up with America’s citizens to win their votes. The citizens themselves also find travel much more a part of their lives than any other time in history. Not very long ago, it was not unusual for someone to say when someone died that the person had always lived in a certain locale and had never been further than the nearest city. After the Depression, many young men and a few young women served overseas during World War II. As that Greatest Generation dies off and leaves us, we read in their obituaries of the foreign soils they traveled to.

With the cheap gas of the last decades, Americans have enjoyed and become habituated to going and coming often more limited by time than expense. People have to commute to work in places miles away. Many folk travel to shopping in larger cities without much thought. Then as our local stores went out of business, we began to find out we didn’t have anywhere else to shop but at larger communities in our regions.

Gerald and I were so tied down by livestock on the farm that we couldn’t travel for years and looked forward to that opportunity in retirement. In fact, as soon as Gerald retired from farming, his first project was buying a new truck and modifying it to haul efficiently. For the next three years, he worked as a trucker—whenever he chose to take a trip or whenever he could get a load. He loved going all over and seeing the industries back in the mountains or learning to navigate in a new city. When he travels in the same territory today, he still likes recalling those trips, and he is constantly aware of other truckers and can get envious in a hurry when he sees a beautiful truck.

Gerald left for Columbus, GA, yesterday in order to see Geri Ann’s Oconee High School softball team in the state tourney this afternoon. His plans were to stop in Nashville for a dinner date with Leslie, his blond granddaughter at Belmont University.

This is also the weekend that Erin is using some flier miles to come from Texas into Nashville. She and Les will also be having dinner together. Erin will meet a fellow Johnston City friend there and they’re driving home to Johnston City for another friend’s wedding.

I don’t even know where all Gerry’s work has taken him during the past two weeks. I do know he was able to see his grandson Aidan briefly last weekend while in Chicago. And he and Vickie like the other softball parents will be in Columbus motels right now. Tara wanted in the worst way to go with Gerald to see her little sis in the state tourney, but she knew she needed to stay in Aurora. Her December due date is taking its toll on her traveling comfort. But Mary Ellen’s family is excited that she is to be coaching in Lake Saint Louis next weekend for a Southern Force tourney. I’m excited that Jeannie’s family will be spending Halloween night here (briefly) as they arrive from Freeport on their way to spend weekend with Leslie in Nashville.

I was planning on going to the Georgia tourney also, but my doctor on Monday felt it was a risk with me still healing from the blood clot in my leg that had caused the lung clots. So I am at Woodsong instead of on a trip, but I have had a variation in my life style.

Son-in-law David is working in California this week, so I’ve been going into town to spend nights with Katherine and Sam. I come back home during the day. Katherine had a tysabri infusion yesterday and her morning aide was able to drive her to the hospital. Suddenly Tuesday night she realized she needed a ride home and both David and her dad would both be out of town. Fortunately, the evening aide came to get her instead of coming later in the evening.

Gerald believed I could drive the van, which has a lift for Katherine’s chair, but I never have and I was fearful of trying with no one to back me up if I failed. The only time I tried to drive the van, I did not get out of Katherine’s driveway. I quit to avoid hitting Sam’s basketball goal with the projecting side mirror as I backed. I also don’t understand the lift’s operation. The van certainly takes enormously more gas than the wise choice David has for travel to his work place, but we’ve come to expect that those in chairs should no longer have to live their lives confined to their homes.

Our other sons-in-law and our next-door neighbor are also often away from home for coaching events, conventions, or meetings. Our only other near neighbor travels nightly from her farm to her job in a plant over an hour away. This time of year we pray for her safety from the deer dashing across the highways, and soon we will once again fear the icy roads for her.

While the increase in travel is partly pleasure gratification, travel has been built into our work lives. We can never go back to living in insulated geographic bubbles with little contact with the outside world no matter how attractive that nostalgic pull feels. I have always loved reading about village life and also loved experiencing it. How people connect and interact is fascinating and when people can’t easily go elsewhere, there is no question their local community connections are more vigorous and often more life enhancing. One of my all-time favorite books was poet Elizabeth Bishop’s translation of The Diary of Helena Morley, the actual diary of a young teenage girl who told of her life in her village of Diamantina in Brazil in 1893-1895,

The same sort of village or community life is created within cities as people connect with those of common interests. When two of our daughters lived in the same city, we had to laugh at the interconnectedness that made it just as indiscreet to talk negatively about someone there as in it was when my mother moved to Dad’s hometown of Goreville, where everyone was either our family’s relations or relations of relations.

Now we have farm friends and city friends who are hurting while trying to keep gas in their cars to get to work. We have friends who have had to cut out attending functions they really want to attend in order to save gas. We have wise friends with no economic problems who, nevertheless, have cut gas consumption because it is astute to do so and because it is patriotic to do so.

How our nation will come out of this dependence on foreign oil and our present economic crisis will be interesting to observe. I have a feeling that we are going to find out what we are made of in the next few years. Will we be as strong as our grandparents who survived the Depression with much suffering and ingenuity? Will we be as self-sacrificing and as tough as the Greatest Generation who helped us survive World War II?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Getting ready for the debate and a busy schedule tomorrow....

I spent the last two days at home at Woodsong--something I always enjoy. Saturday when I went to our village library, I was finally able to check out John Grisham's The Innocent Man. I finished it last night, and I it is very much worth reading. This is his first nonfiction book after writing 18 novels, but it was more fascinating than any novel.

Today I finally had to go to town, so I recycled newspapers and aluminum cans and then dropped off our church's latest collection of med bottles to donate to the free clinic. I ran by Katherine's and saw her and Sam and then picked up groceries at Krogers. I was home in time to fix creamed tuna on toast for our supper along with a salad and the yummy grapes I'd just bought at Krogers. Now I am hurrying to get ready for the debate.

I want to go to bed right afterwards because I have an over-full schedule tomorrow starting in the morning. So I am going to cheat and share a news release I sent out on Monday about our program tomorrow night at Southern Illinois Writers Guild. How exciting to think that this man started his own business as a high school senior:

Evan R. Youngblood, owner of a technical services company called Megabytes, will speak to Southern Illinois Writers Guild at John A. Logan College Thursday night, October 16, at 7 p.m. Public is always welcome to SIWG meetings in the Terrace Dining Room Annex.
Youngblood, currently Information Systems Manager for The Bank of Carbondale and the IT Officer, started Megabytes when he was a senior at Herrin High School in 2000. Since then, Megabytes has continued to grow into a complete web designing, networking, and computer supply business.

