Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Aftermath of Christmas

Facebook brings us in contact with people from long ago. One young lady I especially enjoyed watching grow up in our village had writing talent. She went off to college, married a doctor, lives in a coastal state far from Southern Illinois, and has three sons— one of whom will be in college next year if I understand her status remarks correctly. Her post-Christmas comment was she was cleaning up the aftermath of Christmas. That is where we all are now, isn’t it? There is always physical and emotional aftermath.

We are still eating leftovers, and I carried some—including the last pumpkin pie--in to Katherine’s house this afternoon. Mary Ellen said to take the extra loaf of banana bread she had made to the Cedars, so I delivered that too. I feel a certain satisfaction when I empty a dish. Now that is done, I think.

Gerald was concerned that we might run short on fruit despite the huge bowl we had available. (Katherine had seen this commercial-size aluminum bowl at a rummage sale when she lived with us in 1993, and she laughingly carried it home to me. She knew I would love it, and I do.) Actually we’ve had adequate fruit in these three days after Christmas. We still have plenty of apples, but I think we did eat the last orange today. I have made a mental note to buy two boxes from Sam’s band fund raiser next year.

Gerry looked at our house after Christmas and commented that it would take me two weeks to clean it up. I laughed and knew he was correct. This despite the fact that others cleaned the kitchen beautifully with all its pots and pans after our Christmas dinner, people gathered the discarded paper when we unwrapped our gifts, and they picked up before they left. Although I counted 16 pairs of shoes in the front foyer once, nary a one was left. Granddaughter Brianna picked up the den again before the Taylors left Saturday night, and Mary Ellen loaded the collection of dirty towels downstairs in the washer. I had already laundered the upstairs towels. And the table coverings are laundered and put away except for the one on the table now. Yet there are many items still out of place—things Gerald and I don’t use but bring out when a crowd is here.

In another week, I will be thinking of disassembling the two trees—one upstairs and one down—and packing away all the decorations for next year—decorations I have been collecting for over 50 years. I will enjoy it. Putting things away allows me to relive and remember the fun times we just had as well as the ancient Christmases that the decorations bring to mind. After our first Christmas as an engaged couple, I went to the after-Christmas sale at the dime store in Anna and bought two dozen ornaments in preparation for our tree the following year. Some have broken, but most are still intact. I have added some of Gerald’s mother’s ornaments as well bought many since then.

Many ornaments on the downstairs tree were made by children and grandchildren, and others are made by friends and relatives. “Somebunny in Wyoming loves you,” says one little painted bunny from Gerald’s sister. The wooden replica of a Texas map that niece Cyndi made in 1985 commands: “Deck them halls, ya’ll.” For a few years before her stroke in 2001, Ginger and Garry would come to our house early in December and bring an ornament that Ginger made us. Those are precious. I try to enjoy the ornaments and the memories as I put them up, for there is more time to lovingly linger when I pack them away.

Christmas cards and letters have poured in—some hand made, some made on the computer, one with an ornament for the tree, two original poems for the season, many notes and annual letters, and one very cherished long hand-written two page letters just to me. My cousin Ginny sent me a copy of a book her sister Kathie published of their late mother’s journal notes about the two times their family moved to California—once in 1926 before I was born and I had never even known about. The other was the 1940s move that separated their family from ours during all the war years. Soon after moving to the land of his dreams, Uncle Bill died of a heart attack, but Aunt Liz and their four daughters remained there.

Aunt Liz and her sisters, orphaned by early adulthood, stayed connected with a round robin letter that went from home to home growing with one more letter at each stop. We kids devoured these letters also. So I was quite familiar with Aunt Liz’s conversational writing style. Reading her early journal was almost like having her in the house for a visit. I will want to read this again too just as I will re-read the Christmas cards and letters.

Getting over Christmas and its aftermath has always been more relaxed and pleasurable in some ways than pre-Christmas activities. This post season week too will pass, and the plainness of the house cleared of excess color and clutter will be as refreshing to the eyes as the ornamentation has been. Meals will deliberately be simple and down home. I will probably be making beans and corn bread soon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

"Away in the Manger"

One of my favorite things in the Christmas season is watching the children in our village church in their annual program. We barely arrived by the 2 p.m. time, but as it turned out, there was room on the back row for us to sit with our 92-year-old friend and neighbor Chester Turner.

Kim Barger has been kind enough to take the lead for several years now to see that we have a program. Before the coal mines shut down and we had a much larger church family, we sometimes had quite elaborate plays and/or musicals. Kim lead in some of those. However, in recent years with fewer children, we have had to simplify. Also we have tried to meet families’ needs. Some are having family gatherings today and could not participate. Some children can’t come to many practices or perhaps any of them. Kim wants them to be welcome to participate if they want to, and so she welcomes them to sing along with or without attending practices.

Today after a humorous reading by a senior citizen, who calls herself “Granny,” our teens preceded the little children’s participation. We heard Cody Barger, who has a beautiful voice, sing “Mary Did You Know?” and later read the scripture with an equally good reading voice. Katie Cutsinger did a poem parody of “The Night Before Christmas” with poise and clarity. Cody’s brother Jared played an electric guitar solo, and his cousin Donovan did a solo on his drums. Both solos were so good, and it was exciting to see how each had grown and mastered his instrument in the couple of years we have heard them play. Next in line was Donovan's sister, Bethany, a second grader, who sang “There’s a Song in the Air” with great talent.

The musical quality was high and we would have enjoyed it under any circumstances, but we listened with tears just below the surface because Kim and her husband Scott had spent this week in the hospital after Scott’s heart attack on Monday. Yesterday, the doctors sent him home with special care-taking by Kim giving him shots. Some of us had wondered how the program could go on, but we knew Kim’s sister-in-law Tina had been helping with the program and she would take over. But amazingly, Kim was there, and Scott even came down the short distance from their house to sit quietly and be there for that hour. Someone else took his place presenting the church’s present to the pastor.

After the older kids’ part, then we had the nativity scene. Many years ago, some talented seamstresses created a large number of costumes for angels and shepherds. They could not be more simple, so the seamstresses’ talent was in designing these practical garments. They slide over the head over the street clothes and are very adjustable to various size children. They are laundered and put carefully away from year to year, and no parent has the stress of trying to create a costume. And Kim is ready for whoever shows up. One of the cutest and quite effective developments in the last couple years is that when the time comes for the little ones to perform the nativity scene, they simply come to the front from where they have been sitting with parents and put on their costumes in front of the audience. The older kids and teens join them.

And that is when they sang “Away in the Manager” and another sweet song about the babe in the hay. Seeing Tyler swaying, smiling, and singing was a joy, and two-year-old Lena stole the show by trying to reach up and obtain the mike in their midst. She was ready to sing just as she had seen Bethany do. The program ended with a joyful rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” by four-year-old Amanda, who showed up today with her Christmas dress and matching doll.

Our church is strong on tradition, and we have a very old-fashioned Christmas program dating from no telling how many decades ago. It was set in concrete, when we first experienced it in 1962 when we moved to Williamson County. After the formal program is over, we sing a carol or two, and then most years, a Santa Claus shows up and helps with the distribution of presents that are under the tree. The teens help pass gifts to those who don’t want to come up and sit on Santa’s lap. While this is going on, two large serving bowls saved year to year for this very purpose filled with candies, such as chocolates, hard candies, and orange slices are passed to the congregation. During all the gift receiving and little ones talking to Santa, the bowls go up and down the aisles usually arriving just as you have finished the last piece you took. At the very end as we leave, sacks of Christmas treats with an orange, apple, and candy are passed to those who will take them. People don’t usually leave in a hurry as they linger to visit.

We came back home to Woodsong for Gerald’s nap as he watched TV and I resumed addressing Christmas cards. After supper, I had to make a birthday phone call to my sister. Before he went to bed, Gerald got a phone call from granddaughters Erin and Geri Ann that they were on their way up from Georgia, so we were pretty excited. We were expecting them tomorrow. But after their weekend softball camp, they needed to deliver a young friend to the Atlanta airport, so it was a wise choice to come on up to Illinois tonight. The door is unlocked, and I’m going to say good night to you, so I can go up and turn on all the outside lights to welcome them.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Newsletter 2009

I have spent the afternoon addressing Christmas cards. I love Christmas cards because they allow me to keep up with friends from the past. I have always loved newsletters, because I love reading about others’ lives. Naturally I early started writing one of my own. I know Ann Landers and others made fun of them, and that was their privilege. But I did resent that their writings and disdain might have influenced others not to write newsletters I would have enjoyed.

Originally I signed Gerald’s name to the letter, but that embarrassed him, so I switched to using first person, which was easier to write. I might have stopped in busy years, but there were elderly relatives who would tell me how much they looked forward to my letter. How could I quit? (I hope they weren’t fibbing!) Those dear ones are gone now, but writing the letter has become one of my traditions, and it is a good way to reflect back upon the previous year. I always assumed my friends and relatives were smart enough to toss my letter in the wastebasket if they did not like newsletters. If you don’t, please don’t read tonight’s blog any further. Here is the 2009 newsletter:

Woodsong Christmas 2009
Dear Friends and Relatives:

Except for the Taylors, our extended family has mostly stayed put this year. Mary Ellen and Brian moved from Lake Saint Louis, MO, to central Illinois. Their country home is five miles from the sweet tiny town of Waggoner. Trent and Briana go to Lincolnwood High School in Raymond. Brian once again had great yields on our farm on the Pittsburg road, which he leases.

The Cedars--Katherine, David, and Sam--are still in Marion. The Eilers--Jeannie, Rick, Elijah, and Cecelie--in Freeport, and Gerry, Vickie, and Geri Ann in Watkinsville, GA. Erin Glasco is a senior at Texas A&M and Leslie Eiler is a sophomore at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Tara, our oldest grandchild, and her husband, Bryan Archibald, and their two boys--Aidan and Maddux-- are still in Aurora.

