Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Not a Shopper (If I Can Help It)

Shopping was never a favorite activity, but I used to enjoy it occasionally. The older I become, however, the less I enjoy it. I do enjoy yard sales and thrift shops—but only get around to doing either one maybe once a year. My least favorite place to shop is in a big store. I get turned around easily.

I remember years ago when I excitedly went to our new Famous-Barr at the Carbondale mall. I was literally at the verge of tears trying to find my way out when I bumped into a friend who showed me how to get out of the maze. Nevertheless, occasionally one has to shop. Today seemed like it could be a good day to do so.

During VBS, one of the kids wanted to go to the Marion mall while we were in town, so we did and separated to meet each other an hour later. That unplanned outing was neat for me because I was able to find three needed baby gifts. Because I always buy large sizes, it does not matter that two gifts are yet undelivered. It did matter today, however, because that much shopping was already done.

Amazingly, I found the perfect outfit very quickly for an upcoming event that I had mailed our acceptance to when I stopped at the post office to send something to my sister. On a sale table, I also found four unusually pretty paper weights that I hoped would make good small gifts for someone at Christmas.

Today I wanted to buy a dozen cloth diapers for an expectant young mother I know. Cloth diapers are great shoulder protectors and still used for that purpose by many parents. I also thought it was good insurance if the disposable ones ran out when the grocery money was low. A couple weeks ago, I could not find cloth diapers at the local dollar store in the middle of town, so today I forced myself to go to the big emporium on the town outskirts. I made a point to remember where I parked since not remembering can almost become life threatening on a hot day on a hot concrete parking lot. I made the long hot walk to enter the store and eventually found a clerk to point me to the baby department. She was the last clerk I saw until I checked out.

I observed an attractively fashionable matron (who must have been an expectant grandmother) wrestling a huge cardboard box holding a stroller or something big trying to get into in to her cart. As it fell out of her hands to the floor, I tried to think of something witty and comforting to say to her, but before I opened my mouth, she had to answer her cell phone. As I passed, I heard her laugh and say she was struggling with a falling box and, no, she did not mind being interrupted in order to rest a moment.

I quickly found a long row of shelving filled with disposable diapers of all brands and sizes and types. No cloth diapers there. I walked through all the aisles of baby items that I could find, but I could not see any cloth diapers. Finally I gave up and decided to look for other things on my shopping list. But I could not resist some sweet infant things as I was leaving the department, and there I found another grandmother and we began talking. Her expectant daughter was living at home with her while the daughter’s husband is serving in Iraq.

She knew exactly where diapers were and pointed me to a far-away aisle I had not seen. She had already secured some cloth diapers for her daughter. She said she told her daughter: What if we had an earthquake and suddenly disposable diapers weren’t available? Having some real diapers could come in handy. I hadn’t thought of such a thing, but living in an area known for tornado and earthquake possibilities, that made sense to me.

We parted, and the cloth diapers were exactly where she said. I thought diaper pins and plastic pants would be nearby. I could find neither. Do new cloth diapers have some sort of fastening apparatus attached these days? I walked through the infant aisles one more time and gave up. Maybe I can find them later in the baby things at our big grocery store.

As I was almost out of the store, I walked into the helpful grandmother again. She hadn’t tried to get plastic pants and pins yet, but we talked more about babies, baby supplies, young mothers, public education, and other things. By this time, I knew she had worked twelve-hour days for the past two days, and she was very sleepy. So I thanked her for being the best clerk I had found at the store and sympathized with her need to get home and to sleep. Then she explained why she had so much time to advise and befriend me. She was just hanging out until someone got off work at 4 because she had a long-delayed gift for her and wanted to accomplish that deed today. We bid goodbye like the old friends we had become, and I eventually headed to the checkout lane.

I found my car without a hitch and ran by my daughter Katherine’s to visit a while with her. I had seen one of her best friends at the art festival on Saturday and was eager to tell her about the beautiful jewelry that Leah is making. (I have some ordered for Christmas gifts.)

