Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Taking a Break from Woodsong and Trauma of the New Computer....

Yesterday we had company arriving at 4 a.m. and last bunch arriving at 4 p.m., so it was busy but fun around here. Mary Ellen fixed us all biscuits and gravy for breakfast yesterday morning. Then I fixed lunch and I think there were 14 who ate lunch between 2 and 4:30. Ha. At 7 or 8 p.m., the house was suddenly quiet again.

Mary Ellen’s family were down on Saturday to their camper to finish their planting—so they were in and out taking showers, etc. Her husband Brian finished planting his soybeans yesterday after he and Mary Ellen went to Centralia plant and got more seed. He worked late Saturday night expecting to finish and have Sunday off--then ran out of seed unexpectedly at 2 a.m. So he worried about getting more seed on a holiday and was grateful someone was there. He finished yesterday, and then he replanted a tiny bit of corn—but his corn crop looks beautiful.

He starts new job assignment in middle region of Illinois on June 1. He and Trent will stay in their camper up there until their new house becomes available. Mary Ellen and Brianna are going to World Series. Mary Ellen phoned tonight jubilant with the news that their house in Lake Saint Louis sold today. They completely redid the kitchen just to help it sell. She said it was definitely her dream kitchen, but she was not attached to it because she knew she was doing it for someone else. I don’t know how they do everything.

We are almost packed to leave early in the morning for the opening softball game on Thursday at the Women’s College World Series. University of Georgia will play Washington, and some people think Washington will will the tourney. We will see. It is University of Georgia’s first time at the World Series. When these two teams played earlier this year, each team won once.

One of my Texas nieces will also be in Oklahoma City area at the same time we are. She is house and animal sitting for her daughter and husband as daughter in vet school is away in California for some kind of internship or project. I am so pleased that without any planning on our parts, we will get to see each other there.

After Oklahoma tourney, we hope to go on to Amarillo to see my sister and her husband and their children and grandchildren. We’ll see.

My new computer is driving me crazy, but I am sure I will get used to it. The Outlook Express is now in Office Suites—and I can’t get e-addresses to record without individually entering each one by hand. GRRR. Mostly my address book (rather what used to be called address book but now is not) is empty. Very inefficient. I wish I were not so dumb. I wish even more that Outlook Express worked like it used to when it was easy to record e-addresses with a click. GRRRR.

I am glad to be taking a break from breaking in this new machine.

I will write again when we return if not before.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Storm, Software, and Softball

The recent inland hurricane (now being called a derecho) provides a background for life in Southern Illinois. Carbondale alone lost over 3000 trees, and communities in five counties share similar losses. Every roadside woods contain blown-over and uprooted trees in the midst of the surrounding standing trees.

As friends come in contact with one another, the first question is often, “Did you have much damage?” Because we all know of those with destroyed cars and homes, mostof us have to say our damage is small compared to many others.

Nevertheless, the storm changed our landscapes and our lifes and our prioities. Gerald has pitched in and helped other recover since our minor damage has not yet rated the attention of over-worked insurance adjustors.

He has also had to help me cope with my new computer. Now I have to learn to use it. Not everything is “go” yet despite a wonderful neighbor who came over and helped us install some programs. I hope to still find some lost files and to learn the “improvements.”

Softball games have filled our lives as much as the storm has. Last weekend we watched five games switching from seeing Erin and Texas A&M on ESPN in Gainesville, Florida, and sometimes switching to watch Gerry’s Georgia Dogs on game tracker as they played in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Georgia started touney play on Thursday and won their regional tournament by Friday. Erin began their regional tourney by making a homerun in the first inning—the only score in their game against Lehigh. In a double-elimination tourney and knowing they would face first-ranked Florida the next morning, we were rejoicing. Then we knew disappointment on Saturday evening to see Erin’s last game in her college career. After the somewhat expected loss to Florida (although they beat them last year in the World Series),they had their second loss against Lehigh that evening. So Lehigh was the team that advanced to play Florida, who won the Central Regional on Sunday. Erin, named an all region catcher, will be playing professional ball this summer before she returns to finish her A&M senior year.

Now we are watching Georgia and Ohio State play for two out of three games in the Super Regional down at Athens, Georgia. Bryan and Tara and the two little boys drove all night to arrive for this game.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Excitedly Awaiting New Computer

Yesterday we went to Carbondale, and I had my old computer checked out and bought a new one. It was the monitor gone bad as I suspected. However, the computer was old, and I figured while I was in the mood, it was time to go ahead and purchase a new one--hopefully the last I ever have to buy. (Hmmm. We will see how that plays out.)