As a web designer for Rend Lake College for 18 months, he also served as instructor for the Institute for Learning in Retirement and Community Education and still occasionally teaches for RLC.

Youngblood will present a program designed to help writers with computer use and will cover digital photo management, some explanations of free or cheap software, and digital TV conversion.

A graduate of both John A. Logan College and Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Information System Technologies in 2004, Youngblood is also a private pilot based at the Marion Airport. He participates there in Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program which offers free flights to children interested in aviation.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

One Final Farewell

When I got up at 7 this morning, Gerald and Gerry were already at the breakfast table planning their day--although it was almost midnight when Gerry arrived at Woodsong last night after he drove up from a conference for new coaches in Birmingham.

They have spent the day cleaning out dog pens and the building back in the woods that housed Gerry’s office/batting cage area up the place that had been their home since 1997.
Trailer loads have been carted to the farm here, and I am sure Gerry’s truck is loaded down for the trip back to Athens. Gerry collected the final item left in their former home—a large beautiful plant given to Vickie at the time of her father’s death. Gerald just came in for a 9:30 supper, and Gerry is still out there somewhere having supper with a buddy.

I know I will never drive by their home on Route 37 without some regret that they no longer live there. It was a warm hospitable home on a tiny farm at the very edge of town—absolutely perfect for their family and Gerry’s business. Here the older two daughters finished high school, and Geri Ann finished eighth grade. They had woods to ride four-wheelers in, plenty of room for all kinds of dogs in and out of the house, and deer to view on evening outings. We have great memories of all the family parties that Vickie gave down through the years for birthdays, graduations, or just to get together. We are hoping the new owners have as much pleasure there as the Glasco5 did.

Tomorrow Gerry wanted to be on the road back to Georgia—hoping to reach Watkinsville in time to see Geri Ann’s softball game. But he still has more work to do here, so he will miss that game. Hopefully Oconee High will win the regional, and then he can see the next game. Time to look back is over, and now we forcing ourselves to think about the future.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Grandmother Flash Alert!

When we visited granddaughter Leslie Eiler at Belmont University recently, she explained that for security reasons at the time of the Presidential debates, students would need to either stay in their dormitories or be off campus. I was wondering yesterday where she was when we received an email from Jeannie that Leslie had gone to Knoxville with a suitemate. However, Leslie then received an email that her number had been drawn from the lottery that allowed a certain number of Belmont students to attend tonight’s debate. So early this morning, Leslie was on a bus headed back to Nashville from Knoxville.

If you see a cute little blond in a red suit in the audience tonight, that could be Leslie. We were already excited about the debate, but now even more so.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Dear All--

Late yesterday afternoon, Gerald brought me home from Barnes-Jewish Hospital after 5 days there following our combined trip for BSU reunion/cardiology appointment/stress test for Gerald//visit with daughter Mary Ellen's family in the west St. Louis area.

Gerald's test results were good,, and Dr. Alan Weiss was kind enough to work me into Gerald's appointment time and send me to the hospital, where it was determined I had blood clots in lung making my breathing difficult.

I am in good shape with no serious harm done. No restrictions at all on my activities tho I was warned that my energy level will be low for a week or so, and that is true. There was no pain involved in any of this except for minor pain of shots, etc. What caused this clotting? Nobody knows. Doctors focused on traveling, and Gerald wondered if it was the hours at the computer! (Surely not!! Ha. Ha.)

The serious blood clots are now dissolved. As I understand it, the coming six-month regimen on warfarin (blood thinner) will help the body in its natural fight to keep blood from developing too-large clots. After six months, if all goes as expected, I will go off the warfarin. (For your edification, Gerald is quick to call this med "rat poison." He is quite experienced on all this INR coumadin testing, etc.)

I am grateful for the blessing of having the timing on this episode work out so that I was seen by Gerald's cardiologist, whom daughter Mary Ellen had researched and recommended to us. I felt very comfortable knowing I was being seen by one of the best in the nation, and I felt that was comforting to our children. I was as relaxed as one can be in the hospital when every few minutes, someone was in the room asking questions that often I did not know the answer to--or taking me for yet another test. No time or energy for phone calls, etc. After all the tests, I am reassured that my heart is just fine.

I know to never again postpone going to ER if I get breathless again. Actually I already knew this. And in a difference set of circumstances, I would have gone to Marion ER earlier--but I was not at Marion. So oddly, the timing on this turned out to be perfect. This makes me feel that I am meant to complete some writing projects important to me and to de-clutter my messy office that I am very ashamed of. So I thank God for the new lease on time on this planet.

I also thank so many of you for your kind thoughts and prayers. Last night as I worked my way through emails and read your notes saying you were praying for me, I felt very loved and encouraged and grateful for good friends. You will hear more from me when my energy returns and I catch up. Tonight I have to listen to the debate.

Love from Woodsong,


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Going to Lake Saint Louis

As soon as we eat a bowl of soup and sandwich, we will be packing to go to our daughter Mary Ellen's in Lake Saint Louis. We have been wanting to go up to visit with her and Brian, Trent, and Brianna, and this worked out well.

We have our annual reunion of the 1940's, 50's, and 60's Baptist Student Union members from Southern Illinois University Carbondale at Meadow Heights Baptist Church in Collinsville on Thursday and Friday. We have 94 registered thus far. Gerald has been busy running to the bank to deposit everyone's checks.

In fact, Gerald is in his office right now trying to get the database to print out the way he wants for a register. I tried for an hour or so to see if I could figure it out. However, I have not been able to figure out how database stuff works since two computer crashes back. I was proud when I conquered the first computer we had. I tried when we got a new one because I liked having our snail mail addresses to print out for Christmas cards. My handwriting leaves a lot to be desired. But I could never learn the new computer.

Six months or so ago, Gerald's cardiologist suggested some routine check-up tests at his office in Saint Louis. We were perturbed when we realized recently that these conflicted with our BSU reunion. Gerald was able to change them a bit, however, so he has the stress test tomorrow morning and appointment on Friday afternoon. So with price of gas like it is, maybe this conflict is a good thing.