I made a quick run through at the grocery store with cheaper bread since the one expensive loaf of bread I bought at another store yesterday was half gone because I had served sandwiches. Gerald doesn’t eat the special flax bread I pick up when I can, but as usual, that one kind of bread was sold out. I would guess that over half the time when I try to buy it, it is all gone. I don’t know why as there are hundreds of other loaves and not one of my favorite. I wrote that on a store critique form once, but there is no improvement. I bought the two wheat loaves of Gerald’s preference that I came to buy, but, of course, I always see other things we need once I enter a grocery.

Since it was past our usual supper time, I hurried home. With Gerald’s truck in the garage, I made the assumption he was down in his office. I fixed our supper and started summoning him to the table and realized he was not in the house. Since he has been cleaning storm-fallen trees out of the creek at the other farm this week, I quickly phoned him. Such work with chain saws holds potential danger. He was fine, but it might be another half hour until he was able to come home. After I ate enough to satisfy my hunger knowing that half hour might very well turn into an hour, I went downstairs to read Facebook.

When I heard him upstairs, I joined him and we enjoyed the ham steak, tomatoes from his garden, and corn on the cob that our nephew Kerry had shared with us. And very yummy grapes from the grocery. We watched a news show together in the family room until the baseball game came on, and I departed for my office. Now I better go upstairs and finish cleaning up the kitchen—something I like even less than shopping but something that has to be done a lot more often.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mid-Summer Dreams and Nightmares

The tall corn of our neighbor’s tests plots makes a green wall beside the lane leading to our house. Gerald keeps the grass mowed park-level on both sides of the lane, and it is lovely these mid-summer days.

The children and I did the lawn mowing for years over at Pondside Farm while Gerald worked 12-hour days on the farm. We had a large lawn leading down to the pond, and we all took turns. Forever embedded in my brain is the image of Jeannie mowing with her sweet dog Taffy in her arms and both of them happy. When the children grew up and left the farm, I took over with only occasional help from Gerald.

I haven’t mowed since we moved here almost eight years ago. Gerald says he enjoys the mowing and our yard just keeps getting bigger as a consequence. I do remember how peaceful it was to mow--provided I did not run out of gas just before I finished the lawn or if the rain did not cause the grass to get ahead of us. However, I am relieved not to have to confess every spring that I have forgotten how to start the lawn mower. Such ineptness is beyond Gerald’s comprehension, but he would patiently take me through the steps while I felt child-like and dumb because I knew what he was thinking.

Now I just get to appreciate his work. (I had actually wanted us to have rocks or wild flowers around our house and not have to mow in retirement. There was such a house a few miles from us, and I thought it looked pretty neat. I had watched my elderly mother struggle with the folks who were to keep her grass short, so I thought the rock landscaping in retirement was a way to avoid that.)

However, although my life has been simplified by no longer having to remember how lawn mowers start, now I have to fight with computers. Last night I turned off my battery-operated mouse but decided to leave the computer on where I was googling for some information and had not quite finished. A couple hours later, I came back expecting to clear up that bit of research and then decide what to blog about and get it written and posted early in the evening and go to bed early. I was eager to tell about the fun sitting with other Southern Illinois Writers Guild authors at a book signing at the Carbondale Civic Center on Saturday at an arts festival that a hospital group had somehow receieved a grant to sponsor for our area. Earlier HP had been running some kind of monthly checkup, but it was only an icon at the bottom of the screen as far as I was concerned.

I sat down and livened up the screen, and there was a huge blocking square from HP saying everything had “passed”—that was the phrase they used. On top of that was another smaller box asking if I would allow or not allow something, and I did manage to click on “not allow” and that box went away. However, nothing I could do to the exit button on the huge square would make it work. Then even worse, the lower right box that is supposed to allow you to shut down the computer popped up and was flashing crazily. I could not shut down nor get rid of the HP report card and the irritating flashing. For an hour, I struggled to get on with my work. I closed off the computer “illegally” since nothing would allow me to do it normally. I thought a close down might let me start over with a normal screen. No. In fact, interestingly, the computer would turn itself on without my permission unless I turned off the electrical surge do-dad—whatever that thing is called. I kept trying to let things rest and to try again.