We like being half way between Leslie and her family since we get to have them come by the farm as they travel to visit one another. And we love it when Erin stays here while she visits her hometown Johnston City friends.

In the spring, we followed Erin’s A&M and Gerry’s University of Georgia softball teams, and this fall Geri Ann’s Oconee High School softball team. We watched on the computer or sometimes on TV and on occasion in person. Gerald planned a birthday trip to see Gerry’s Georgia Bulldogs play softball. We had planned to go together to Aggies vs. Missouri, but with her Great Grandmother Borum’s death on April 1, Gerald took Erin on to Columbia after the Friday night visitation and I stayed here.

With grandson Sam along, we went up to Freeport the days before Easter to see Elijah and Cecelie in the annual extravaganza Showtime, which is always an incredible student production. Sam got to dye eggs with the Eilers and then again when we stopped at my brother Jim’s for a break coming home. We arrived back at Woodsong on Easter Eve. I had a small ham in the fridge, but I did not use it. Our son-in-law David had arranged an Easter dinner for us, and he and Katherine carried it out to Woodsong for the six of us, which included Sam’s friend Josh.

I did get to see Erin play softball, however, when we went to the Big 12 Tournament on Mother’s Day weekend. (We missed getting to see Elijah in the lead of Brighton Beach Memoirs up at Freeport that week.) Driving to Oklahoma City, we listened to reports on the derecho, which wiped out thousands of trees, roofs, and worse in our area. Mary Ellen and Brian and our good neighbors the Cullys took care of our house, hooked up a generator, and saved our frozen food.

A year’s highlight for us was going at the end of May to the Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City for the second year in a row. Last year we saw Erin lead A&M to second place, and this year the University of Georgia went to the nationals for the first time and placed third. Mary Ellen, Brianna, and the Archibalds were also there in addition to Vickie and Geri Ann. We also visited with Gerald’s Air Force friends John and Mary Patterson, who live there, and we celebrated Mary Ellen‘s birthday.

Afterward we drove on down to Amarillo to visit with my sister Rosemary and husband Phil and the family there. We had been able to meet up with their daughter Cyndi in Oklahoma, who was house sitting that week for her daughter Tori and husband Randy. We had barely returned from Texas, and Gerald went with Tara to a Southern Force tourney in Birmingham.

July brought Vacation Bible School at Center with grandkids visiting and helping out. August brought a day trip for me to visit her brother Jim and wife Vivian. Then the day after Gerald’s Wolf Lake High School Reunion, we drove to Urbana for the 100th anniversary of Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church, where we attended when Gerald was in grad school. Next came a visit from Erin and two girl friends from A&M. On our way to the Garden of the Gods with them, we were able to work in a visit to cousins Morris and Judy Hall when Mary Graddick came up from Tallahassee.

Labor Day brought the Archibalds, the Taylors, Leslie and her friend Mike Thompson to visit, so that was a fun weekend. At the end of the week, we headed to Georgia and watched Geri Ann’s team win 4 of 5 games in their opening tourney there in Watkinsville. We were able to attend church with them and stay a couple more days for one more game. Visiting Dahlonega was a special treat. This month Geri Ann was chosen by the Athens Herald-Banner as softball player of the year. As a pitcher, she went 11-2 this season with a 0.60 ERA and batted .465 with 10 homers and 41 RBI.

Back in Illinois, we enjoyed a visit from Vernell Williams and together attended the annual BSU Reunion (1940s-60s) at Carbondale’s Baptist Student Center and at University Baptist Church.

As we have aged, the doctor, dental, ear, and eye appointments have increased to fill our time. But we have still had time for services at Center in the village of Crab Orchard, grandson Sam’s band concerts, and occasional breakfasts or dinners with the Glasco brothers. I remained active in Southern Illinois Writers Guild and the Trail of Tears Association, and I frequently speak on the Trail. Usually I blog twice a week on Woodsong Notes and occasionally write an article that gets published. Gerald has again enjoyed some Angel Flights with Herman Hood. He has a couple of Gerry’s dogs here right now and had fun hunting quail with Gerry over Thanksgiving. He still helps out Scott Cully next door and sometimes our son-in-law Brian. He always has a project of some sort going and does a lot of photography.

All the children and most of the grandchildren were here for Thanksgiving. (The Archibalds had their northern Illinois family at their house, but they plan to be here for Christmas.) Jeannie’s family will be at Freeport at Christmas.

There are many sad things in the world and in our community and family, but also we have much to be thankful for including friends and loved ones like you. Here is a Bible verse gift for 2010: “And the angel said Fear not: for, behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Luke 2:10

Love and Merry Christmas,

Sue

Thursday, December 17, 2009

“We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”

Brisk but very pleasant weather made Center’s annual caroling outing much more comfortable than it has been in some past years. Thirteen of us gathered at the church house in the village and put together fruit bags and goody trays for shut-ins. Actually right now we have few. Some we send the treats to, but don’t sing to as they go to bed early.

Loudeen is a recovered cancer patient and looked marvelous. She insisted we come inside her lovely home because she had home-made fudge waiting for us! Her husband is in the nursing home, so she welcomed the visit. Then we traveled on down the road to Chester Turner’s farm. Chester is a community favorite, who always makes anyone visiting him feel like a million dollars. He is any thing but a shut-in, but we visit him anyway. His only child was killed in a car accident shortly after he returned from Viet Nam. His wife died a few years back. Chester remains on the farm taking care of his livestock and riding his horses and mule regularly. He will be 92 on his birthday Saturday, as one of our carolers, who is a riding buddy, informed us. So we also sang “Happy Birthday” to Chester. (The mule is 23.)

Next we went to Angel Acres out in the country from Marion to visit those living there and took a couple of baskets of goodies. (I always thought that Angel Acres was sort of sweet name for a home. However, when I reported a couple years ago that an elderly friend went there, our daughter Jeannie, who has a wry sense of humor, made certain that we knew what she thought if she were to ever be sent to a home with that name. So I guess that won’t be her choice for Gerald and me.)

The residents gathered in the living room were very welcoming, and almost everyone of them sang along with us on the carols. (One was asleep in his wheelchair in the other room.) One very sweet little lady not only sang but waved her arms and directed us on every song. I figured her physical therapist would be delighted that she got that exercise, and I wondered if she had once been a song leader. Wishing everyone a merry Christmas, we started our car caravan and headed into town to The Fountains. We enjoyed their lovely decorations and the aquarium in the lobby.

We were there to visit Robert “Pete” Cline, who is 98. Last year the group had caroled to him at his bedside there, but this year he was up and moving well in his walker. He had gained weight and looked good. His daughter and a group from her church had just entertained the entire home in the recreation room, so an attendant ushered us into a smaller kitchenette/game room, and Pete came in to visit with us.

He had lived in our village for many years, but finally he and Rhoda sold their home and moved into Marion across from a daughter’s home, where we visited and caroled. As they aged, Rhoda eventually had to be taken care of in the daughter’s home, and one year we caroled her there and then across the way to the other house to carol Pete. Then Rhoda was gone, but with the daughters’ and grandchildren’s help, Pete stayed in that comfortable home filled with pictures of grandchildren, and we caroled him each year. Now he has 24 hour care, and still has lots of attention from his children and grandkids. After he recognized some of us, we visited and introduced him to our new pastor and other newcomers before we sang, while he wiped tears from his eyes with his clean handkerchief.

Several we have caroled in the past are no longer with us, so we had only one more place to go. That was to the village of Pittsburg where Tally Taylor’s grandmother lives. She and a friend welcomed us warmly inviting us in, but we insisted on singing on the outside as we usually do at people’s homes. Her tiny white poodle came to the door with them and seemed to enjoy the singing. We enjoyed seeing him.

Back to the church house, we descended to the basement fellowship hall, where Shirley Butler as always had made the tables festive. She had assembled coffee and chocolate milk and cookies and doughnuts. We visited and contemplated that within this next year, we will be gathering in our new fellowship hall on the ground floor. Since Sunday, walls had gone up, so we all felt excitement when we arrived and saw that tonight.

Gradually our little group disbanded to get home to children or chores. Shirley dispensed remaining cookies for folks to take home to children or grandchildren. The kitchen was left clean and shiny as Shirley always does for us—with help, of course. She carried paraphernalia up the stairs to her car trunk even though she lives next door—but the church has a big lawn running down towards the creek between it and Shirley and Butch’s house. For years we had a bridge that Butch built to walk across to their place, but a storm took it down a couple of years ago. Their house faces another street around the corner.

After two or three trips to her car, Shirley also carried up the platter piled high with goodies for Jerome, another favorite who doesn’t want caroling but who always welcomes Shirley. No wonder since she takes him frequent plates from our potlucks or brings him treats from in-town restaurants that she knows he likes. Shirley is one of those unsung heroines, whose organizational abilities and artistic eye have blessed us for years as she quietly serves as our hostess.

We all felt some disquiet tonight, for one of our young men went into the hospital on Monday with a heart attack. Yesterday he had a splint put in. He is out of ICU today and back to his own room. His wife Kim is usually our caroling song leader, and their two teen sons usually join us on our travels around the community. They especially liked to visit Chester, and of course elderly people especially like to see young people. I hurried to the computer when I got home to see Kim’s latest Facebook report on Scott. We are praying his heart rhythm will convert back to normal quickly.

We left each place tonight singing, “We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.” That is also my wish for you.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fear Not!