We plead guilty to being prodigal in our use of gas for many years. We used to try to limit out trips to town from the farm to once a week. With cheap gas and a little more affluence than in our younger days, we relaxed our standards. (We also have had a need to travel to town more often as we helped with our grandson's transportation to school for a few years and other needs when he was younger.)

Nevertheless, we need to reign in our wasteful use of gasoline wherever possible. To keep making ourselves dependent on foreign oil is the most unpatriotic thing any of us can do right now perhaps. Patriotism during WWII was not judged by waving flags and patriotic talk, but rather how people abided by the rationing rules of tires and sugar. Making do and doing without and saving resources for our war effort were the true tests of patriotism. Black market users were shameful traitors. Now is the time for us to cut back on gas usage whenever possible. We need to make heros of our motorcycle riders and car pool folks.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Touching Base with Tossie

Traveling north on highways through eastern Georgia, we stopped at a roadside stand of an orchard owner for directions, a bag of apples, and a jar of sugarless Muscatine jelly, which has added the sweet grape flavor to our breakfast toast here at Woodsong. I also couldn’t resist a paper bag of horehound candies, a treat my father used to bring home from Rixlebin Pharmacy in Jonesboro and our mother would have us cough to receive our piece.

We crossed the bridge at Ellijay and continued north into Tennessee, where we passed more villages reminding us of the Cherokee--Ducktown, Turtletown, and Tellico Plains. Somewhere along here we saw a sign pointing to White Path Springs, and I wished we had time to go I thought of the death and burial of the revered elder chief who at my age had to be left behind buried in the foreign soil of Hopkinsville, KY, with a make-shift wooden monument painted to look like marble. A tall pole with white linen flag was placed so the following detachments of displaced Cherokee could mourn his passing.

During this twilight drive, where out road ran through the southern part of the Cherokee National Forrest, I could certainly understand his people’s heartbreak at being forced to leave their homeland in these beautiful mountains. Soon it was dark and the winding road spiraled through the tall green trees. As the night darkened and the curving road was constant, we hoped we wouldn’t meet anyone. We begin to think about the need for a motel. Most of the time, there were no houses and no lodging in sight. Light rain started making the darkness lit by our headlights magically lovely but diminishing driving visibility. We passed the little town Mount Vernon with few houses, and once we enjoyed the delightful scene of small children playing outside in a lit church yard evidently after the evening service while their parents lingered and visited.

As the rain intensified, we were grateful we seldom met a car and were relieved when we found a motel in Madisonville and could pull off the road. After we secured a room by using the phone placed outside the locked office, we went next door for a sandwich before retiring. With the car backed up to our room, we unloaded our bags from the trunk under the cover of the large umbrella we had used for shade at the softball games. We were soon in bed and slept well until almost 6 the next morning.

On up the road, we called our friend Tossie from Shoneys, where we had a great breakfast and abundance of coffee. After driving through the rest of Tennessee, we passed Jellico and entered Kentucky and were soon at Williamsburg. This was our first visit with our long-time dear friend since she moved down from their mountain home and into town. That home on the mountain was one of my all-time favorite houses with two of my very favorite rooms—Chester’s large formal library where he studied and wrote and a dining room built to hold the antique table where wonderful meals and conversations took place. .

After Chester’s long illness and death, Tossie had donated Chester’s library to his alma mater Berea College. She had started giving away furniture before she went to American Samoa to work in a library there, but plans to sell came to a halt. She stayed on top of the mountain by herself for a few years after the Samoa adventure. We visited her there once more and enjoyed the new sunroom and watching the birds as well as eating with her friends at the dining room table. That visit on a drive around town, she even showed us the apartment she thought she might move into someday. However, we knew she had changed her plans. Instead she moved into a house next door to a friend, who had decided to completely redo a small house instead of tearing it down.

We found the yellow house without difficulty and Tossie was outside to greet us. She had once more moved her mother’s iris and mint to a bed in the front yard,. In the large back yard, she had beautiful trees. With plenty of privacy to play her piano as loud as she wants, the house seems just right for her: aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, practical, filled with antiques in use and mementoes of a life well lived. Soon we were hearing stories of how everything worked out perfectly as she gave away her furniture and sold the mountain home to a friend. I loved knowing the antique dining room table was still in place on top of the mountain.

Gerald showed his photo albums, and they reminisced about the Hawaiian children in the church where Chester served as pastor. Tossie was able to bring Gerald up-to-date news of the successes of some of the boys he had coached and driven around the island in the church van while the boys teasingly tried to get him lost. And, of course, we wanted updates on all her children and grandchildren, whose pictures were scattered around.

Since she had a long-scheduled check up with a doctor at Corbin that afternoon, we left behind the yellow house and had lunch in Corbin so we could use every minute talking until time for her appointment and our departure. She had the guest room ready in case we decided to accept her invitation to spend the night, but we were anxious to find if everything were okay after the 60-mile winds left-over from Ike had hit Southern Illinois the previous night.

Before we returned to Woodsong, we drove to the other farm to see if Brian’s corn crop was still standing and it was. Gerald was pleased that Bryce had done some more improvement on the ditch he and the highway people have been working on. Everything looked good there. As we drove up to our house and saw that our crop of sunflowers, which were still blooming beautifully when we left, were now all blown over and comically askew on the ground, we had to laugh. Unlike many homes in our area, our house’s electricity had not gone off, and we settled in for an evening of reading the accumulated newspapers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Eve of 9/11

Our son-in-law David is celebrating his birthday tonight. I hope their family party is peaceful. Last night was supposed to be, but someone drove out in front of his mother, who was out on an errand. So David was to and from the hospital and finally followed his dad home to help get his injured mother out of the truck and into their home with her broken foot. Her car and the other car were both totaled, and so were her plans to go to a wedding in Chicago and afterwards stay to visit and help her sister. David is to be best man at this friend’s wedding, and sometime he has to find time yet to acquire a buttercup yellow tie for that occasion since he didn’t get to shop for it as planned last evening. Life has a way of upsetting the best laid plans.

Certainly in 2001, things changed horribly for all America. In addition to the sorrow, fear entered our lives in a new way. David was in Virginia and was not allowed to leave and we worried about him. With Mary Ellen’s family in the Saint Louis area, I wondered if that city might be next. We were building this house, and the building workers listened not to music but to the account on the loud radio they had going; I put up a small flag in the dirt here. Friends from California were at a motel in Marion after our Anna-Jonesboro Class of 1951 reunion, and they came out and we sat for hours in horrified silence watching the television screen at Pondside Farm. Later they were stranded for hours in long lines in the Saint Louis airport trying to get back home while their daughters worried.