Finally in disgust, I turned it off for the night and went to the family room to enjoy Book Notes and read a bit. By this time, I figured if I went to bed early, I would not sleep for thinking of my non-working new computer and regretting I had bought the beautiful thing. (I chose it partly because I loved the sleek look and so few wires.) I told myself I would not subject myself to its vagaries anymore to end a lovely Sunday, and I guessed I’d take it to the store in this morning to see if I had a virus or something that some computer doctor might give an antibiotic.

But like a moth attracted to a light bulb, my curiosity got the best of me and I returned to my office and turned on the computer. What a difference two hours made. The nightmare was over and my computer worked like a dream. I was too tired to blog, so I surfed, read Facebook entries catching up on others’ lives, did a couple online errands and went to bed—very late.

Maybe relearning how to start the lawn mower once a year was a simpler life style than being a computer illiterate living with 21st Century convenience.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Eilers Visit Going and Coming During Their Vacation

Since going south means coming down I-57 in Illinois, we were the happy recipients of a visit from Rick and Jeannie and our youngest granddaughter, Cecelie, last Thursday night. They were later than they hoped to arrive because they also wanted to stop in Peoria and say hello to Elijah, who is attending a two-week speech camp at Bradley University.

Nevertheless, Jeannie and I still had time to eat a peach together and have a good visit at the kitchen table before we went on to bed. They would sleep in but would leave Friday mid-morning since they would be on their way to pick up Leslie in Nashville to join them on Saturday for an outing to Memphis to see Beale Street and Elvis Presley’s home.

After continuing their vacation on to the Smokies and a return visit with Les, they arrived last night on their way back to Freeport. Again we visited at the kitchen table, and I was able to hear their adventures. Everyone had enjoyed camping including their two shit zues, Lucky and Leah, who could join them in their tent. I suspected the fact that their mountain campsite warned of black bears increased the drama and enjoyment for Cecelie.

Weeks ago, my friend Wanda Troester had invited me speak to the Recycled Youth group at the Herrin Christian Church about the legend of Priscilla. So after staying up late visiting and consequently sleeping late, my morning visit with Jeannie was short, but she took off at the same time I did to search out local peaches from her favorite Carbondale market.

Rick was on the computer working on his annual math class he teaches for kids at Freeport who want to get ahead in their studies. Jeannie and I had each asked Cecelie if she wanted to go with us, but Cecelie, who is more than capable of entertaining herself, answered coyly, “No thanks, I have plans.” I am not sure what all her plans at the farm were, but when I returned, I did see her in costume, of course, and Lucky and Leah playing on her grandfather’s trailer out by the shop.

I’d boiled some chicken and made dumplings the easy way--out of store-bought tortillas-- the day before, so I could have our lunch ready quickly when I came home from the Recycled Youth program. (I might have stayed for their meeting after I spoke if I hadn’t had guests at home, but Wanda had told me I was free to leave after my program, and I did. There were several old friends there, and I met some lovely new folk, so I would have enjoyed staying.)

By the time I had lunch for the five of us on the table, Jeannie was back. With tomatoes from Gerald’s garden, frozen peas cooked and buttered, and deviled eggs, there was plenty of color on our plates with the chicken and dumplings. Tea sweetened with Splenda and watermelon for dessert finished our menu. Then we spent the afternoon visiting before they re-loaded their van with their stuff and our granddogs and took off for the long trip up north.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Snakedoctors, dragonflies, damselflies, whatever...