There was yet another death in our community when my daughter-in-law Vickie’s aunt Janis passed away. It was not unexpected as she had been sick for a long time and spent the last week in the hospital. If Vickie attended the funeral of her special aunt Janis, who was her age and who lived next door during their childhoods, it meant Vickie had to drive up from Georgia. Gerry was tied up with weekend classes, and Tara was tied down with little boys and bad weather in northern Illinois and Erin with final exams in Texas. But Vickie and Geri Ann got up at 3 a.m. and made it to yesterday’s 11 o’clock funeral. Tonight they are back home again after the seven-hour return drive.

Because of the deaths, difficulties, diseases, and seasonal illnesses, almost everyone I know is stressed right now. They are not over extended because of poor planning nor excessive shopping or foolishness, but rather they are challenged simply by the problems of life—health problems, grief work, lost jobs, children in the military in Iraq, and other difficulties that really have nothing to do with season but which, nevertheless, make the season and its traditional observances more complicated to enjoy. With loved ones’ health problems weighing heavily on my mind, I have been fighting fear.

Even though I had gone to bed early the night before to avoid oversleeping, I woke late Friday morning and consequently had an inefficient and confusing start to my day. I overslept because when I woke up at 3 a.m., I lay awake for much too long thinking of Janis’ death and wondering if everyone was going to be all right and how I would get through what I wanted to attend to that day. When I finally got back to sleep at dawn, I did not wake up as usual.

In addition to chores and necessary activities, there were two Christmas events that I wanted to participate in on Friday. Neither of them were crucial to me or anyone else if I missed, but I had looked forward to both gatherings and knew the hostesses had worked hard to prepare for us, and I hoped to be at them both.

Some things did not get done. Time for a belated INR that had been my priority for the day became unnecessary when I was told at the doctor’s office that they were out of the usual supplies to perform that test. That had never happened before. Since I was there, however, I was able to explain in person to the clinic receptionist that I had just gone by the pharmacy and a prescription I had taken in over a week before was still not filled. The pharmacy said the doctor’s office had not responded to give a refill. I was out of the medicine that was important to take. (There had been a computer mix up on another prescription, and I figured somehow this prevented the request from ever getting to the clinic.) The receptionist assured me I would have the refill called in with a rush order before the weekend.

With that concern taken care of, I was quickly out of the clinic and on to my daughter’s to see how she was getting along after her surgery. Her aides have been sick this week, but her dad had gone in and gotten from bed and into her chair. Now she was at the computer trying to get some paper work done before a physical therapist was soon to arrive. Sam was home from school with a cold, so she had company. So I left with good feelings that she was all taken care of and knowing I would have interfered with her work if I had stayed longer.

Without an appointment, I could not get my hair done without a wait, so I had earlier saved time by skipping that. Now I powdered my nose and pulled a brush through my hair, and I had perfect timing to meet up with other club members at the library to car pool out to the Christmas party at David and Jackie Hancock’s rural home. I threw everything from the front of the car into the trunk, so I could offer to drive others although I did not know the way to the home. Again, plans changed. Pearl, one of our oldest members, had gotten the directions and was inviting people to ride with her, and she seemed to want to drive, so I climbed in with her.

As it turned out, the directions given her were not expressed with complete accuracy, so we had an adventure getting there, but we had fun. She made it clear she could stay calm because she had her cell phone to get the corrections needed. She did and we were not late. Riding there and back and getting acquainted with her was one of the special blessings I had that day.

I asked about her children, and she told me stories about her son’s experiences in Viet Nam, which could only be described as miracles. My own fears seemed petty as I listened to what this man had gone through as he strove to save his men from harm’s way. As we drove home, I was somewhat surprised at the time on her clock, which meant the afternoon meeting had lasted too long for me to attend the evening party, so I accepted that was what was supposed to be. Actually, she had not set her car clock back when time changed on November 1, so I did have time to fix Gerald a sandwich, brush my hair once more, and head off to the second party that day.

As I walked into the next gathering of the women of our church at Jo Barger’s house, I suddenly realized for probably the last five years it has been my responsibility to bring song books and have hymns picked out; but with all that had gone on last week, I had not even thought about it.

Then my second thought was this was our Christmas gathering. The hostess has the booklets with the words of carols and Christmas songs typed up decades ago and carefully stored at her house. Traditionally we just sing as long as someone has another request to make. I relaxed, and because I was one of the last ones to arrive, I ended up able to sit by Jo’s 44-year-old collection of tiny skiers and skaters displayed on cotton snow and an ice pond made from a mirror. Jo told me it had been bought for her older son’s first Christmas. This is a favorite display that I look forward to each year.

After our singing, Kimberly chose as the theme for her devotional “Fear not.” She first asked us what was the most used commandment in the Bible and most of us thought it was to love. Evidently someone counted and found more commandments telling us not to be afraid. It made sense that if we have faith in God, we can know that no matter what happens or how bad it is, we can depend on Him to see us through it just as Pearl’s son had done in Viet Nam. As Kim read the familiar story from Luke, we envisioned the fear the shepherds felt when the angels appeared out there in the dark of the countryside, and we felt their relief when the angel commanded them to fear not. We were made to realize anew that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of a sound mind.

(Upon different occasions my past, I have prayed to see a flying saucer with aliens and also to see winged angels, but I always knew if God answered those particular prayers, I would know great fear. Maybe that is why the prayer was not answered, although I think I may have interacted with angels dressed as humans and never knew it. In fact, if God sent first Pearl and then Kim into my life on Friday with messages I needed, they may have been such angelic messengers.)

After our business meeting, we always go into Jo’s family room with lighted tree and warm fireplace to open presents and let those with secret sisters try to guess who they are.
While our beloved Zella was in the hospital for her final stay, she was made sure that her present for her secret sister would be delivered to Jo’s house. Jo had invited Zella’s daughter Donna and daughter-in-law Becky, who are precious to us as they both have attended many functions as guests of Zella. Donna opened Zella’s final gift from her secret sister and Charlene opened Zella’s delivered gift to her. There were tears wiped away, but they were joyful tears for the love Zella shared with all of us.

Although none of my concerns had changed, I came home and slept well knowing I had been commanded to fear not.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cold Rainy Days

The drive home from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Murphysboro to Marion last night was slow and difficult. By the time we left at the end of the day, it was high traffic time, and the cold all-day rain was falling harder. With some road construction adding to the visibility problems, I was very grateful when all were home safely. Gerald had brought the van over to drive Katherine home, but he ended up driving David’s car home and David brought Kate in the van. Katherine had been there all day for non-invasive same day surgery to try and break up a kidney stone.

It has been a busy week with Sam’s symphonic band concert on Monday night, which I knew Katherine would go to no matter what even though she had to be in Murphysboro early Tuesday. David has had a group from out-of-the country at the plant this week, so they came with him to cheer Sam on. Sam was one of the 7th graders who got to play with the symphonic band, and he wore his first tuxedo. The school issues them to the band members for the year, and students were so handsome. The girls wore matching black dresses, the director was in tails, and the concert was a lovely visual and listening success. We all headed to our homes to get as much sleep as possible before Tuesday’s early rising.

Despite general anesthesia, Katherine came out of the recovery room in what I thought was remarkable lucid and cheerful condition. But by the time we were ready to leave, she was in such pain that our leave taking was delayed by the strong pain pill she was given and she was out of it. So we found ourselves in the middle of those going home from work. Of course, Kate lives with pain with her severe multiple sclerosis, and the procedure of the sound waves just added to the misery she lives with.

I arrived back at their house just as Sam was dropped off by Josh’s family—the neighbors on the street behind their house. I had driven slowly and scared in that rain, but I still came a few minutes before Katherine and David because he had taken her by the Dairy Queen drive-in at her request. Except for hospital jello, she had not eaten since the night before.

As soon as Sam grabbed his basketball uniform for his church league practice, we were off for me to drop him at the junior high basketball game where the jazz band was to play at half time. Well, we were almost off that soon. In the hurry and excitement, somehow I dropped my cell phone and it flew under my car bouncing down the slanted parking area on the edge on the street and their lawn. I was on my hands and knees on the damp road and could not even see the phone. Sam quickly got the flashlight from the trunk and, on his hands and knees, found the phone clear over on his side of the car. Then we were off.

The plan was for David to pick him up from that gym and deliver him on to Sam’s church league team basketball practice. Fortunately, a friend brought him home after that. I’d come on back home to the farm, and Gerald and I had a bowl of the chili I had made on Monday.

Both of Katherine’s aides were sick again today, but David positioned her in bed before he left for work and the pain pill put her back to sleep. She was to phone her daddy when she woke up, but when she had not phoned by noon, I got nervous and drove in from the farm anyhow. She greeted me groggily and went right back to sleep. Gerald was in town, but she never called him. When the substitute aide came later in the afternoon, I eventually decided it might be good to wake her and introduce her to the new worker. She elected to stay in bed, however, until David came home from work lest the transfer to her chair be too difficult. I picked Sam up from his trombone lesson and fixed a couple of plates for the microwave before coming back to the farm.

When I walked into the kitchen, Gerald was busy putting up a shelf to hold the new television there, which is where I do most of my watching. Since our area newspaper carries little national news, I like to watch the news while cooking or cleaning up the kitchen.

We turned off the new TV and visited awhile as we ate left-over roast and veggies for our supper, and then I enjoyed the new TV while he watched downstairs in his comfy chair which often puts him asleep. Tonight he ended up playing with his camera and a flash he had had for a long time and never messed with. I have been so pleased that Gerald became involved with a photography hobby in retirement since it is good for him to have something to do inside the house. He is outside working most days and has projects going in his shop, but now he has an inside activity in addition to television and reading. He has done photos for two articles of mine, and that is another bonus for me. Since he is generous with prints, I am not the only one who appreciates his hobby.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Unexpected Schedule Changes and Expected Pleasures

Our end-of-the-week brought unexpected changes. When I picked up Sam after his trombone lesson on Wednesday, he had his uniform enclosed in plastic in hand and was ready for his middle school band concert on Friday night. Gerald and I were ready to attend. For some reason, we learned Thursday that the concert was postponed until tomorrow night.