Area writers were invited to bring any 9/11 poem, essay, or special memory to Latta Java tomorrow night on this anniversary. One member emailed she could not be there but had thought of William Butler Yeats’ poem soon after the tragedy and returned to it throughout the time of trauma. She sent the link for us:

Another special memory of that day for me was to get an email telling of the birth of little Noah, a baby many in our community had been anticipating. To learn he was here safely was a joyful and comforting message of normalcy and hope. Under different circumstances, I would have been happy, of course. But on that day when the email arrived, I remember the odd mix of elation on top of the horror.

Tomorrow is also our granddaughter Erin’s birthday. At first I was fretful that her special day that meant so much to us was “ruined” in 2001, but I have come to feel that it can never be ruined. She is one of the good things associated with 9/11, and the terrorists could not take that gratefulness away from us.

One of the most impressive things that day and in the days following was the magnificent reaction of the people of New York. The people there disproved any notions we had that cities are cold and uncaring places. I hope that city knows that the thoughts and prayers of the nation are with them tomorrow.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Interspersed with following the threats of hurricanes and listening to the Republican National Convention, I had lunch with a friend on Monday even though the downtown coffee house and the restaurant across the street were closed in recognition of Labor Day. Since I was running late, we met up by telephone and found a new place, where we could not only eat but talk for four hours. There is nothing like a good talk with a friend to make life more interesting and more bearable.

Though younger than I am, this new friend and I both have the same experience of having already lost a good many dear friends. That comes with age and is one of the sad aspects of growing older. You watch your high school class grow smaller at each reunion. You find yourself with a shrinking circle, and you don’t necessarily have the drive and energy to be out and about making new friends. With added doctor appointments that come with age, you my not even have much time for interacting with old friends. .In retirement, you don’t have the work contacts to connect with daily.

When I first retired, I had two buddies I enjoyed meeting up with for breakfast. The fact that we ate breakfast at 10 a.m. was evidence of our compatibility. Within a couple of years, one moved upstate. Last spring the second one headed to the east coast to live with two daughters.

A year ago a very dear new writing friend, who had moved here from Washington, D. C., had to relocate. We too could talk for hours even though she was many years younger than I. She lives close enough to our town that theoretically we could still meet up, but both of us have busy lives and we don’t. When I go by the road to her subdivision as I frequently do when I drive to town, I always feel the pang of missing her. She was nearer my daughter’s age than mine, and I so wanted her to meet my daughter because I thought they would enjoy each other’s personalities. I knew Katherine would relish the stories about Deb’s previous life in the Capitol. With the move, that possibility faded.

It is a gift to be treasured. to have found another new friend with numerous common interests but also a fascinating lifetime of many different jobs, events, and places before she moved to our town. It is good to discuss politics but not have to agree although we often do. It is good to share private problems and know they will never be judged nor repeated. It is good to have someone so busy with a job and travels that she isn’t available much of the time. That may sound like a contradiction, but it means this person is not needy. It means she understand my busyness also. Because we can rarely get together, we have much to talk about and many stories to share.

We can keep up with each other with email just as I keep up with many old friends around the country by email. I cherish those far-away friendships, and email allows us to share our lives with a minimum of time and no gas expense. But it is also good to occasionally meet face-to-face and laugh and cry together over a cup of coffee or a four-hour lunch.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sunshine on a Stem

Where last year’s garden was, Gerald planted a patch of sunflowers. He quickly acknowledged that they were much too thick. I don’t think he really knew how to thin them, and I know he has not had the time. I thought it could just be an experiment to see how well the plants bloomed planted that closely. For some weeks now, the tall plants have made a thick rectangle of swaying green—there is not a mite of space between the plants.

Last Sunday there was one tall stem above all the rest. Topping it was a beautiful circle of yellow. The next day a couple more blooms came out. By today, we have a hundreds of bright yellow flowers facing out kitchen window. Obviously, they are not planted too close together for maximum blooming. There are some little short plants with smaller blooms on the front row, but the huge blooms dominate. It is a lovely sight, and the birds will enjoy those seeds this winter.

I enjoyed Gerald’s observation that his green John Deere tractor with yellow wheels parked beside the flowers yesterday matched them perfectly.

It is nice to have some extra sunshine in our lives. There is so much sadness in the world and so many health problems in our immediate family and in our church family. Enjoying summer’s beauty is sometimes an antidote to being overwhelmed by our problems.

Talking to someone by phone who is struggling with grief, I was told she went to a Christian book store today and bought not one but two books—one to distract herself from her family’s problems and one that might offer helpful suggestions.. I can remember when I have faced serious problems in the past, I would often search out all the books I could find on a particular topic, such as how to care for elderly parents. I always felt if I checked out other people’s ideas, I would perhaps run into information I did not know or ideas I did not have. And sometimes I was simply searching for affirmation that I was handling things as well as possible.

My brother told me once that some problems we just have to live with—we cannot solve them. I have always remembered that, and sadly found it to be true sometimes. We can’t always fix things. But even when we can’t, thoughtful living and seeking ways to handle what we have to live with can make a positive difference in our lives.

It can help to deliberately enjoy the good things in our lives even when the bad things are more overpowering. No one wants to be in a hospital room, but enjoying the beautiful flowers that someone sent to show their love is not a wasted effort. Smiling at photographs of happy days gone by is not a waste of time. And looking out on a bright patch of large yellow blooms smiling at us does lift out spirits.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

August Blessings

We have been having delightful weather in Southern Illinois. High temperatures are so difficult on those with multiple sclerosis, so I have reason to appreciate more moderate temps. Hearing the news folk remind us one evening that it had been over l00 degrees on the same day a year ago made me doubly appreciate the cooler weather.

After he had been mowing the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land around Woodsong, Gerald came in and invited me to ride behind him on the “mule” to enjoy how pretty some of the back fields are right now. There are meadows of native grasses blowing in the breeze separated by the mowed areas for water run off. Last year he was excited about the partridge peas, but because of early weather and rain conditions, they are less abundant this year than last. Yet especially at the edges of the native grass patches, we do see a good many of the pretty lacy green plants with bright yellow blossoms.