Before I wrote last night's blog after returning from Horseshoe Lake, I should have done a bit of research. I thought I remembered from childhood that the fleeting flying insects with brown boides and two pair of transparent wings were called dragonflies and that the beautiful blue ones were called snake doctors. Since she too is from the Midwest, I was surprised when Dorraine Darden asked me what a snake doctor was. Hmmm.

So tonight I googled and found out that there are Odonat that are damselflies and others called dragonflies, and the difference is that the damselflies hold their often iridescent or transparent double set of wings close to their bodies when they are at rest. Dragonflies hold their wings straight out when at rest.

I was surprised to see pictures of these insects in various colors in addition to the dark and blue bodies that I have been familiar with. The photo most like the pretty blue flying insect I saw yesterday was labeled a dragonfly. But other sites showing blue flying double-winged insects labeled the photos as familiar bluet damselfly. I saw none of these insects at rest yesterday--all were flying beside or over the edge of the lake. So I do not know whether their wings at rest were at their sides or held straight out.

Regardless, the slender flying creatures were lovely and added to my enjoyment of our outing. They do not bite us humans, but do help keep down the mosquito population. They stay near water as they lay eggs in the water and seem to be in many countries. One site said that Dictionary of American Regional English lists 80 names for the dragonfly. The names I noted tonight were darner, darning needle, devil's darning needle, ear sewer, skeeter hawk, spindle, needle. If you want to know more, google.

A Sunday Afternoon Drive and an Evening Visit

We woke up Friday morning to the most beautiful weather anyone could imagine. The weekend has been cool with gentle breezes, and every where people have been in their gardens, going on picnics, and relishing being outside in pleasant comfort.

We took off after morning worship stopping by the house only long enough for Gerald to get his camera. After a bountiful dinner at The Old Home Place at Goreville, we drove down I-57 towards Gerald’s goal of Horseshoe Lake hoping to see eagles there as we did several years ago. The eagles were not out and about, but the serene beauty there was worth the trip.

Because Illinois is such a long state, we have both northern and southern ecological extremes. At the very tip we have cypress swamps that remind you of the deep south rather than the Midwest. There is the Cache River watershed in Johnson and Pulaski Counties, where the state has three nature preserves, and we love going out on the boardwalks to see the l,000 year old cypress trees.

But today in even farther south Alexander County, we were seeing the fish and wildlife preserve the state has on this large lake shaped roughly like a horse shoe, which has long provided folk with places to fish and hunt. We were not there to do either, but to find places to enjoy and photograph.

We traveled along the lake stopping at various pull-over sites to view the algae covered lake with cypress knees and tall cypress trees knees growing out of the water. The green algae as far as you could see in many places looked like a perfectly kept lawn of grass with the buttressed cypress growing in park-like conditions. But when you walked out on the shaky boardwalks, you could look down and see the dots of black water beneath the green covering and occasionally hear a fish breaking the water. Except for the birdsong and an occasional motorcycle group, the peaceful quietness was as lovely as the view.
The only wildlife we saw today were the darting blue snake doctors and an occasional butterfly. In only a few places could we look out and see the moving blue water farther from the shore. At one breath-taking stop, there was no room for cypress as every inch of the water seemed to be covered with blooming water lilies.

Finally we left the lake and the few camping families at one or two sites, the kids fishing at the dam, and the cycle gathering at one picnic area. Taking Route 3, we headed back north and stopped in Thebes on the Mississippi River to see again the restored 1848 rock courthouse high on a hill looking out across the river to Missouri.

A handwritten sign on the locked door gave Saturday hours and the Sunday hours from 1 to 4. Either today’s volunteer did not show up or left a few minutes early as we and two men on motorcycles from Missouri were there shortly before four. So we could not go in, but all of us walked down the hill to see the columns on the river side and the staircase there leading up to the court room. The wide locked doors there would have taken us into the jail part of the building, and we saw the iron bars as we walked down the hillside.