Doctor appointments suddenly presented more appointments for this week. As of now, Gerald thinks his appointment tomorrow will lead to a shot in his right eye to reduce swelling there in the retina. He had thought a standard follow-up appointment would inform him that a new blurring problem was a cataract that had grown worse. But not so. Katherine was told she would be having same day surgery to remove a kidney stone on Tuesday—unless she can get it changed until Thursday. I am scared about both procedures.

My new computer had been behaving well after I exchanged the non-working new printer for one that worked. But last night, I could not consistently get on any of the sites where I usually hang out. I am having the same problem tonight and do not know if I will be able to post this blog.

After Gerald’s vision had started blurring after his last eye appointment, he was not certain if it was the cataract growing or a side effect of a new medicine that had been working well. The blurring made him know he did not want to drive up to Freeport for the musical there or to Aurora for our great grandson Maddux’s first birthday party. That is not accurate. He wanted to, but he knew he should not. So this weekend we had to enjoy knowing Vickie and Geri Ann had flown up for Maddux’s family celebration and that we’d be seeing photos soon. (That is I will see photos if I can get on Facebook, which so far tonight I have not been able to do.) Gerry had softball team activities, so he could not go with them. When we talked on the phone a while ago, they were back at the Atlanta airport and ready to drive home to Watkinsville.

Life is full of uncertainties, but some scheduled activities remained. We went to our friend Zella’s funeral yesterday. There and at the dinner afterward, I was able to see grandchildren that I have rarely seen since I taught them in Vacation Bible School probably 20 or more years ago when they were visiting their grandmother. I had hoped her granddaughter Megan would sing, and she did. Megan graduated magna cum laude in music education from Murray State University and now teaches music in the public school and works with church youth on the weekend, and I got to meet her new husband.
There was a large crowd at the funeral and the dinner. I actually counted 74 names of descendants and close friends listed in Zella’s obituary. She loved everyone of them plus many more relatives and friends too numerous to mention. It was late afternoon, when we all finally got away from the downstairs dinner. A new friend insisted she wanted to drive me home. (Gerald had not felt like staying when he dropped me off after the funeral telling me to phone him when I was ready to come home.) We left the church house to the sounds of the Cain grandchildren around the piano in the sanctuary singing together as they have so many times at family gatherings, I suppose.

Church services today went on as usual although I elected to skip the annual chili/soup fellowship to trim the tree tonight since I wanted to go see Katherine and David. In our preschool class this morning after our story, we had hidden Christmas bows all over the room. Miss Kim would ask a child to find a particular color or a particular number of bows and bring them to the table. Sometimes she told where she wanted them to look for a bow. There was lots of learning of taking turns, vocabulary, numbers, colors, and listening skills. And some sharing was involved which brought forth praise.

When Caleb, age 2, saw the small nativity scene Kim put on the large round table, his whole face brightened with awe as his little fingers caressed the manger scene. Later in another area, they sat together with Kim talking about the wooden set of Christmas characters they will play with at that table this month. Lamb, camel, kings, shepherds, a baby on hay, Mary and Joseph, and an angel. They are learning the story they sing about in “Away in the Manger,” and they react with joy and the normal expected vying for attention and maybe an occasional display of temper. At that age, whatever they do is cute, and it is an expected pleasure to watch them learn.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Grieving Zella

People at Center are grieving and rejoicing today. Grieving that she will no longer grace our gatherings, but rejoicing that she has gone to a better place with no more pain or sadness. We lost our oldest member of our congregation today. Zella Cain was one of the finest women I ever knew, and she inspired us by her life. She birthed and mothered seven children. Since two were handicapped and died as young adults and the oldest daughter died after years of fighting cancer, we knew she was acquainted with grief and hardship. Yet she was full of faith and loved to help people. I was always impressed that she seemed to love the ex-spouses of her family members.

I was also impressed that she was one of us down in the basement a couple years ago when our volunteer youth leader sponsored a community youth night with a noisy Christian rock band. The loud sounds were bearable to us oldsters down there, and we enjoyed the evening together by showing our support to the kids upstairs from all over town. Certainly no one expected her to leave her comfortable home and drive down to the church house in the dark, but she wanted to show love for the kids.` (That was the night that one of the visiting kids went into our library/church office to use the telephone to call a parent to come get him when the affair was over. That room has an ancient dial telephone. The kid looked at the phone helplessly and asked for help to know how to use a dial.)

One of my other special memories of the many I have of Zella was being in a prayer dyad with her one night. Her prayer request was that she would never be a burden to her family. She was very good at caring and nursing those who were ill. She took care of grandsons after surgery and that sort of thing. Yet she did not want anyone to have to wait on her and become a burden. I prayed that prayer with her that night and often when I thought of her after that night.

Yet her children and spouses and grandchildren were grateful to be able to pitch in during her final illnesses and keep company with her—considering it a privilege not a burden. They left their own churches and brought her to services when she could no longer drive, and her remaining daughter helped her host our women’s group in Zella’s home the last few years when Zella wanted to do it but needed help. We will celebrate her life on Saturday and provide the dinner after the funeral. She will be sorely missed but often remembered. Those memories will inspire us to attempt to follow the same teachings she adhered to during her lifetime.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Break Is Over

Everyone is gone, and Gerald and I find the silence almost deafening. Gerry’s family had to leave Friday morning since their family was involved with a softball camp this weekend. Katherine and David were just out for the day on Thursday—bringing me a start of the beloved lilac bush that Katherine dug one hot afternoon from our old farm home. She was still able to plant and nurture it then eight years ago. David had dug it for me for my birthday. I could not have asked for a better present. The other two families left this afternoon. I hope all are safely home and tucked in bed after their long drives home.

We weren’t sure what time Erin’s flight was from Atlanta to College Station, but I hope it was early enough that she too is soon in bed. Everyone dreaded starting back to the grind in the morning.

It has been a good six days of family visiting at Woodsong. Most days people were coming and going, and I was never sure who was in the house. Eighteen were here Thursday, and after that, seldom less than ten of us were eating. Sweets from Gma Shirley’s Thanksgiving dinner showed up on our dessert counter along with Mary Ellen’s apple pie and chocolate pecan pies. So it did not seem to take much effort to fix a new dish or two for lunch and mix with the leftovers.

Friday we took the kids to the Carbondale mall while two daughters and I looked at kitchen sets. (Five of my six chairs are beyond repair, and the sixth will likely die soon.) Since we were there, we went to Pagliai’s for pizza while Jeannie reminisced about college days there. After a Saturday night movie, it was pizza at Walt’s, which brought memories to Mary Ellen. The kids thought pizza two nights in a row was a great nutrition choice. We oldsters enjoyed it too.

Gerald convinced me that I should go ahead and use the leaking sink by keeping the crock pot beneath to collect the water. That worked, and all I had to do was remember to empty it. We kept the dish washer and the sink busy with dish washing.

I slow baked steak and potatoes in the oven while we were at church this morning. We were all pleased that Leslie and Elijah sang for us in the service. Mary Ellen and Brian had not been able to hear Leslie sing in a long time; and except for his family, none of us had heard Elijah for a year or so. When we arrived back at the farm, I fixed the okra that I had thawed out to prepare for Thursday’s feast. A family favorite, okra is always on our Thanksgiving menu and I had it written down on the planned menu, which I failed to consult on Thursday. Two days later I remembered it in the downstairs fridge in the den. Ah well.

Now at last, the leftovers are mostly gone. The two youngest granddaughters finished their turkey cupcakes this afternoon—a project that got stranded last night when it was time for all to leave for the movies. The kids drove the “mule” for the last time. I assume they may have made any last decisions or conversations about their on-going group book project that they have been working on for a year or so. Jeannie straightened bedrooms and put the sheets from the couches and air mattresses through the laundry. Kids were told to pack up their clothes and stuff. There were emotional hugs as cousins parted company from one another. Granddogs were loaded to leave, and after the final farewells, I took Sam and his friend Tyler home. We enjoyed the neighbors' beautiful Christmas lights as we drove.

Gerald and I watched television together. Two people don’t make much noise.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

'Twas the Night Before...

This afternoon I wrassled the turkey. With Gerry's help pulling out the still frozen-in plastic ring, it is ready for the oven at 5 a.m. The sweet potatoes are boiled and ready for the casserole. The celery and onion have been sauteed ready for the dressing. I think I have everything necessary out of the freezer.

I just made up three couches and have a couple more to go in case they are needed. Fortunately, the Taylors are willing to use their camper. The kids could go to Katherine and David's or may end up at the camper or at Gma Shirley's, and there are always plenty of air mattresses if someone wants the floor. But I want to have places ready just in case since the adults occupy the bedrooms.

Gerry, Vicki, and Geri Ann arrived from Georgia early this morning sometime after midnight--I was alseep. Yesterday afternoon Erin arrived from A&M and Leslie from Belmont about the same time that Gerald and I returned from our dermatologist appointments in
St. Louis. Gerald took us out to dinner. My birthday was Monday, but I asked to wait and celebrate with my two favorite college students.

Right now two families, whose kids had school today, are on the way here--and should be here by midnight if not before. Brian and Mary with Trent and Brianna are coming from central Illinois, and Jeannie and Rick with Elijah and Cecelie are coming all the way from Freeport. I imagine Elijah is driving.

Gerry's family left to go to Gma Shirley's for a family dinner there before they head out to the Crab Orchard High School gym to see their cousin Drew Johnson play. He made 22 points the last game. Hope he even beats that tonight, while his family is watching!