Just getting all those wires untangled and the computer unhooked to take to the store was a big job; putting it all back together seemed daunting although Gerald would probably have helped as he installed it the first time.

I am at home now trying to clean my office a bit (an overwhelming impossibility for someone who collects paper) in preparation for the new computer's arrival. Gerald has gone for an eye exam and will bring the computer home. I am very excited. (Despite how I dread learning anything new. I do not like change.)

I need to leave my husband's computer now and go upstairs and put a roast in the oven for our evening meal since he is not to be here for lunch. I told my daughter after last night at Sam's wonderful 6th grade band concert that I'd bring them dinner tonight. She is getting her Tysabri infusion this afternoon that had to be postponed last week because of remaining infection from a pulled tooth. She is so very weak that I am praying the infusion will strengthen her again.

Maybe I will be ready to blog again in a day or two.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Calm After the Storm

Most Southern Illinoisans now have electricity, and life is returning to somewhat normal. One dog who refused to sleep where he was when the storm hit is now willing to return to his proper house. Some kids will go back to school tomorrow, but some communities haven’t opened their schools yet. People are having to clean out freezers full of spoiled food. The sound of chain saws fill the air. Tempers flare easily. Emergency rooms are tending to people injured doing clean-up. Gerald says that the trees with huge roots still on them are really difficult and tricky to deal with and make the chain saws more dangerous than usual.

This note from a writer friend is probably pretty typical of most folks’ situation: “The house was spared, but we lost at least half of our trees, including one we had planted 2 years ago. (It was crushed by another tree.) We were in the Minneapolis area when it happened. Our son, who lives out by Lake of Egypt was able to come over and unload our freezer and save the major freezer stuff. It will take me all summer to get the yard cleaned up.”

Everyone is grieving lost trees but very grateful that rather amazingly there was only one fatality.

Since our village of Crab Orchard did have electricity turned back on last night, it was decided to not cancel our annual women’s banquet at church this Friday night. I just got home an hour or so ago from helping Kim Barger and Sharon Odom decorate the downstairs dining room.

Our speaker is artist Marie Samuel, who has done a lot of research and art work with aprons. So now we have aprons—beautiful ones, utilitarian ones, well worn ones, and never-used fancy ones—all over the walls. The sweetest apron of all is one the right size for a four-year-old, which was made for Sharon when she was about that age.

One apron I took over has this story pinned on it: “Cheryl Hall worked in Center’s Vacation Bible School the year of her wedding. Cheryl asked two of the students in her class--Tom Richey and Gerry Glasco-- to be in her wedding to Noel Bascom, which was at Center Baptist Church on July 10, 1970. Cheryl and her mother Betty Hall asked Helen Richey and Sue Glasco to serve at the reception held in the educational building--with all the folding doors open making a nice reception area. Helen and Sue were given these pretty hostess aprons to wear while serving.” The apron reminds me of the two special deceased friends, Betty and Helen, and a young bride who is now a grandmother living in Springfield, Missouri. And the two young boys are middle-aged men living in Florida and Georgia.

The tables are pretty with pink gingham cloths and special napkins and little apron refrigerator magnet favors someone had made for us. Candles inside white vases donated after a special young lady’s wedding grace the tables. With the lids off, the candles are already filling the air with the smell of vanilla. Sharon is planning on going to Stevens tomorrow for some rose runners to put between the candles. You can rest assured they will be stored afterwards for future parties.

We’ve developed an inexpensive way to decorate at our village church by choosing a theme and then asking everyone to bring whatever fits the theme. With minimum expense, we can usually turn the dining room into whatever atmosphere we want to create. The stories and the memories evoked are always enjoyed. I especially enjoyed the ancient antique can of Old Dutch Cleanser that Kim brought. The familiar hard-working wooden-shoed woman in her apron reminds me of the respect that good housekeeping brought to women whose homes were their careers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

An Ill Wind

At 1 a.m. on Friday, we woke up with terrible noises pounding on our roof and against the many windows. Wind and lightening were as bad as I could remember and the hail as large as I had ever seen. Not quite golf ball size nor was the hail covering the ground like some images I have seen on television reports—but as large as a quarter and as scary as I have experienced. Both Gerald and I were wide awake because of the noise, and we walked around looking out the windows and out at the sidewalk at the hail. Deciding there was nothing to do about it and observing that the house was withstanding the noisy attack, we went back to bed and slept soundly until the next morning when we finished packing and headed on our trip to Erin’s conference tourney at Oklahoma City. Everything looked great at Woodsong when we left at 8:30 after our breakfast.