Below and between us and the river were a lovely playground, a picnic area, a modern ball field, and the railroad bridge going over to Missouri. Since many years ago Gerald and Wolf Lake High School team had played baseball against the Thebes High School team somewhere along the river here, we explored that area trying to find a remnant of that memory of two high schools that no longer exist. We gave up and came on up through Anna going through the drive-in to quench our thirst and were back at Woodsong by supper time.

I fixed Gerald a sandwich and drove on over to our village for the evening church service since this had been my Sunday to teach the preschoolers during morning worship.

I had barely gotten in the house when Gerald said, “I want you to go up to the other farm with me. I want to show you something.” Only when we almost there did he share that Brian and Mary Ellen were down and Mary Ellen was in the camper needing a ride to Woodsong while Brian looked over his corn crops. Thus, the day ended delightfully with visiting at the kitchen table over bologna sandwiches and fresh peaches from a local orchard. When Brian arrived from the other farm, he had to visit with Gerald awhile, and Mary Ellen and I had a little more time to talk in the living room before they took off in the cool darkness for the long drive to their new home in central Illinois.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Let it Rain. Let it Rain. (And Please Let it Stop.)

More rain. We have had enough. It is muggy and hot again. I’m grateful it was not so last week, but the weekend rains were so heavy that we surely did not need more today.

I have been running around. Sunday afternoon I rode to Sikeston, Missouri, with my friend Roger Poppen, who had invited me to go to Heartland Writers Guild to share my blogging experiences. We met in front of the Cobden museum and drove down narrow leafy-lined Mountain Glen Road to Route 146 and it was so beautiful. I always thrill when I see the Mississippi River, and now the new Cape bridge is an extra visual treat. It was fun talking to the writers at the lovely meeting room at the Episcopal Church with walls covered with a fine collection of textured Biblical murals made by someone or some group. (I could just imagine a group sitting around a table creating these.) The writers there had been encouraged at a workshop to start blogging and wanted to know more about it.

Most promotion experts suggest blogging as a way to sell more books, and I had to confess that I doubt if I have sold any books because of blogging. But I gave them these reasons that I like to blog:
(1) I enjoy writing, so blogging is one more outlet for fun for me. I used to tell students the way to becoming a good writer was to read, read, read, and write, write, write. Blogging provides that important writing practice.
(2) I like for people to read what I write. Blogging provides instant publication. No rejection slips! I love it when I am out and about and people tell me that they read my blog. (Of course, you can blog and keep it a private journal, but I like to share my life because I enjoy reading about others’ lives.) I especially like it when people comment on the blogs. [Hint. Hint.]
(3) I like to interact with other people. So I can sit at my desk at the farm and still have an online friend in Ireland who tells about walking with her dogs in the bog by the sea, one in Brazil who tells about her teaching and translating work there, and in California one who writes about the shootings and the sadness in the ‘hood she is acquainted with. And many more lives that make mine richer.

Of course, I had to be honest and admit that blogging and microblogging on Facebook, Twitter, etc. is an enormous time waster that may be keeping me from getting more important writing done. (I must get an article done for next year’s Southern Illinois Writers Guild anthology if I meet the August 1 deadline.)

It had rained so hard over on the Illinois side of the Mississippi that when Roger and I returned through Mountain Glen Road, gravel and some big rocks had washed down the hillside and onto the road. I had planned to cut through the country to drive back to Woodsong, but I decided I better stick to the highway and go back to Carbondale the way I had come.

Then last night I had dinner at B.J.’s in DuQuoin with the Perry County Historical Society. Lance Feik had invited me to come up and speak to them about the Priscilla on the Trail of Tears. The group was very interested and quite knowledgeable about Mulkeytown’s Hollyhock Girl, who was freed from slavery on the Trail. I learned a new story from one of the gentlemen there: he had been told that Priscilla was first buried behind Silkwood Inn and only later was reburied in the family plot at the Reid-Kirkpatrick Cemetery. I’d never heard of that before, so now I will be asking people if they know anything about that! (I’d considered visiting the cemetery on the way there, but the rains made that unwise. I sure did not want to get stuck up on that hill and miss the meeting.)