Gerald and Gerry went hunting this afternoon with Gerry's two dogs that are here at Woodsong right now. That went well and there were four quail dressed in the sink that I quickly put in the freezer. I might have prepared them, but my kitchen has a clitch in it right now. After I had washed and prepared the turkey, I used lots of hot soapy water to clean the double sink to be sure no bacteria was left behind. Then I noticed all the water on the floor and water dripping from the door below the sink. Since I try to be careful not to splash when handling poultry, I was puzzled. Gerald and Gerry helped me explore under there, and it was discovered that for sometime water was leaking from the disposal. A crock pot stored there was full of water from he past. I am glad we found the problem, but it could have happened at a more convenient time. It was all the extra use of water that made us aware.

I'll have to restrict the use of that main sink. Fortunately, on the other side of the kitchen, instead of just a small water-dispensing sink, I had chosen to install a large sink. I was thinking of a place for wash the garden vegetables in the summer, but it will sure come in handy until we get the other sink repaired.

Leslie knew I was wanting to see Up that I've heard so many good things about. So while she was in town getting a hair cut this afternoon, she rented it for me and after supper she and I watched it together. It was as delightful as everyone said.

Well, I am sure I have stuff to do in the kitchen, and I need to hunt up some more sheets and blankets. I wish you all a happy
Thanksgiving. Pray for peace. And drive carefully. As we say in Southern Illinois, watch out for the deer!

Monday, November 23, 2009

School and Swine

My daughter, who teaches art, wrote on Facebook about the six graders suddenly showing up in class with miniature skateboards in their pockets, which of course they could not resist pulling out and playing with. That brought to my mind the annual appearance of water guns each spring among the high school crowd in the old days. And I remember granddaughter Tara and her young friends at Harrisburg all having some kind of mechanical “baby” that they carried with them even on the softball bench that had to be fed and cared for every few hours. These young “mothers” took it all very seriously until the fad faded as rapidly as it started.

I had recently again picked up Volume 1 of The Moravian Springplace Mission to the Cherokees off a table in the living room. I’d started it months ago, but life interfered. The bookmark still remained about a fifth of the way through. Enough time had passed that I wanted to start again at the beginning, and I’m now probably a fourth of the way through. Only recently translated and made available to the English reader by the University of Nebraska Press, it is fascinating reading detailing the daily life in the mission at Springplace in the Cherokee Nation. The diaries and other documents were made available and published with the consent of the Moravian Church of the Southern Province.

Dr. Rowena McClinton of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville translated from the archaic German script the diary entries from 1805-13 is this first 648-page volume. Volume II then awaits me with entries from 1814-21. McClinton’s enlightening Introduction presented the historical context that brought the Moravians from Central Europe to the New World and this group to the Cherokee.

The Moravians lived among the Cherokee for over thirty years, and it is interesting to read the experiences and adaptations they made in the first two years (the only ones I read so far). They could only board four students in their school, but the James Vann plantation was nearby, and some children lived there and came to the school.

After reading Jeannie’s lament about what the small skateboards did to students’ learning and classroom decorum, I had to giggle the next day when I read the entry about little Johnston McDonald’s parents visiting the Moravian school. The father was extremely interested in Johnston getting an education, and he forbade his son from bringing his blow gun to school knowing it would distract him. (The blow gun was a long pipe which allowed arrows with thistles instead of feathers and could be used by the boys to kill birds.) I could imagine that Johnston and the other boys made new blow guns when the season beckoned.

The mission seemingly welcomed all Indians and all travelers for meals and sometimes for several days’ visits. I found the hospitality amazing although occasionally the missionaries had to say they could not provide what someone asked for. They wished they had more room for student boarders. Sometimes the visitors slept in the school house with the boys or evidently wherever they could find room for them.

Keeping food available for such a large group was always a challenge, but the missionaries had unflagging faith that God would provide. They might be out of meat for awhile, but eventually a Cherokee would come with a turkey or a venison ham, and the diarist would thank God for the provision. Sometimes the missionaries purchased or traded for the meat, but often it seemed to be a gift.

Because so many people were dropping in and eating breakfast or dinner or supper, I expected more detail about the food preparation. What was being harvested or prepared was mentioned, but nothing was said about how the food was cooked or how the dishes got washed. And there was very little said about the method of instructing the students, who came speaking Cherokee, but I am hoping for more information on that when Anna Gambold becomes the diarist later in the volume. Missionaries were told that adults could not learn the Cherokee language. Much was said about prayers and other devotional activities and who attended the services.

One of the missionaries’ greatest pleasures was the packets of letters and materials received from other missions in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. I am assuming those missions delighted in reading the Springplace diaries, but maybe not since there was no copy machines. Right now I am following the many entries concerning the lost pigs that the Springplace mission desperately needs for food. The pigs are simply allowed to run loose in the woods, but they have disappeared. Has someone stolen and already butchered them? Have they wandered so far that the brethren will never find them? If I can find time to keep reading, maybe I will learn.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thinking about Thanksgiving Day

Weather at Woodsong turned fall chilly today along with some rain. I did not leave the house although I originally planned to go with Gerald when he took Katherine for her H1N1 shot, but it was just too tempting to stay snug at home.

Since it was cool enough, I turned on the self-cleaning device in the small oven, which was quite disgraceful from heavy summer use. I emptied the big oven on my stove, which I seldom use except to store big skillets, and used it for today’s project.

Today was pie-baking day, and I put five pumpkin pies in the freezer for the Thanksgiving holidays. That is 30 pieces, which is not very much for people who are here for more than just dinner that day. People are often too full after turkey and dressing and veggies to even eat dessert—but later in the day while everyone is having fun or have wakened from their after-dinner naps, most will return to the dessert counter. With a cup of coffee, some will be visiting again at the kitchen or dining room table, so I want plenty available. I also have a dough-lined pie pan in the fridge to put together another pecan pie to join the one already in the freezer. Fortunately both pumpkin and pecan freeze well.

In the morning, I plan to purchase the biggest frozen turkey I can find and it will go into the freezer until Saturday. That will give five days for it to thaw. If it is completely thawed, the battle will be easier with the metal or plastic thing-a-ma-jig that holds the legs together.

I also want to be sure I have adequate potatoes and sweet potatoes in the house for next Thursday’s mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole. I have already bought cheap bread for the dressing to supplement the left-over odds and ends of bread and cornbread that I have accumulated since the last time I made dressing. It takes a big pan for our gang. I learned the hard way, however, to not make the dressing too deep in the pan or it will not be sufficiently baked by dinner time.

I am trying this week to get done the preparation I usually do Thanksgiving week because two days next week include follow-up doctor appointments. Gerald and I go to St. Louis for a follow up with the dermatologist on Tuesday, and I think two granddaughters are arriving from their respective colleges that same evening. Wednesday I have a follow-up on another fall procedure in Marion, which should not take long. Afterward I will buy fresh salad fixings and some nice rolls to heat up for our dinner on Thursday.

The week after Thanksgiving I can begin to think about Christmas cards and holiday decorations. But right now I am thankful for family and the abundance of love that will be in our home next week.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Celebrating Autumn

A warm sunny Saturday afternoon saw folks sitting on the steps and picnic tables at John A. Logan College entrance. Fragrance floated from the Karmel Korn trailer, and relaxed shoppers coming and going to and from the filled parking lot were enjoying the beautiful autumn day. Bales of straw artistically topped with pumpkins, squash, and gourds set the theme for the annual fall festival of arts and crafts inside.

Writers had the opportunity to display and sell their books at the Southern Illinois Writers Guild tables in the cafeteria surrounded by booths of hand made jewelry, fluffy hand knitted hats, and almost every art form imaginable. Our newest SIWG anthology just off the press had arrived for us to sell our craft at the festival.

This eighth volume of The Writer’s Voice, produced by a commercial printer with an International Standard Book Number and to eventually be available for purchase on Amazon is a long way from the early ones we used to assemble with borrowed equipment at a local school. Editor Kathy Cotton reviewed the anthology’s history and wrote, “The product expanded from sixteen writers and fifty-something pages to thirty-eight contributors—including winners of our own national writing contest—and one hundred forty pages.” Cotton, a talented and dedicated volunteer, who is an artist and dancer in addition to being a poet, designed and formatted the book and completed it on schedule despite problems calling for a new hard drive, then a new motherboard, and finally a new laptop.

Along with the top winners in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, this year’s anthology was opened up to include offerings from the public for a special storm section about the May 8 derecho. Those eight extra contributors and photos of the storm will make this year’s book one to remember.

I enjoyed sitting beside Jim Lambert, our president, and showing people his poetry book Winds of Life, which I am very fond of. And it was fun to meet two of his grandkids who came by with his wife Sandy. Jim was busy showing off Fog Gilbert’s books on the other side of him as well as hawking our anthology. I even sold one of my books to a friend of one of my daughters.

Since there was plenty of help at our tables, I felt free to leave early—even though I had gone late. I came back to Woodsong to finish putting together a green bean casserole and some pickle dishes to go with the pecan pie I had made the day as our contribution to the annual Thanksgiving feast at our village church. Some special people had donated their time to make the hams and turkeys along with pans of delicious dressing. Shirley Butler had outdone herself with beautiful decorations making the church basement an autumnal wonderland. Others prepared our “home grown” program afterward, and we laughed and cried together.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lost Dog, Good Neighbors, and Veterans Day

Monday started with Gerald waking me with the good news that he had found Gerry’s bird dog. Wanting to get acquainted with the dogs, he had taken them “hunting” on Sunday afternoon (without a gun), and he was dismayed when one ran away from him and he could not locate it. A road away from Woodsong in a far neighborhood, Gerald found the dog upsetting two sweet women who were fretting about the lost dog going back and forth between their houses. They were taking care of the dog even though they were needed to get ready to go to work.