In Missouri we drove through heavy rainfall for a long time and knew it was headed in the direction we had left. The first phone call came after lunch. Our next-door neighbor phoned to say there had been some high winds that blew a big tree down on their Katie’s play house and that we had some shingles off. Scott said not to worry he was checking the roof and if needed, he would patch it up so there’d be no leak in the house. We’d left garage windows open to keep garage cool, and Scott said the wind had evidently whipped in and bowed the garage door slightly behind our pickup—but nothing serious.

An hour or so later, our daughter Katherine phoned. She started out very calm thanking me for some help I’d given them during the week and saying they were enjoying the good leftovers of some food I’d brought. I was waiting to tell her the excitement about our roof damage. Before I had a chance and after she’d skillfully made sure that I was all calm and would be thinking everything was good with her family, she launched into the account of the inland hurricane that hit Southern Illinois. (Our neighbors had not been to town yet when they phoned about our roof.)

Katherine and her aide Beth had heard and watched one big tree after another at the park next door falling over. The master bedroom in their house was designed to look out on those beautiful trees—one of which was a huge fir and a favorite of her and Sam. (As he pointed out, it had been there outside his bedroom window through his entire life.) Windows on the other side of their bedroom look out on the back yard, which also has always been special with ancient trees both in their yard and on the city alley immediately behind their fence.

Although she and Beth went into their large windowless bath that accommodates her wheelchair, they could hear the trees falling one by one. The lovely old tree in the neighbor’s yard on the other side of the back yard came crashing down destroying their fence and the gazebo roof. The remainder of the tree is still hanging precariously there. The front yard had only one tree, and it was mangled so much that it had to be cut down today. Beth left to go pick up her daughters from school and had called a half hour later and was stranded by tree limbs and downed wires from reaching the school—ordinarily five minutes away. This much Katherine knew when she phoned, and our few missing shingles seemed tame in comparison.

Then the phone reports kept coming. Scott and Sonja drove to Marion, and were astounded to see all the destruction there and the big trees in Ray Fosse Park uprooted and on the ground. Our nephew’s wife working at Southern Illinois University Carbondale had been herded with other employees to the basement and could not believe the devastation when they were allowed to come back up. The softball coach at SIUC talked to our son and told about the many large old trees on campus being uprooted and lying on the ground. Evidently the ground was so saturated that the 120 mile per hour winds simply pushed the big trees over and their six-foot circumference root systems came out with the trees leaving behind a huge hole.

Many roads were not passable and Interstate 57 was closed that night because of the trees and limbs. A four-county area was without electricity and land phone service was no more. (Places to charge cell phones became very valuable. Towns affected have curfews yet tonight.) However, Scott was taking care of our roof and our daughter Mary Ellen and Brian and kids were going down on Saturday and they would hook up a generator for the fridge and freezer. David’s friend had loaned him and Katherine his generator, and Brian said he’d bring his down also.

Conference tourneys were not kind to “our” two teams. Seventh-ranked Georgia was upset by Tennessee in their first game on Thursday down in Knoxville, and they were, therefore, out of the tourney. Consequently, our son Gerry left to see a high school game in Dallas and another game in Oklahoma City, so we connected with him and he got to see Erin play with Texas A&M against Baylor on Saturday morning.

Since A&M had beaten Baylor twice during the season, we expected to play again at 5 that night and hoped to play for the championship after that. Not to be. A&M did not play their best, and Baylor beat us and we were out of the Big 12 Conference Tournament. None of us felt celebratory as we tried to console each other before Erin had to leave with the team for lunch. We did enjoy seeing D. J. Mathis pitch an inning on the field still playing around the corner. However, the next day Missouri put an end to our hopes if we could not win the conference that D.J. and Oklahoma would.

We had a lovely dinner down in Bricktown Saturday evening on an outdoor patio with Erin and with Gerry before he drove all night back to Dallas to catch a plane home to Atlanta. We kept congratulating Erin on making the Big 12’s first team as catcher, but she’d rather have beaten Baylor and stayed in town. She was to leave for College Station and her two remaining final exams at 6 a.m. the next morning. Nevertheless, we had a good visit and a good time with each other.