The star of the field this year, however, is a plant I had never heard of before—bundle flowers. Brown has always been a favorite color of mine, although I like bright colors too. The bundle flowers are little brown balls or bundles filled with seeds that will drop to the ground soon and be there for bird food. We frequently see quail around the farm now and are grateful for their come back.

The garden is producing not just zucchini but enough acorn squash to even give away although there is only one acorn squash plant. It was accidentally bought by Gerald as it was mixed in with the zucchini. Most autumns I buy an acorn squash or two and one bright turban squash to create a centerpiece with other veggies. Then before the Christmas season, I cook them. But we had never grown acorn squash before, and we have really enjoyed this addition to our summer menus. We are also enjoying fresh tomatoes and okra.

The women in our church enjoyed a wonderful repast at Charlene’s on Monday night, and just when we thought it could not be any better, she brought out fresh peach cobbler. We have been able to get local peaches at our Kroger store, and many of our August meals have ended with a peach or a dish of sliced peaches.

Gerald came in tired tonight from his travel on an Angel Flight with his pilot friend Herman. However, he was feeling good at seeing a two-year-old and his grandmother transported to receive care for the little boy's legs which had been burned in an accident. Gerald loves to fly and to experience the amazement of going over so much territory in a short time. Since they had been delayed by the lateness of the flight that brought the duo from Cleveland, they had only returned to Marion in time to eat “lunch” at supper time. So just as I entered the kitchen, to cook a bite, Gerald said he had already eaten. So I was blessed with extra time to start reading When Lincoln Came to Egypt by Professor George Washington Smith originally published in 1940 and then republished by Gordon Pruett in 1993. I finished the introductory essay by John Y. Simon, one of our area’s outstanding historians who died this July. With my hometown of Jonesboro preparing for the sesquicentennial of the Lincoln-Douglas 1858 debate, I thought it was a good time to read the book.

I picked this book up at our village library when I returned William Keller’s History of Jonesboro, From 1803 to 1899. I grew up with Bill, who was just a year older than his cousin and my friend Shirley and I. Although I knew he was employed at the historical society in Springfield, I did not realize until after his death how much research and writing he had done. One of my deep regrets was that I did not take advantage of reconnecting with him after he retired in Jonesboro. I am sure that he had many answers to much that I want to know about the town.

I had a difficult time getting this book (Bill’s thesis for his master’s degree at SIU in 1956.) because it had been checked out earlier from the SIUC Special Collections. Naturally it finally arrived when I was busy with other projects (like shredding zucchini). Since it could not be renewed and had to be back by in the morning, I was glad Gerald was on the Angel Flight and I could read through the lunch hour and finish reading and taking the notes I wanted.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Paper, Paper Everywhere!

Sometimes I feel as if I am drowning in paper. I actually love paper. I love messy desks, over-flowing magazine racks, and over-stocked shelves of books. However, sometimes there comes a day of reckoning and every surface I see is covered with undigested pieces of paper.

I will start to write. . Suddenly I am stymied, however, because I need to double check my facts. I know that a copied paper with the facts or a saved article I need is here somewhere, but I can’t locate it. When I start going through a pile, I find things I’ve been looking for in ages past—but not what I need today.
Today was such a day. I had a rare day with a few hours to write. (I would have had more time if I weren’t wasting it grating that blamed zucchini for the freezer.) I start writing and soon begin to doubt myself. I know what I am writing is probably factually correct, but I need to double check my facts to be positive. (This is the same feeling that makes me need to go back and check that I turned out the stove at the very moment Gerald starts to back out of the garage.). Where did I read that story that told these dates, names, or facts? Am I spelling that name/place/object correctly?

So instead of getting that article done, I have instead spent those hours looking through a huge stack in a magazine basket that was somehow turned into an impromptu filing cabinet. No, that is not accurate. Nothing was filed in there. The wide basket was merely a holding pen for a foot of stuff that needed filing. I emptied the basket, and I deliberately carried it to another room, so I would not fill it again.

I managed to throw away a few papers in the wastebasket. (I have already explained that I love paper, and it is very difficult for me to throw away cherished pieces of information. Never mind, that even when and if I get papers filed, I rarely need 90% of them again.)

After some clipping, I did have a stack of saved newspapers to carry upstairs for recycling. (Who can resist also re-reading these months-old newspapers as one clips?) A few items did get filed. Many got put in little separate stacks for me to file soon. (What a fantasy that is!!)

I am one birthday card richer to send someone. (Why was it in the middle of newspapers?) And there was the scrap of paper with an address and phone number I needed a few months ago. Mixed with the ephemera were several magazines that I had never opened. There are a couple stacks of those to carry into the other room.

I am also behind on recording anything that needs to be recorded. That desk (an old door on top of two short filing cabinets) is so cluttered that I know it will take a week to make sense out of the clutter. I love records, but I am a most unfaithful record keeper.

I found and re-read a number of pages of information I found and copied last January at Southern Illinois University’s library annex that is being used to house the Special Collections. I had gotten them encased in clear plastic ready to be stuck in loose leaf binders—but for some reason they had been placed in the bottom of the basket and soon covered up with months of paper debris. Now they sit on the large folding table in the middle of my office.

With all the little stacks of sorted papers still lying around, I cannot say that my office looks much better. I still have not found the copy of the magazine that started my search. But I do feel a little smug about emptying that magazine basket. (Now I only have a half a dozen or so boxes with even more papers to someday look through. When I get through going through them, I have some boxes of my mother's papers stored in the tornado shelter and saved for me to have a project when I am in my frial-elderly stage of life and can't get out of the house.)

But tomorrow I better start again on my article for the Writers Guild anthology with the September 1 deadline. I may have to find an alternate source of information to make my needed factual checks. Sometimes I can find what I need on the Internet, but yet if I don’t immediately use it, I must either write it on a note card or piece of paper to save it. You know what happens to those at my house. Ah well.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Why Does Everything Come At Once?

At the Trail of Tears Association board meeting tonight in Carbondale, Cheryl Jett arrived breathlessly with her supper in hand from a drive-through window. Our meeting after her drive down from Collinsville was just one of the many places she had to go today. This was also her first deadline for materials for her book about the city of Alton coming out sometime in 2009. She had prepared and printed out for us the agenda, treasurer’s report, and complicated minutes of the last very long meeting. She asked, “Why does everything come in the same week??!!”