Two of the society’s members are working on a website with the history of Pinckneyville’s business and professional people. A photo of a gorgeous quilt that some of the members had made for fund-raising revealed more talent. Although there were all ages represented, I was most impressed with the two women in their nineties at the meeting. Jean Ibendahl, who is vice president, told how the 4-H Club that she once led raised money and took a tour to Tahlequah. Jean had just had surgery, so she had a helper driving her, but Gertrude Smith, 93, assured me she had driven herself to the night meeting. I can only hope if I live that long that I will be as lively in mind and body as these two women were.

I drove home through the dark down Route 51 through Dowell, Elkville, DeSoto, Carbondale, and onto Route 13 through Marion to Woodsong feeling quite young after being with this inspiring bunch. I did get up early this morning and have coffee and read the paper with Gerald before he took off for an Angel Flight to Waterloo, Iowa, with his friend Herman. But then I went back to bed and slept through the gentle rain till I was all rested up. Tonight I droved through a harder rain to a book study at church and got quite wet just getting in the building.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What Was Happening July 6-10, 2009

At Woodsong:
Me waking kids up singing, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!” (Except Brianna was usually already up. Elijah and Sam would roll over and go back to sleep until the second call.) At least five pairs of shoes at every door. (There weren’t that many kids in the house—only four—but they each had more than one pair of shoes and Cecelie found old shoes of mine to dress up with.) Towels all over the bathroom floor. (What are towel racks for anyhow?) Fred the Flamingo joining in conversations. (Brianna is his voice.) A beautiful golden trombone on the living room couch. (Open case awaits on the floor.) A hair drier and cord draped over the bathroom sink upstairs still there after all are gone. (Gotta keep in handy.) Toothpaste fleks decorating the downstairs bathroom. (Gma wants us to brush our teeth.) Kids planning skits for opening of VBS each day. (Gma was proud. And she says to please speak louder.) Fred the Flamingo getting in on the act. (Aren’t I important too?) Elijah and Sam making realistic looking bloody wounds with an old lipstick they found. (Now that we have scared Gma, let’s scare Brianna and Cecelie too.) An almost full moon. (The better to see with while riding the “mule” around the lake.) Unmade beds. (We will be using them again tonight!) Gma looking for ticks in hair. (She even wants us to shower before bedtime to wash off any crawling ticks! They deserve a night’s sleep also.)

At Center:
Elijah leading us in fast-moving happy songs in the assemblies. Three-year-old Braden in the middle of the church aisle doing all the movements with great concentration. Teens lingering in the church parking lot while having serious conversations about concerns for their friends’ problems and how they might help. Little Miranda being the best mother to the baby Moses doll in his basket. Little boys acting like little boys rolling on the floor and under the tables. Little boys standing in straight lines and doing rhythm chants and songs. A sweet sweet smile on shy Kayla’s tiny face each time we sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” with the three-year-olds. Keegan putting all his heart and feet into “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” Three-year-olds lining up and tiptoeing behind Miss Linda for water and bathroom break. Three-year-olds taking turns during water and bathroom break. Kids playing hop scotch on the sidewalk. Older kids rushing to put on “spy clothes” for relays. Fred the Flamingo taking part in the skits. Tyler in his first acting role when he brings Fred on stage. Addison, Allison, Avery, Autumn—lovely “A” names on lovely girls--hard for a teacher to keep straight. Eight-year-old Duane showing empathy and kindness to a difficult classmate. Kids smilingly opening doors for others after conversations about showing honor to others. Older kids racing through phone books to find clues. Kids learning Bible stories and Bible verses. Everybody and their parents, grandparents, etc. eating well in the final picnic under the shelter. Kids playing at the picnic on the new playground equipment that two men took off work to put together for them. A cluster of young teens from various towns hanging out after the picnic exchanging phone numbers, e-addresses, hugs, and tears. Telling Fred and each other how much they are going to miss each other.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Gotta Get Up in the Morning

I better not write long tonight, because morning will be here before I know it. No sleeping in this week as I usually do. The grandkids have been unusually good this year to go to bed early and not giggle too late. They are growing up. Of course, they are also tired from outdoor play, hiking around the lake, and all the activities they dream up. When they act bored, I try not to make suggestions. Then they come up with a plan.