We went to bed early and left at 5:30 on Sunday morning dreading what we were going to find when we returned to the storm zone. A sweet older lady, who laughed a great deal, presented me and the other woman in their restaurant at breakfast with a carnation for Mother’s Day. Later I got Mother’s Day phone calls from the kids. We unexpectedly connected with Mary Ellen and Brian, Trent and Bri as they returned through Saint Louis after they had spent the weekend helping at our house and Katherine’s, so we had a fine 3 p.m. Mother’s Day dinner at the second restaurant we found next door to the first one we went to. (The first one was going to have a 45 minute wait.)

We shared and re-hashed all the stories Gerry and we had heard by phone about the hurricane and listened to the first-hand information from the Taylors. People were thinking it might be two weeks before all the power was back on. The talk did nothing to relieve our dread of having to see what was coming even though our house and Katherine and David’s house were both in good shape in comparison to the many that had a big tree land on their roof.

We were in Marion before dark and drove through the limbs lining the trees watching out low lines overhead. People took turns patiently where traffic lights did not work. As soon as we had checked on the Cedars, we came on to Woodsong, ate peanut butter and crackers for supper and sat on the deck until the outside light was gone. We went to bed in deep country darkness, and Gerald planned to reconnect the generator this morning.

Very soon the land phone rang. Our neighbor was telling us that our Rural Electric Association power was back on. Gerald turned on the main switches on the control panel in the garage that had to be turned off when the generator had been running for the freezers. He stayed up and I went back to bed after enjoying the electric lights that got me there instead of my flashlight.

Today the truncated newspaper, which had to be printed in Paducah, Kentucky, during the emergency, carried photos of the damage and of many of the volunteers and workers pouring in to help. Rather amazingly, it is being predicted most people will have electricity by midnight tomorrow. Feeding stations are set up in all the area towns, and there is a great deal of backyard grilling going on. David took Sam and Beth’s daughter Emily uptown and came home with tacos for all the gang as some establishments must have alternate generators. Gerald and David worked in the back yard wielding chain saws on all the fallen trees there. I cleaned off the bits and pieces of leaves beaten against the back windows as Mary Ellen had to do for our front door.

David’s workplace and the colleges and schools are all closed at least until Wednesday, and people are hard at work repairing damages. Today was beautiful, but rain is predicted. Most houses are just fine, which makes it especially painful when you see those that will never be livable again. We stopped at Kroger’s on our way out of town and a friend appeared just as I was leaving. She had come in to get repair supplies for her husband. “I need a hug,” she said. “My bed has a tree in it.”


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

But before I do, let me write a bit. Our day started early as Katherine has a tooth pulled very early this morning. Gerald took her in their van, and after I had helped a tiny bit with her shoes and raincoat, I stayed behind and relaxed at her house reading on in a novel I started over the weekend.

Then Gerald got a haircut and I read some more. We did a quick run into Target as I have been looking at various stores trying to find four lightweight pots to replant the huge vine that has just gotten too long and luxurious in one of our windows. I still have not found exactly what I want, but at least am beginning to store what is out there that I must settle for.

Katherine’s night aide had to move out of the area and Katherine's bad tooth had made her MS worsen, so I have tried to help a bit this week before we leave for the weekend. Her sheet of directions from the dentist said she was to eat soft foods today, so I told her I’d make chili for supper since the rain had made the day not only damp but also chilly. She said that sounded good.

I try to keep chili ingredients on hand so if a shift in the weather calls for it, I can easily make a simple dish to warm us up. Unfortunately after I got home, I found I had used up my supply of beans and tomato juice usually on the bottom shelf of the pantry. So after a restful afternoon, I browned the hamburger and onion, but needed to run into the store before I was able to complete the chili.

Since it was Senior Citizen Day, I just went ahead and bought the monthly supplies I get from that store as well as the fixings for the chili, which I completed at Katherine and David’s house. I was glad I did since I found out Katherine had been looking forward to it. I am always a little self-conscious about my chili as David makes delicious chili from the deer he slays. But it was a cozy meal for us I did not bother with dessert other than taking in some bananas because they still had sweets left over from her birthday weekend.