Boy, did I empathize. My own agenda for today started out quite reasonable as I planned it yesterday. I’d have all morning to do laundry and get our lunch and fix a plate for Gerald to microwave for his supper. Knowing I was on my way to Carbondale anyway, it would be easy for me to be available to take Samuel to catch his bus to church camp so Katherine could keep her doctor’s appointment.

I could also return an unneeded item at the Carbondale Mall, recycle all the stuff in my garage at the drive-through recycling center, drop some letters in the Carbondale mail slot, and still arrive without pressure for the 6 p.m. board meeting. I looked forward to a busy but nor harried day. Since we have ridiculous amounts of zucchini and acorn squash accumulating in our kitchen, I also had thoughts maybe I could take a box to the soup kitchen since we no doubt will have another box full soon for me to think about freezing.

Last evening, however, Gerald told me that our wonderful neighbors had harvested a field of sweet corn in Galatia in yesterday’s hot steamy weather. The corn was picked and waiting to be shared with us. How many dozen did we want? Gerald ran over and brought back half-a-tub full of scrumptious perfect ears of corn. What more could anyone ask? Someone else raised it and picked it and gave it to us free!!

Suddenly my morning included getting down the big pans from the top of the pantry, washing corn and brushing off silk by the sink full, boiling water for blanching to stop the deterioration and loss of vitamins and minerals, fixing ice water to cool the corn after the blanching, bagging it and putting it in the freezer. As I read the morning’s paper at breakfast, I had laughed through Dixie Terry’s account of all the zucchini in her kitchen (when they had not raised a one), and decided I would get rid of one of ours by following her recipe for zucchini pie. Sort of.

I rarely follow a recipe exactly. Living in the country, if I don’t have an ingredient on hand, I make do with what is in my pantry. Even before gas became so high, I have never considered going to town just to get the items I don’t have. I did not have an onion as I’d thrown out the last one that rotted the other day, so I used onion flakes from the large container I’d bought recently. Not having crescent rolls to line the pie pan, I used a couple frozen pie shells. Usually I have a package of shredded cheese in the freezer, but I couldn’t find any, so I melted chunks of cheese food. I still had some chicken from a mesquite-flavored chicken I’d picked up yesterday, and I made the pie into a main dish. Her recipe was for one pie, but somehow I got two out of it. It baked while I was frantically trying to cool corn and carry it to the freezer in the garage.

The kitchen began to smell very nice, and Dixie’s recipe was delicious served with fresh sliced tomatoes—one from Gerald’s garden and one from the neighbor’s. I got the lunch dishes into the dish washer, and most of the laundry put away but not all. The big pans used for the corn will be washed easily in the morning. Sam was delivered to the church on time; and since I had fortunately packed all the recyclables in the trunk yesterday afternoon, I was able to accomplish that task before returning the mall item, finding a couple summer clothing items 75% off at Macy’s, and even doing a little Christmas shopping at the sale there.

Since our board meeting did not last as late as it sometimes does, I was stopped at Taco Bell and had a bite of supper and took advantage of Kroger’s senior citizen day on the way home. Most of those groceries are carried in; and tomorrow, I will put them away. I will think happily of all that tasty corn in the freezer to feed the grandkids when they come to see us next winter, and we will have left-over zucchini pie for lunch. Oh yes, I have been wanting to talk to daughter Jeannie and haven’t had time to phone her even if she were home to get the call, which she rarely is. I even accomplished that on the second try with a hands-free phone coming home from Carbondale. Everything comes at once some days, but sometimes that is a good thing to push us to more productive. Tomorrow I will sleep late and then do all the left-over tasks from today.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ouch! Into the Losers’ Bracket

Shortly before noon, our granddaughter Erin showed up at Woodsong, and we headed over to Henderson, Kentucky, where the Southern Force 16-and-under softball team was playing today n the Amateur Softball Association nationals.

Erin is helping her older sister Tara, the Force coach , but Erin has been driving back and forth because motel rooms are few and far between in this area. With 140 teams competing, this is one of the biggest national ASA tourneys ever. Erin thought she would sleep better at home than in Tara’s room with her beloved nephew Aidan.

After lunch in Harrisburg, we traveled on to the Shawneetown bridge across the Ohio River and into the beautiful hills of Kentucky. Next as we drove between fertile fields of corn and soybeans, Gerald was reminiscing about his frequent trips to Owensboro to the soybean processing plant in our old hog-raising days when our little children sometimes rode along. He declared these were the best crops he has ever seen in that region.

The tourney hosted by Owensboro, Kentucky, has games spread out at different fields and towns, so Henderson was a little closer trip than Gerald made on Monday when he drove over to see the first game in pool play. Southern Force won that and also yesterday’s pool play game. Unfortunately, playing the Arizona Hotshots today, we lost our first round of bracket play 3-0 when a great Hotshots hitter did us in with a home room that brought in two other runners after five scoreless innings.

We had five hits and once also had two runners on base—but we did not bring them in, so the most dreaded thing happened. Southern Force is now in the losers’ bracket, and it will take 17 wins to bring them back to play in the championship game against the winner of the winners’ bracket. (Tara’s team did this very thing last year at the nationals in North Dakota and won second in the tourney. But that is a very difficult and usually impossible way to get to the championship.)

It was very hot when we arrived in mid-afternoon. We immediately met our daughter-in-law Vickie, who was headed to the truck to get a bucket and shovel for Aidan to play in the huge sand pile by picnic shelter. She pointed the way to the shelter, where Marie Miller was watching Aidan for her. It was in the perfect location to watch Southern Force play.

Since we had forgotten to throw our lawn chairs in the trunk, I was very grateful to be in the shade with a breeze there instead of on the bleachers under the blazing sun. Gerald was tough enough to stand with Gerry or others most of the time, but I had the extra pleasure of watching two-year-old Aidan.

Seeing him get dirtier and dirtier as the afternoon wore on, we had to remember that it seemed only yesterday that we were watching Tara and Erin play ball while Geri Ann carried her sand bucket around with dirty face and feet. Vickie would bring her to the ball park sparkling clean with shiny face and neat hair, but Geri Ann threw herself into the sand pile play as hard as she does on the ball field now. (She was DH today and got two hits, but not the homerun that put the Hotshots ahead.)