They had inquired and tried to find the owner, one had called the no-longer-in-use lodge phone number on the collar, and both had fed the dog. One was so worried the dog was hungry. Until it ran away, it had free access to its feed, so Gerald knew it was not yet suffering too much even if the dog had not found such caring neighbors. Gerald was glad to meet such nice neighbors for the first time, and he was greatly relieved to find the dog. I think Gerry was even more so because he was worrying about his father searching for them.

Later in the day we had a phone call from our fourth-grade neighbor Katie telling us the time for the Veterans Day program at Crab Orchard School. She invites Gerald for the program and lunch each year, and he was again planning to go with her. Unfortunately, a Tuesday morning call reported that Katie had a high fever and would have to miss school.

That cancellation allowed Gerald to finish the repair of a tin roof on a machine shed up at Wayside Farm on the road to Pittsburg. He had acquired the tin and started the job on Monday, and he was eager to finish up one more derecho-caused problem. He came home at noon yesterday saying he was now done with replacing the tin. However, while on top of the roof, he discovered how rusty all the nails were and was amazed more tin had not blown off. So he announced that maybe ten or so two-hour sessions between now and spring would complete the project and allow him to repaint the tin. He put in his two-hours this morning.

I am old enough to remember when Veterans Day was still Armistice Day, and my daddy would cross the street to the Jonesboro Grade School to ring the bell at 11 o’clock. I remember his telling our school assembly once how people in Goreville beat tubs and celebrated with great vigor when World War I ended. He wanted us to sing “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” with a little more enthusiasm and thoughtfulness, and we did after his story. While the many programs across our nation were planned before the dastardly deed at Fort Hood, I am sure we were more thoughtful and more tearful with this tragic event so fresh in our minds. We look forward to the day when we can sing “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” and ring a few bells. But too many will not be coming home.

Daughter Jeannie posted on her Facebook the Journal Standard’s video of the Freeport School District program yesterday in appreciation for veterans. Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk1KXYGlM3M&feature=player_embedded.

If you watch it, the first soloist is our grandson Elijah singing. Then the next three nights, their high school will be performing their fall musical. I wish we were able to go, but it is just not working out for us.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Celebrate!

November 9, 1989

Open up. Open up.
The people spoke it.
Open up. Open up.
The people demanded it.
Something there is…
Make it fall. Make it fall.

Create. Create.
God spoke it.
Light. Sky.
Land. Plants.
Sun and stars.
Birds and animals.
God spoke it all.
Let people rule, He said.
It is good, He said.
Swords rule. Word rules.

Tear down this wall.
Let it fall. Let it fall.
Celebrate. Celebrate.
The people spoke it.
The people demanded it.
The people ruled.
And it is very good.

Speak up. Speak up.
Word creates. Word rules.

By Sue Glasco on 11-9-2009

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Seasons

Rainy weather has been replaced this week with sunny days giving just the right amount of warmth to the breezy air. Everyone has felt their spirit lift although the great fall color has greatly diminished.

Yesterday I was scheduled to speak at Nine Mile Baptist Church’s women’s retreat at Lake Sallateeska, and I enjoyed the drive up to north of Pinckneyville and the beautiful lodge after I got there. Their retreat theme was “Seasons” built around the scripture that for everything there is a season.

Since these women live near Mulkeytown (one grew up there), I was asked to speak on the life of Priscilla, the slave girl freed to live in the Silkwood home. I tried to show the various seasons of her life and how despite the very difficult times and many deprivations caused by prejudicial nineteenth century laws, she was able to live a useful life that blessed others. And there seem to be many indications that she lived a happy life at Silkwood Inn. With little education, no career, and no children of her own, she is probably the most famous of anyone who ever lived in Mulkeytown. (Abe Lincoln’s son Robert and some elephants came to town to build the railroad through there, but he didn’t actually live there.)

Musing over the day’s theme scripture, I did some heavy reflection on that as I drove home and realized I need to face and plan for the new season of life that I am now in. I don’t like change, so I don’t reorganize life easily. Nor do I like to discard traditions, friends, acquaintances, or possessions. Especially I do not like to discard paper or books. Yet maybe the time has come to simplify my life and my office. Simplification may mean cleaning out some things. We’ll see.

I am not an inveterate hoarder. I know I can honestly say that because I have hauled trunk load after trunk load of clothes, household stuff, and other things to give away when I could no longer use them. Gerald has cooperated by hauling truck loads of furniture or mattresses to the household give-away in our nearest town. I also have hauled countless trunk loads of refuse to recycling centers. So I know I won’t be written up in the newspapers when I die for having a house with mounds of old newspapers and magazines with only narrow lanes to walk through. It also helps that as long as I can stay out of second hand book stores and away from beautiful dishes at Salvation Army, I am not much of a consumer.

Nevertheless, I seldom see a newspaper that I don’t want to clip and save information—just in case I write an article or know someone who needs that information someday. I struggle to pass on magazines even though I know I will never have time to finish reading them. I think part of my affection for the written word was passed on to me by my mother. As a motherless child on the farm with her daddy at work in town, she looked forward to a daily newspaper or any periodical or letter that came to their mailbox. Unlike today, the printed word was a scarce and precious possession in that time. We are inundated with newspapers, long begging letters from countless organizations, and inexpensive magazines. Mother never got over being in love with publications, and a favorite phrase of hers was, “I read an article that said…” If it was in print, she was inclined to trust the words even though she was not a gullible person.

I still giggle when I remember the first time Gerald, as my fiancĂ©, went with our family to our beloved Mount Airy Farm, my dad’s childhood home. He was eagerly reading from a Popular Mechanic from a large stack on the wicker table in the living room. Suddenly he noticed it was twenty years old. I don’t think our family ever subscribed to that magazine, but a friend had passed them on, and rather than throw them out, Mother took then to the farm. I understand.

Magazines stack up at my house. File cabinets are full. I made family scrapbooks for years, but that hobby disintegrated into filling boxes of family ephemera with the idea that maybe in my frail elderly years, I will have time to make scrapbooks again. Both our old farm house and our new one have had the delightful characteristic of having nooks and crannies, and that has encouraged me to make use of them with various saved items. Our grandkids know if they need some item for a project (clay, toilet paper roll, cardboard box, construction paper, gold foil from a Christmas card, you name it), I will probably be able to find it somewhere.

However, so our children won’t have to go through some stored boxes looking for lost stocks or savings bonds (don’t have any), I have boxes of former teaching files or other projects marked: “Throw out when I die.” But maybe it is time I start throwing out some of the stuff myself. Maybe this should be a winnowing season for me.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Week at Woodsong

Where did the week go? I started with laundry from the weekend on Monday. The first week in the month also holds both our regular board meeting of the Illinois Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association and also the local women’s club.

The board meeting was supposed to be a very important planning session when we were joined by the national president and the national executive secretary, both from states away to plan our national convention, which is going to be in Illinois this year in September. We planned to meet at Camp Ground Church as soon as they arrived from area airports, so that they then could drive on over to Metropolis to spend the night and to sign contracts and secure space for the convention there. Knowing our visitors would have no time to eat before the meeting, we planned a light supper. At the last moment, one became ill and her doctor did not want her to travel, so there was no reason for the other national representative to come from his state either. We thought our Illinois board would therefore have a short meeting since the main purpose of the meeting was aborted.

Not so. As we relaxed and ate together, we realized that there was much local planning we also needed to do and this was the perfect time to accomplish it since we’d be involved with convention planning at a rescheduled time. We brain stormed and came up with some good ideas for work to be done in 2010.

The most exciting event of the evening, however, was sharing in the birth of Joe Crabb’s great granddaughter down in Texas. His grandson and wife were there to attend to the birth of a baby girl that the biological mother was heroically allowing them to add to their family. Joe warned us if the phone rang, he’d leave the room so he could learn of this expectant birth. We would not have that. We did not want to be denied our participation in this important occasion.

Sure enough, his phone beeped and a text message told him Savannah had been born. I wish you could have seen the smile on Joe’s face. There were goose bumps and tears and happiness filling the room. Then the baby’s grandmother phoned to make sure Joe had received the text announcement. And, best of all, next we were all privileged to see this sweet baby girl’s photo on Joe’s phone—all wrapped cozy in a blanket with her little face staring at us with no idea she had caused such pleasure up in Illinois. I predict great things for this cherished child.

Not nearly so dramatic nor so important, the second most exciting event of the evening was Joe’s bringing in the beautiful new brochures his daughter helped him create—brochures showing the map of Pope County with clear directions as to how anyone can hike, bike, or drive over a nine-mile certified original segment of the Trail of Tears.

The National Park Service has sent the signs to make the way clear for visitors, and some are already in place. After running out of posts, a new supply has been found, and the rest of the signage on the trail segment should be completed soon. You don’t have to wait though. If you stop by the Chocolate Factory (always a good idea) on the designated TOT highway, Route 146, you can pick up a brochure and follow the clear directions for an interesting day trip through beautiful countryside, where the Cherokee sadly marched 171 years ago.

Today was the afternoon meeting of the Women’s Club, and we were able to hear Cindy Gibbons, president of Old National Bank, tell us some of the important things happening in Marion right now. Since I missed last month, it was fun to see everyone again and hear all the plans for the season ahead.