For many years when they were small, I went to bed with them and we told stories to each other and tried to settle down that way. They don’t need that anymore.

The girls went over to Katie’s house next door this afternoon. It was really nice of her to invite them because she is extra busy not only with her daily swim lessons, but it is also 4-H show week. She will have to have her projects ready to be evaluated. Bri and Cecelie left Woodsong wearing amazing garbs with picture hats. I figure Katie was somewhat surprised. Elijah drove them over in the “mule.”

Sam had left Vacation Bible School with one of the teachers in order to be home in Marion for his trombone lesson, but his dad brought him back out to the farm afterwards. That gave Sam and Lige some afternoon man time together before they drove over in the “mule” and brought the girls back home.

I fixed a large meat loaf for supper, since our kids seem to like it. They were hungry I’m sure. After supper, there were more outside activities. In fact, I got nervous when they were out in the “mule” after dark. We hollered across the lake at each other and I had visions of their being stuck—but they were just having a good time and were ready to call it quits and come back to the house. More giggling and play acting.

They have been preparing a skit for the opening exercise each day since Elijah makes a great director as well as actor. (He should because there is not doubt that Freeport’s high school drama coach is one of the best in the state, so he has a mentor.) Lige did a good job explaining how to project your voice. When it gets really noisy, I might wish he hadn’t done so well.

That’s all folks. I am going to bed now.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Tomorrow's Adults

Although I was not involved, I was delighted to see this front page story on the Southern Illinoisan yesterday. I thought it was a neat tribute to the young descendants of the Cherokee who came through our region with so much suffering in 1838-39.

I was so pleased that Joe and Ethel Crabb and his family of Pope County and Dr. Herman Peterson of Southern Illinois University Carbondale were on hand to make these young people welcome this time to our state. I could not think of a more fitting way of celebrating our country’s freedom than showing this kind of friendship and hospitality to these young adults seeking their heritage and who will be leading our country in the years ahead.

Cherokee descendants visit Trail of TearsThe Southern - Carbondale,IL,USABy Codell Rodriguez, The Southern DIXON SPRINGS - Bicyclists with Cherokee heritage are retracing the Trail of Tears, beginning in Georgia and ending in ...

I have just settled down four grandkids who arrived at various times this evening for the annual Vacation Bible School. First Mary Ellen and Brian brought down Brianna. She was able to go over to the church house with me and help set up the room, where Natalie and I will be teaching—the communications bay for an imaginary satellite in space. Other of our high schoolers were also there helping, and Gerald showed up to hang some objects on the wall for me. Then David brought Sam out from Marion. Granddaughter Leslie and her friend Mike just dropped off Elijah and Cecelie and headed down to Nashville for classes in the morning. They had spent the weekend at Cornerstone—a Christian music festival that Les had also attended last year. Then they met up with Jeannie and Rick and the siblings to celebrate Leslie’s birthday in Springfield and brought Lige and Cec on down to Woodsong.

They have all had a hot dog, etc. Elijah has already had them practicing the actions for some songs he will be leading. Cecelie has had ear drops put in her ear. And I really think they are going to be sleeping soon. I am glad they settled down early, which is hard for them to do since they have not seen each other in awhile. We will need to leave here at 8:30 in the morning.

So I better get to bed too. It is going to be a very busy week. One by one as they get into high school, our kids quit being students and become helpers. I look at these tall kids in amazement. How did this happen? It seems only yesterday Lige was a preschooler, and now he has his driver’s license? It is neat to have tomorrow’s adults in the house again.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Death Where is Thy Sting?