Marie Miller co-cared and co-fed Aidan along with Vickie. She helped Aidan start playing in the sand pile by showing him how to dig holes and shovel sand. She willingly put his shoes and socks back on when he tired. Then when he wanted another session—but with company—she placed her lawn chair and sun umbrella on top of the sand pile to keep Aidan company even as she watched Danielle play. (Danielle got one of our hits.)

Of course, when K.J. and Jett showed up (big kids!), Aidan had all the company he needed as he followed them around in the fenced-in grassy area on the other side of the shelter as well as on the sand pile. Marie kept him hydrated with a bottle of cold tea and Gma Vickie offered a icy snow cone that he loved digging into. Both were pulling snacks out of their bags.

Beyond the fenced-in area and way way over on a hill was an attractive play ground with equipment. Aidan was very outspoken about wanting to go there. Vickie had to show and explain the locked gate on the fence that made it impossible. He kept asking Vickie for a key to that lock, but finally accepted that she had no key.

We were all a little startled when our peace was broken because three boys showed up running from the playground and crawled over the five-foot gate. They saw our worried expressions and hastily explained that they had tickets to the ball game in their pockets and just did not want to go way way around to get in. We were concerned that Aidan would be trying to climb that fence too. He didn’t, but he had a great time with K.J. and Jett trying to figure out how to pick that lock.

Since going into the losers’ bracket meant that Southern Force would be playing at 9 o’clock in the morning instead of sleeping in, Erin needed to stay over and didn’t come back with us. (We weren’t sure we could get her wherever they play by 8 in the morning.) We had a pleasant trip home stopping at Subway for supper.

Lightning flashes and darkening sky with the promise of a welcome rain made it even more pleasant after we came into Illinois. We arrived at our garage just as the first sprinkles began, and it has been raining ever since. We are going to bed with visions of Brian’s corn lapping up the moisture and growing bigger and better ears while we sleep.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Garden Vegetables, Glycemic Index, and Shaking on Salt

Gerald was explaining to me this morning what glycemic index is all about. Interestingly, the desirability of some food items on the index conflicts with previous information given to us by dietitians in the past. GRRR.

For someone like me, who does not like change, trying to absorb the new information is as aggravating as trying to remember what in the world our bank calls itself now. After much effort a couple of years ago, Gerald shifted to skim milk at the dietitian’s request. Now this new information says that whole milk will cause fewer changes in blood sugar or something like that. GRRRR.

The only good thing is that fresh garden vegetables are still highly recommended—and thanks to our neighbor Scott’s garden and Gerald’s, we are enjoying lots of those right now. I had been trying to buy frozen veggies as opposed to canned since the canned has salt added. Fresh, of course, are even better. (I still would like to add salt while cooking them, but people at our table will just have to use the shaker and do that themselves.) Since the younger grandkids, who have just left, seldom touch the veggies anyhow—except for Scott’s sweet corn—that has not been a problem.

We have had three messes of okra to fix in the microwave. (Yes, of course, we like fried okra better--especially the grandkids.) I fixed a huge pot of green beans that Scott and Sonja sent over—and Gerald broke them for us. (No, I did not add bacon for seasoning. They were still delicious.) We have had our first zucchini casserole. (Yes, I would love to make zucchini bread, but until we have guests to eat it, I won’t.) We have had tiny fresh tomatoes for two meals now. (We did not have to worry about salmonella.)

One of our most interesting new vegetables is a squash that Gerald accidentally bought that must have been mixed in with the zucchini plants he purchased. I guess it is an orange acorn squash—which I did not excited as I thought they were all dark green. . I have just halved them, scooped out the insides, and placed them upside down on a plate and put them in the microwave. I even eat the skins. (Yes, I am sure they would taste even better with salt, butter, and perhaps brown sugar. But they are good plain, and certainly simple to fix the healthy way.)

Gerald moved his garden this summer in hopes of getting rid of a wilt disease we had, but he thinks it has moved with him. The Japanese beetles are visiting our trees on the lawn, but I haven’t heard yet if they are bothering the garden. We had been getting generous rain, but right now we are somewhat dry. Nevertheless, we are blessed with great vegetables that make our diet in line with a healthy glycemic index. (Yes, I would like to never have to think about glycemic index on top of worrying about calories, vein-clogging fats, salt, Vitamin K dangers, and whatever the dietitians discover next to dazzle us with.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Meals Plus Snacks Are Necessary

“Grandma, can we make corn dogs?’ (Never mind, that we just ate supper a little after six—less than three hours ago.)

Actually, I was glad that while rummaging in the freezer for ice cream that they found the corn dogs that I had bought for this week—and then forgotten about in all the excitement and busyness of the week. I suspect a corn dog is as good a snack as any. So I gave permission for them to fix the dogs in the microwave—but not the oven which they would have preferred for some reason. It is just too hot to use the oven unnecessarily.

As an experiment, I had put a new jar of peanut butter and box of crackers in the den, where I keep grandkids’ treats in the fridge there. So far the peanut butter has been untouched. None of our kids have a weight problem, and I thought the protein better for them than sweet treats. They are definitely not couch potatoes.

With the heat like it is, they have pretty much stayed inside under the AC during the afternoons. This makes me appreciate a big house. I can get away from the noise--most of the time. We have too many grandkids to downsize yet.

What kids like and do not like to eat always amazes me, and, of course, it varies from kid to kid. The three here this week won’t touch a green salad. Yet our church kids adore salads—maybe because their Gma Jo makes some of the tastiest salads in the world and they and their friends found salads habit forming.

I can remember never liking pickles until some cousins were at our house one summer and encouraged me and my brother to start eating pickles off the table before supper was served. We ate the whole bowl of pickles, and I learned they were acceptable food for kids.

When our Erin was little, she liked Neopolitan ice cream and called it "sandwich ice cream." Consequently, the other cousins followed her lead and liked "sandwich ice cream." But this group doesn't even remember that, and they turned up their noses at Neopolitan the last time I bought it.