With meetings, meals to make and dishes to wash, phone calls, research, and reading, the week has flown by. Gerald continues in his project of helping clean up Brian and Mary Ellen’s new acreage, and then there have been a couple of Gerry’s dogs here at Woodsong to care for this week. Baseball games for Gerald to watch in the evenings. What should have been a week we could pronounce a good week ended with the great national sorrow and our hearts filled with grief for the families who lost loved ones.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Visiting Waggoner and Mascoutah

Several weeks back, I alerted our youngest daughter, Mary Ellen, and husband, Brian, that we might be up for the weekend since I was to speak at the Mascoutah Heritage Museum this afternoon, and Mascoutah would be on our way back home to Woodsong. As both our lives and theirs became busier, Mary Ellen and I were both assuring each other it was okay if we did not carry out those plans.

Nevertheless, we went to Waggoner this weekend, and I am glad we did. Waggoner is definitely my size town—200 to 250 or thereabouts population—surrounded by farm country. The only place to get a coke is at the machine at the tiny post office. There are several vacant buildings, a former school building with a terrific set of modern playground equipment (donated by a famous visitor several years ago—a story I need to find out more about), many well cared for homes, and a few of the other kind.

My daughter’s family has just moved there and live five miles out in the country, so I did not get to explore the town as much as I hope to in the future. I am sure you will be hearing more about Waggoner from me in the years to come.

We were able to meet some of the girls in the freshmen class of the area high school on Friday night. They gathered in the kitchen for pizza and then a trip to a “haunted funeral home” several towns away. I enjoyed all the giggling from afar as we ate our pizza in the living room, but I declined the invitation for the haunted site—especially after we heard there might be a four-hour wait line. Actually I think it was only two hours by that night, but I was glad to be comfy-cozy relaxing and watching a movie on TV at the Taylors.

On Saturday, we slept late, relaxed more, and went to lunch at a fabulous Chinese restaurant in a nearby town after we visited a rural tree nursery. (Brian always ends up with a great landscaped yard with neat trees wherever they move although right now he is planning a test plot in their huge back lot. Mary Ellen is regretting seeing the pretty green lawn plowed up for planting.) After lunch, we visited a couple stores and bought candy in case any goblins showed up at their rural home, and then we went home for more relaxing. We were so stuffed from the wonderful Chinese buffet that we could not believe it when Brian put a large-size pork loin on the rotisserie on the patio. Not surprisingly, we were hungry again after he brought it in smelling and looking delicious. Then we settled to watch the baseball game, and Trent entertained in his lancer costume including the wooden sword and authentic looking wooden shield he designed and he built with some help from his dad.

This season at the Taylors always includes a spooky visitor called “Dead Donna,” something or someone they bought a few years ago for a slumber party. She is a two-foot doll or manikin with death pallor, long dark stringy hair, horrible eyes, skinny feet with painted toenails coming out beneath her white gown, and over-size scary hands. She can light up and make some frightening noises if you turn her on. Mary Ellen had not been able to find her on the top shelf in the basement where she had been stored after their move, but someone found her and brought her to share the evening with us. Donna managed to move around the house to startle us, and I was disappointed when I did not happen to be in the room when Brian woke up from his nap with Dead Donna a few inches from his face.

With the change to standard time this morning, Gerald and I woke before the family. On my way through the kitchen to the downstairs bathroom, I noted the nice table laid out with dishes handy for the waiting cereal choices on the counter. I came out of the bathroom back into the kitchen and jumped when standing at the end of that table offering us a bowl of apples was none other than Donna. I laughed next, but I could not bring myself to eat one of her poison apples. When Trent walked through and opened a Reese’s cup for his breakfast before he went back to bed, I assured him that the orange treat surely had plenty of Vitamin C.

After more coffee and visiting, we worshipped with 50 or 60 others at Waggoner Christian Church in a charming white clapboard building. An enormous tree (sycamore?) was the only tree in the large church yard. Mary Ellen said they measured it recently and it was the fourth tallest of its kind in the state. I thrilled at its beauty and prayed the town does not have a derecho. We heard a wonderful sermon by Pastor Mary and deeply regretted that she is soon retiring. I would have liked my grandchildren, Trent and Brianna, to hear more than a few months of her wisdom and knowledge. The Taylors stayed for the pastor appreciation meal at 11, and we drove on down state
Route 4 first built in 1920 and later designated as U.S. Federal Aid Highway 66. Within a few years, Highway 66 was moved east, but much ado is made yet about the original Route 66, which we also traveled on last spring in Oklahoma when we missed a connection to the Interstate.

We got to Mascoutah in plenty of time to be set up before the 1 p.m. opening of the museum. The volunteer had told me she’d be there at 12:30 in case anyone wanted to come in early and tour the traveling Smithsonian exhibit “Journeys.” Their museum was one of six in the state chosen to display the well-done interactive kiosks. Their high ceilings and spacious rooms qualified them to have their second Smithsonian exhibit.

Our first visitors were two little cousins—one a fourth grader and one a fifth grader. The volunteer assured them they did not have to pay to see the exhibit—but they saw the money box, where people donate, and they hurried home to get coins so they could also be contributors to the museum. It was fun to show them around the large two-story building filled with local antiques and artifacts in addition to the Smithsonian exhibit on the first floor.

By the time our program was to start at 1:30, the second-floor auditorium was filled. (They have a fund underway to put in a passenger elevator since now the only one is a freight elevator.) I was able to tell about the forced journey the Cherokee had to make in 1838-39 leaving behind their fine warm cabins and the graves of their loved ones to walk a l,000 miles to a strange territory to start building anew. At the end of the hour, after questions and answers, people huddled over the exhibit tables of books and articles about the Trail through our state, where more died than in any other area of their horrific journey.

It had been a day without a hitch—almost—when the Taylors had returned home from the church potluck and saw my suitcase still sitting by the backdoor. If it had only clothes in it, I’d told Brian to bring it the next time he comes to the farm. Since it had my meds and the arm splint I have to sleep in right now, we had to accept their offer to bring it down. We intended to meet them part way, but they kept driving and were also able to see the “Journeys” exhibit. Brianna got some hours of driving practice to help her meet the Illinois quota she’ll have to have before she gets that coveted driver’s license.

So we got to hug and say goodbye again before we started down Route 64 and then Interstate 57 to arrive at Marion in time for supper at Taco Bell before coming back to Woodsong. Gerald watched the game tonight, and we had phone reports of Tara’s Southern Force softball tourney in Georgia, where Erin had also arrived for the weekend to help coach, and Geri Ann played. Then Erin went back to Texas while Tara and little Maddux went back to northern Illinois until next weekend at Chattanooga. Gerry and Vickie get to keep Aidan this week, so there will be a fun time in Watkinsville with Aidan to entertain them.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blessed by a Gathering and then a Son's Visit

Monday evening I drove over to the little town of Pittsburg, one of several small towns or villages on our side of Williamson County—many of which came about or grew because of the coal mining industry, which used to reign in this region. No longer are most houses occupied by men with carbide lanterns on their hats and who carry their lunch in buckets down in the bowels of the earth. Despite the demise of many mines, some of our villages have survived but others have ceased to exist. When we first moved here in 1962, most of the people we met were miners. Most of those are now retired, deceased, or moved away when a mine closed. Sirens blowing and ambulances rushing on the highway are not as frightening as they used to be when you never knew what had happened at a mine. Right after we moved here, one miner was trapped in a mine. For several days, other miners risked their lives trying to get his body out until they were made to stop. Right now I can’t think of a single miner I know although we still have some mines in the area.

I digress. I went to Pittsburg for our monthly women’s meeting at Tally Taylor’s house. Wearing an orange shirt, she had sweet pumpkin figurines lighted for us and festive lights to welcome us. After yummy sandwiches with chips and dip, there was pumpkin cake, all served with colorful Halloween paper ware. Afterward, we sat at table savoring our cokes and coffee and visiting while we munched on candy corn. It was a neat social gathering with good friends on a cool fall night, but I realized anew how much can be done when everyone in a group pitches in a little.

In our meeting after singing and devotions, we had planned for a Thanksgiving dinner for the entire church and our many friends in the community. Two hams and three turkeys this year. That will provide plenty of take-out for shut-ins at the end of the evening. We eat this turkey and ham early in November because the Saturday night before Thanksgiving is deer hunting season, and some of our families depend on the hunt for their winter food. That works out well since we are hungry for turkey again with our individual extended families on Thanksgiving Day.

We also planned for our month to send Angel Bags home with some of our school children on weekends, our Christmas caroling with goody plates for shut-ins, and we had a volunteer who said she’d do the Christmas shopping for two needy children on the school’s list. Although we usually just slip in a dollar or so when a box or a dish is passed at our meetings, by December we usually have enough to give two children gifts.

No one of us could do all these activities by ourselves, but together, we do so without too much work by most of us. (Of course, some volunteers do the major work, but they have decided they have the time and energy and would get their reward with their enjoyment in the project.)

All over America right now, there are women’s clubs and units and friends’ groups who are busy planning similar activities. There are also business, civic, and fraternal organizations, where men and women are doing the same. I am convinced that such volunteerism has made Americans strong. Some volunteers in housing projects have caught on that to make our children strong, we need to involve them in giving. It is true that America has many self-absorbed and short sighted citizens, but it is an incomplete picture to not recognize the generosity of the many people who give despite their own struggle to pay their house payments, food and medicine bills, while trying to save for their kids’ college funds.