Mary Ellen wanted us to come see their new home, so yesterday we drove up to the central part of Illinois to see where they have moved for Brian’s new job assignment. Thus, I am blogging a day late.

Although they both grew up on farms and have talked about wanting to be in the country for years, it took this move for them to accomplish that. Now with their house sitting on five acres and a second detached garage to hold their truck and tractor, they are feeling like true country folk again. Mary Ellen was mowing the huge yard when we arrived, and Gerald could not resist after lunch going out and mowing a bit himself. But Brianna finished up the major part of it. Although he has a bedroom upstairs, Trent is relishing all the space in the finished basement for his computer, games, and activities.

Their mailing address is the town of Waggoner with a population of 250, a grade school, a tiny town hall, and the post office all on the main street. Their water comes from Farmersville, where they also have secured library cards. The two teenagers are enrolled in high school at Raymond, which is a small school with a good academic record.

The difficulty of answering the question, “Where do you live?” is part of rural living. Our children went to school in the village of Crab Orchard, and we go to church and use the library there. Our mailing address is Marion, where we buy our groceries. We are a mile down the road from the village of New Dennison. Our telephone exchange is Crab Orchard/Paulton.

Today Gerald and I went down to Union County to attend the funeral of a 97-year-old mother of a friend. Gerald and Jerry Pirtle had been friends for years before they found out that they were also cousins--third or fourth--I have forgotten which. We should have wondered about it earlier since Gerald’s maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Pirtle. Jerry’s father had died when he was very young, and as an adult Jerry became interested in family history. Finally Gerald and Jerry realized they shared a family tree. Today we met Jerry’s sister Joan.

Their mother had a second marriage, but it too ended with a husband’s death. She did not let any of this defeat her. She lived not just a long life but a productive one always caring for others and showing her love through service and hospitality. Photographs and the statements of friends and relatives made that clear. Joan told me how her mother always ate good food (cooked it also I learned) and exercised. Even after she could no longer live alone but went to live at the Lutheran Home in Cape Girardeau, she walked a mile a day in the halls using her pedometer.

After the funeral service in Anna, we joined the cortege that traveled up through the hills of peach country to Alto Pass, and we sadly watched as Mrs. Pirtle was laid to rest beside the youthful husband she had lost so many years ago. This is the same cemetery where Gerald and Jerry’s oldest known common ancestor Polly Pirtle is buried. She reared a large family by herself, and no one was ever sure what happened to Polly’s husband.

While watching the casket was being lowered into the awaiting grave, I had the odd experience of suddenly realizing I had been stung by something. I never saw the perpetrator, but I pulled out the stinger in my leg and even got some of its poison in my hand before I was able to throw it down. The poison hurt, but fortunately I am not allergic.

Our car was trapped between all the other cars on the narrow cemetery road, and the usual remedy of a paste of baking soda that I always applied to the children’s stings was not available. After we left Alto Pass, we cut through the country on a beautiful narrow road surrounded by green leafy trees—along with many fallen trees from the storm. The stinging pain would subside and then come again, but I distracted myself with the leafy loveliness.

By the time we got to Carbondale, where we had planned to have lunch and get Gerald’s glasses adjusted, only the red spot remained and the pain was gone. I sat in the car and studied for next week’s Vacation Bible School while he visited the eye place. We stopped in Marion at my doctor’s for me to get a scheduled INR reading, and that reading was good. We were home in time for me to do a bit more study and Gerald to mow more of the yard that he started earlier in the week. He had time, of course, to find out how Southern Force teams were doing at the softball tournament in Boulder, Colorado. As we ate a sandwich for supper, we reflected on those friends from his childhood with whom we had visited at the funeral. And we knew that Jerry and Joan and their loved ones were reflecting on their mother’s century of living.