Their family watches American Idol, and I completely enjoyed watching it with them. I have watched bits of it before but had never watched an entire program.

When I came home awhile ago, it was slightly foggy. Not enough to make for difficult driving, but enough to make the night scene look vaguely different than usual. I can remember one night taking home one of my mother’s assistants when the fog was so bad that I could not see houses to know where I was. I went by one turn-off on my way back home and was so relieved when I finally made it safely into our garage. I have driven in that kind of fog once or twice since.

Tonight, however, it was just foggy enough to make the drive seem romantically mystical and the road seem longer between landmarks. I remembered when we first moved over to the hog farm and I used this road for the first time at night. I had driven it many times in the daytime when our brother and wife lived at the hog farm; and of course, I had driven to work from there after we moved.

But we were in play practice at the high school at that time, and coming home in the dark at the end of the night’s practice, I drove the road alone for the first time in the dark. It was not foggy, but it looked completely different than in daytime and the country road seemed much longer than usual. I grew afraid I was lost. I wasn’t. I had the same sensation tonight of the road being longer than it usually seemed although I always knew exactly where I was. The damp misty quality of the evening gave just enough of an edge to make an ordinary drive seem heavy with mystery and stirred my imagination and my memories of days gone by.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Busy. Busy.

The martins are back to their apartment houses Gerald had all ready for them. As they create their nests and prepare to please us with a new generation, they are busy swooping and twirping and twittering . I am happy the barn swallows are back dirtying up our front porch with their annual mud and straw nest there. I cut dead branches off the rose bushes, which seemed to tall up over night and are green and healthy after their winter sleep.

Neighbors and our son-in-law are all busy getting ready for planting. Gerald has been tied up trying to get the sprayer he is modifying for Scott just right. He keeps redoing it but believes he has it correct now, so he repainted it and took it back down to Scott yesterday afternoon.

Friends and family are out on the lake fishing, and Gerald has planted the first of his garden after Scott tilled it. I urge him to make it small this year. I wonder if he will listen.

My spring took an unexpected turn when a reporter mentioned that I was looking for a photograph of Priscilla the Hollyhock Girl. Betty Baker read the story and dug into her box of ancient family photos to find a group picture of the Harrison family, which included Priscilla who had taken care of little orphan Laura Annear at the Silkwood Inn.

After the Silkwoods’ deaths, it was arranged for Priscilla to live with Laura, who was now married to Isham Harrison, the executor of Silkwood’s estate. (One of the tidbits I have learned is that the name Isham has a silent “h,” and the older generation pronounced it Isom. Proof of this is his son’s funeral notice, which Betty also shared that has the father’s named misspelled just as the local folks pronounced it.)

The photo of Priscilla is not as clear as we would like, but it is extremely significant that she is included in this family picture, which gives evidence that she was considered a family member. The picture was passed down to Betty by her grandmother, Effie Harrison Snyder Penrod, who looks about five in the photo. Effie was rocked by Priscilla just as Laura had been at Silkwood Inn.

I have had emails and phone calls from several who have their own Priscilla or hollyhock story to tell me. That has been delightful, but time consuming. I have talked by phone to two women over ninety years old, and on Wednesday I was able to interview Roma Craft at the Hurricane Memorial Assisted Living facility. It was an exciting interview, and Richard Kuenneke was there to make an audio recording of the visit.

Consequently, I still have one more flower bed to clean out a bit, and books I’d planned to read have been neglected while I have reread one book and perused numerous articles and notes refreshing my memory on various facts and legends.

Nevertheless, we still have taken time to watch softball games on game tracker often. Last night we were able to watch Erin on ESPN when Texas A&M played University of Texas. Today they were back on game tracker as they played a make-up game against Baylor. We had seriously talked of going to Arkansas to see University of Georgia play, but the weather predictions made us change those plans. Yesterday’s games were postponed, and they played a double header today. Our friend Bobby in Texas phoned rejoicing for all that rain down south.

Next weekend will be conference tournaments for both “our” teams. We want to be in both Knoxville and Oklahoma City, but are planning on going to Oklahoma since this is Erin’s last year and Gerry’s team can be watched next year. Our grandson Elijah is playing the role of Eugene in Brighton Beach Memoirs up at Freeport High School next weekend also, and I guess I have to face the fact that we cannot be there and Oklahoma at the same time. I like to be busy—but I wish things were spread out without conflicts, so we could do everything. Ah well.