I was somewhat shocked when I came home from Tally’s and soon after had Gerald tell me our son was coming out from Marion. I had prayed for traveling mercies for him all weekend, but I had no idea his trip would include an extension north up through his home territory. Somehow in our discussions of this trip, Gerald and I failed to communicate perfectly. He thought I knew Gerry was coming our way. Although I would have prepared a different menu for Gerald’s left-behind supper when I went to Tally’s if I had known Gerry was coming in, there was adequate food available. (Mothers fret about such things. I remember how much pleasure my mother used to get planning meals when my brother was coming down. “Jimmy loves meat,” she would say as she decided her menu.) And even though Gerry thought he was too tired to eat after his late arrival, he did eat a bite while we visited before we all piled into our beds for needed sleep. The next morning we had time for a leisurely breakfast and more visiting. After lunch he took off for his home in the South and the work awaiting him there leaving behind his stories for us to giggle and talk about in our empty house. Tomorrow is his birthday, and I felt warmly blessed to have had his unexpected visit.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Autumn's Joys

Looking out our living room windows beneath the overhanging white clouds in the pale blue sky and past the green lawn, past the lake, past the fields, and on to the encircling line of trees, we are surrounded by soft yellows, muted oranges, and gentle browns of autumnal leaves. This has been one of those perfect days here in Southern Illinois. Warm sunshine mixed with a gentle breeze made me remember why fall is my favorite season. No one could not rejoice on a day like today.

Gerald mowed the lawn again yesterday (and half the countryside around it) leaving the grass extra tall since he feels this would be the last mowing until spring. Except for eleven acres of late-planted beans and the replanted field of a nearby relative, Brian’s crops have been in the bin or already to the market for a long time now. With predictions of rains, that is very comforting. We still occasionally get a late tomato to add color to our dinner plates. Although our vines are already mostly dead and not as healthy as most years, I hope to gather a few green tomatoes tomorrow to wrap in old newspaper to finish ripening. Usually I have tomatoes for the Thanksgiving salad that way—and sometimes even for the Christmas salad.

Driving to our village church this morning, we let our eyes feast on the bright red of maples decorating yards and the sumac and sassafras enlivening the roadsides. We were in the mood to praise before we reached the church house.

Every week in our preschool class, we notice Caleb’s vocabulary growing. This morning it was exploding. In rapid succession, I heard him explain to Bobby that the blocks should be tall, big, high. He would repeat any words he heard from the other kids as well as us teachers, and the look on his face told us he was very conscious and proud of what he was doing.

Usually he only sits a moment or two for the short Bible story before he wanders off, but today he was as interested for almost as long as the older kids. And he loved putting beads on a bright red chenille stem to make a book marker. Out of the choice of red or yellow stem, he chose green, so though he knows the colors’ names, he isn’t onto which one is which yet. Bobby certainly knows, and he said he choose the yellow because his mommy loved yellow. It was pleasant to watch Miranda and Bobby being kind to each other and sharing beads. The kids think they are having fun. We certainly are. But we also know they are developing hand/eye coordination, which will make them better readers one of these days. Then they can read the Bible stories and discover Jesus’ teachings for themselves.

After worship service, Gerald took Brian and me to lunch before Brian had to load up to go back home to central Illinois. We came home to rest and watch TV—Gerald does the ball games and I try to catch some of Book Notes.

I drove back to the village for evening worship and our brief business meeting afterwards. Our much used fellowship hall is in our basement, which means those in chairs or with walking problems have the challenge of the stairs. Earlier our small congregation had voted to not build the needed fellowship hall on the ground floor until we had all the funds to pay for it. The building committee had secured a bid and it was beneath our built-up savings. With dreams of a new kitchen and dining hall and new restrooms with universal design one step closer, we voted unanimously to accept the bid. People weren’t in a hurry to leave as they visited and talked about these exciting plans. I drove the long way home, so I could go by Brian’s new field and enjoy the beauty of burning brush piles flaming in the dark.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ugh! Don't Read This.

Usually I blog about the beauty of the farm and rural roadsides, the fun outings, and the happy visits from friends and relatives. It is not that unpleasant things do not happen in my life, but rather I don’t usually see any point in extending the unpleasantness by writing about it. I do not mean to be deceptive, but I blog mostly to please myself—although I hope to please you too—and frankly blogging about the good things in life is one way to distract me from the bad things.

I know that I should be ashamed to say it has been a bad week. Nothing seriously different has happened to me nor anyone I love this week. No alarming phone calls about wrecks or cancer. I do not have to worry about food on the table (if I am able to fix it), a roof over my head, or so many things that others have endured this week. But I have felt puny all week because of health-giving procedures that are good but not pleasant. If Magnesium Citrate rings a bell with you, you know what I am talking about.

Gerald and I had to rise early Monday morning to get to 9 a.m. appointments with our dermatologist in Saint Louis. Despite heavy traffic, Gerald expertly got us there on time. No bad news there. My appointment was to get rid of minute cysts (dozens of them) all over my face and also ugly catch-on-your clothing warty growths. I had not really had time to think about it ahead of time, but I believe I thought it would be like the dentist giving you a shot to stop the pain on a bad tooth repair. Not so. I was required to be brave, and I thought I would die. The only one I felt sorrier for than me was the doctor because I knew she did not like hurting me. I was left with red spots where the cysts used to be and ugly splotches where the warty growths were treated by freezing. Gerald was helpful to remind me that I was going to look far better soon when all healed.

We had time for a lovely brunch after our appointments and time to get on to his check up with cardiologist at 1:30. That went well, and we had a pleasant drive home through Missouri since our usual highway was closed. We meant to eat at a favorite restaurant at Cape that has sort of become “our” place, but it was only 4:30 when we got there and we found out they now only serve later in the evening rather than all day. We were kinda glad they weren’t open since we weren’t really hungry yet and decided we would go on to a favorite Anna restaurant. There we discovered they serve evenings on the weekends but only lunch the rest of the time. We still weren’t very hungry so we drove on home to Marion to our old stand by—Cracker Barrel, although I really did not want to be seen by anyone who knew me since I looked such a red-faced mess. But hunger was greater than pride, and we had a nice meal and saw no one we knew.

Now I should explain that I am having to sleep with my left arm in a splint in hopes of repairing nerve damage in my elbow that might cause me to lose function in that hand. Naturally a writer does not want to be unable to type, and originally I thought I was going to have to have surgery until this lesser treatment was suggested to try first. That was great news, but after a couple hours sleep in the splint, I would wake up with a terrible ache in my arm and would sleep fitfully if at all the rest of the night.

At the first wake-up with aching arm, I would move to the guest room so I could groan and twist all I wanted without disturbing Gerald. This had gone on for almost a week, so I wasn’t too rested before the St. Louis trip on Monday. Gerald and I both needed Tuesday to rest up. The dermatologist nurse had said to refrain from using makeup for a couple of days, so I sure did not want anyone to see me although the redness of the multitude of removed cysts had already faded. Adding to this was the fact that my permanent was suddenly gone, and I not only felt terrible, I looked terrible. Nothing makes a woman feel worse than a droopy worn-out perm with hair in all directions. Twisting from the arm splint did not help my hair either.

Even without makeup and with lousy hair, Wednesday was fairly normal. I fixed a nice meat loaf for noon dinner, and drove to town to visit with Katherine that afternoon. That evening I really did not have anything to blog about, and I did not want to share my misery. I looked forward to life returning to normal.

Except I had forgotten that Thursday was the day meant to prepare me for Friday. Maybe it was best I had not anticipated that day. I could have put on makeup since two days had passed, but I did not have the heart to do so. I lunched and dined on chicken broth and lots of water. I drank water at 2 and 3 and 4 as directed. I drank the first bottle of Magnesium Citrate at 5 and thought I would die. I drank the prescribed water afterwards. I spent the next three hours dreading that second bottle. I was already nauseous. I was uncertain if I could possibly get it down. But I did and drank the required water afterwards. Suffice it to say that sleep was not any better that night although the arm problem has calmed down just as the physical therapist who prepared the splint for me told me it would do. Next morning, I got ready in a hurry since I had been directed to not wear makeup to the surgical center.

At 6:45 yesterday, Gerald had me at the surgical center, where everything was sparkly clean. People were kind, friendly, skilled, and comforting. The warm blanket on a cool morning felt wonderful, and the two procedures were over before I knew they had happened since I was instantly asleep after the nurse directed Gerald to kiss me before he was sent to the waiting room. After good news from the doctor, Gerald collected me and gave me a choice about where to eat the delayed breakfast-lunch. His idea of going through the drive-in for a take-home breakfast sounded great to me because I did not look any better than I had all week. Once home after we finished our meal, I tried to sleep as directed, but I never did go to sleep that day, and I was not comfortable until midnight or so.

I kept thinking I should blog. I had the time. I thought maybe I could make all this funny. But it was not funny to me. I might be able to laugh if it happened to you, but I was not amused. So you are getting a true look at my life with me pouting and looking like a wild woman all week. (I say pouting because I know how desperately needed such fine surgical centers are in so many places on our globe. I certainly wish everyone had access just as I did. Every time I felt sorry for myself, I also felt ashamed that I was such a spoiled baby.)

Today I had a long wonderful “girl friend” visit with my youngest daughter by telephone, put on makeup for the first time since Sunday, had my pitiful hair fixed and made an appointment made for a perm on Wednesday, bought myself a new coat I really needed since I had left the last one on the back of a restroom door in Iowa or Nebraska or someplace two years ago, went to a sad but stimulating program at the mall on slavery in Illinois, and then visited with Katherine a bit. That visit turned out all right since two neighbor kids caught Sam’s dog Scooter when he ran out the door and into the park when I opened the door to go in.

Driving home through the dark, I saw the huge bonfires our son-in-law Brian had going. Gerald has been working for two or three weeks cutting brush and trees away from the side of the road. The county had helped pull up roots, Gerald had pushed trees into piles, and suddenly Brian’s newly acquired field is larger and more productive, and a dangerous curve on our country road is much safer. I fixed us all a bite of supper, and life seemed normal again.

As Mary Ellen accurately and sympathetically said on the phone this morning, my life has been tough from top to bottom this week. I promise to write about the good things next time. I hope you didn’t read this.