Meals definitely change while the grandkids are here. However, I did fix a pot roast with all the veggies yesterday, and we ate that again today also for our main meal tonight. Gerald was having lunch again with Gerry today. For the kids, I fixed macaroni and cheese to go with ham and some left-over vegetables (which no one ate) when we got home from VBS. Although I knew our kids always liked macaroni and cheese, I thought their enthusiastic reaction was a little strong. Come to find out, some TV show they watched yesterday had featured macaroni and cheese and threw a craving on them. I was glad I fixed two boxes, so they were free to eat all they wanted.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fifi's Loaning Me Her Rubber Chicken

My three-week search for a rubber chicken for VBS has been successful. Brianna told me Sunday afternoon that Fifi has a rubber chicken. I called Mary Ellen the next day to double check and told her to ask Fifi if I could borrow it. Everyone agreed Fifi said yes. Brianna said Fifi didn’t like the old thing anyway. Now if the Taylor household can locate Fifi’s rubber chicken and not forget to bring it down to Woodsong, I have escaped the dreaded thought that I was supposed to spend $l0 on one. (I had decided as a matter of principal that I would not, but I had not been able to think of another way to pull off the on-going gag each day about the safety of the captain’s pet parrot.)

The called-for colorful ten-foot “parachute” was neatly packaged and delivered to my front porch today while I was away. I have never played with a pretend parachute before, so I have to learn how to explain to the children how to rolls balls around on it and flip them off. Kim coached me tonight. (I still better read those suggestions in my leader’s book again.) Probably some of the kids have already done this and can teach me.

In the same box was my copy of The Cherokee Trail of Tears by photographer David Fitzgerald and with text by Duane King. I had just finished reading Marilyn Schild’s copy she loaned me, and it was so beautiful that I had to add it to my TOT books. I wish I had time to sit down and read it again.

Sonja filled the side of our garage with inflated animals yesterday while I was gone, and tonight I hauled them to a storage room at church. My back seat was filled with sharks, whales, a sea horse, a flamingo, and other air-stuffed objects to use in and around the tropical island I am supposed to create for our games. These are joining the stuffed cat that Charlene has loaned me and the monkeys from Samuel’s house.

The dining room table is still covered with boxes, papers, and the things I had laminated yesterday for the children to use. Tomorrow will be my first day at home this week, so I will need to finalize plans and make efforts to clear that table before grandkids start arriving.

We were saddened when our crop of seven ducklings quickly reduced to three. Gerald was somewhat comforted, however, by getting to see a nest full of baby quail make an appearance.

The ducks and geese cross our lane all day long going to the wheat field for the grain left behind after Scott combined it. Something about an approaching car causes them to want to go from whichever side of the lane they are on to the other side. I slow down and talk to them as I wait. I talk sweet when I am feeling patient. When I am not, I tell them to get off the road. They don’t act like they hear me. Reckon they have bird brains?

We received a gentle half inch rain last night and another during the day today while Gerald and I were both off the farm. As I went in and out of stores this afternoon, the rain wasn't good for the new perm I got this morning, but Gerald says this is just the right time for Brian’s pollinating corn.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

"Someone stole June"

A friend wrote, "Someone stole June." June happened much too quickly for me too, and now it seems July is already hurrying by much too quickly. I want to yell: Slow down, Life!" Where are those lazy hazy days of summer?

The dining room table is covered with boxes for Vacation Bible School. I am gathering up all the stuff called for in the teacher's book. Stickers, colored feathers, stuffed monkey, etc. Sonja emailed me that she has some of the items I need. Charlene phoned that she has the stuffed cat I was looking for. But I still need a parachute (not a real one--the kind kids play with), a rubber chicken, six foam balls, some egg-splat balls, etc. etc. The writers probably have a staff or a wife to order and gather up all this junk. GRRRR. And they probably have a bigger budget than I do for foolishness. I hope they do some soul searching to decide if they are using their budget wisely, however, just as I do.

Since I was in Carbondale yesterday afternoon, I made a point to stop by the toy store there. I found a rubber chicken, but I wasn't sure I wanted to spend $10 for one. I bumped into Jon Musgrave as I left the store and entered the mall, and I asked him if he had a rubber chicken. I explained: "I don't want to buy one. I want to borrow one for the one day I need it for a five-minute gag." He said he didn't have one, but I had to wonder after I commented that no one I knew owned a rubber chicken and he quipped, "Not that they will admit to."

Making decisions on what to spend money for becomes a problem once you have a dollar or so extra beyond the absolute necessities. The starving people around the globe haunt me. The beautiful faces in magazines of the children with cleft palates who only need $250 for surgery torment me.

Yet I know Jesus approved the costly perfume Mary used to wash his feet. And small extravaganzas that I have given to individuals have blessed me sufficiently that I was sure I had done the right thing.

I have always believed we are wise to build good-looking public buildings and fine highways and beautiful bridges because so many people are helped by these. When we are going down the highway without another car in sight and Gerald points out the million dollar roadway just in front of us, I not only luxuriate in this great richness, but I also know that more people than I can count will also benefit from it just as we are. And when we read about a bridge disaster, veterans being mistreated, or children in bad buildings in inner city schools, we know we have been penny wise and pound foolish. (Or people making those decisions have been. But the decision makers have to have the public's support.)

I have come to realize that I can buy a good product for our home without qualms of conscience (if I can afford it) because I know if there is any use left in the item when we can no longer use it,I will pass it on. If not to someone I know, then to the household giveaway sponsored by the Ministerial Alliance in Marion. Clothing can be taken to Salvation Army and glasses to one of the Lions' collection boxes. I would never deliberately burn something that someone else needs.

I remember reading that wealthy big spenders in the Depression who gave lavish parties argued that they were giving jobs to people who needed them. That made perfect sense to me. Yet there still remains something distasteful when someone gives ostentatious affairs while other are suffering.

On the television today I heard someone explain an advantage to the high gas prices. With fewer people on the road, fewer deaths are occurring. If it were one of my family saved from death, I'd have to choose the higher price if I could prevent the death. Isn't life complicated?

I must go online and decide if I can get a rubber chicken that with postage costs might cost less than the local store. And I must decide whether a few minutes of fun is worth it to the children. All the while I will be remembering that some research shows that we learn better and retain information better if we are having fun. And that is the point of VBS. We want youngsters to learn Bible truths that they will incorporate into their lives. We hope their lives will be spiritually richer and more effective because of this study.

My sister reported that their VBS in Amarilo was one of the most satisfying experiences she had ever had. Picking up and teaching two great grandchildren was part of the reason, but hearing other children also respond with how much fun they were having and wishing VBS could last even longer made her feel she was well paid for her efforts.