Saturday, January 30, 2010

I'm Doing Fine!

Oh, I thought when I went to bed Wednesday night that I'd come on here on Thursday morning if I were over the arthritis attack or whatever caused the intense lower back pain. I woke up with the pain all gone Thursday, and it has not returned. I am very grateful. But with the dentist appointment that day and other responsibilities, I failed to get back on here. (The dentist appointment was not so terrific as the back pain going away was. I am in for lots of appointments to correct decay under caps. GRRR.)

I slept late on Friday expecting to wake up to the 3-6 inches of snow predicted, but the brown grassy fields surrounding us looked just as they had the night before. The local stations were saying we'd have snow coming in by noon, so I was afraid to leave the farm and really did not need to do so. Finally towards evening snow started and the local stations said to stay home if you could. This morning we woke to what may be five or six inches covering those brown fields.

Gerald ran to town on errands and asked me to go along, but I was filling chipper and was doing long-delayed housework and getting a few loads of laundry done, so I declined. In fact, I better go check that last load of laundry drying. I got behind early in the week.

The birds on the deck provide entertainment as we eat our meals because Gerald has filled the feeder and put extra on the picnic table out there.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Just Fizzling Flurries This Evening

Very scant snow flurries were coming down as I drove to town to pick up Sam from his trombone lesson at junior high. Most snowflakes became water as soon as they hit the windshield. Occasionally one stuck as a flake. I like winter—especially from inside where I am warm. Ha.

One of my all-time favorite winter memories was driving home years ago from a night class at John A. Logan and finding myself in a heavy snowstorm. I finally reached Route 166 within few miles of our house. Visibility diminished until I really could not see what was ahead of me, and I knew the same would be true of any cars behind me. All I could see was swirling whiteness glorified by the headlights of my car.

The beauty of that snow was overwhelming, and created a vision I cherish. I knew I was in danger, but I could not be afraid because the magical loveliness kept crowding out fear. I did not want to waste a minute of enjoying that spectacular snowy wonder. Traffic is always slight on that road, but there usually are occasional cars in both directions. I was creeping trying to see ahead and stay on the road, and I hoped no hurrying traveler would ram me from either direction. Yet I just kept thinking what a beautiful way it would be to die with all that loveliness in my brain. Evidently that night I was alone on that portion of the road, and I made it quite safely to the turn off to our country road. I was grateful not only for the safe arrival, but also for the indelible vision of driving through such winter loveliness.

We are supposed to have snow again on Friday, but it sounds as if tomorrow I can make my long-delayed dental appointment that I didn’t want to schedule until after the holidays. We received our H1N1 shots this week. I’m gradually working through various check-ups on my list. Unfortunately, I may have a new one to attend to. I grew increasingly stiff on Sunday and knew pain in my lower back, and was walking poorly when I went to bed. When I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I could hardly walk at all. A good night’s sleep, however, seemed to put the trouble to rest. I was glad since I was scheduled to give a devotion at our church’s women meeting that night.

That morning Gerald received good news when the ophthalmologist said his eye he’d been concerned about had seemingly healed itself and was almost back to normal. The seeping that had caused a slight swelling next to the macular was gone. The feared correction that might have resulted in a blind spot in the middle of his eye would be unnecessary.

I’d tagged along to his appointment, book in hand to read while I waited, just in case he needed me to drive him home, but he didn’t need me to. It was noon, so we went through a drive-in to take lunch home, and I had the afternoon to finish working on the devotional that I had started a couple weeks before. I was glad I was walking without the pain of the day before. I assumed I too was on the road to recovery. I’ve always had great faith in the body healing itself.

Fortunately the hostess had given us maps to their rural home quite a ways from the neighborhoods I’m familiar with. I was the last one there despite the map, so I had to park last and walk up a long gravel driveway. That was no problem. I was so happy my back was better. Blocking the earlier arrivals, I had to leave first and started confidently to back my car out of the driveway. A younger friend also leaving early with her mother fortunately stopped me when she caught on I was headed in the wrong direction. Straightened out I made it back home through the unfamiliar roads and went to bed thinking the lower back problem was cured.

Yesterday morning the pain was back with a vengeance, but I stuck with my usual routine. Made the bed, did some chores, fixed lunch. After lunch, I drove to town to run by the state office to pay the state sales tax on the nine books I personally had sold during 2009 since they had gone through no one’s cash register. And I was to pick up a prescription that was supposed to have been filled. The pharmacy had not heard back on the refill though. They kindly loaned me a couple days’ supply and suggested I call my doctor’s office this morning to jog their response. Then I ran by my daughter’s for a visit.

Seeing my awkward gait and pained face when I came in and started supper, Gerald was fussing I needed to do something. But I wasn’t sure what I needed to do. First thing this morning I called the doctor’s office about the refill and asked the nurse to ask the doctor to prescribe a pain pill that I could take with warfarin. In the old days, I always took aspirin on the rare occasions I had pain. The nurse was so sweet and would have worked me in an appointment, but I begged off to see if I would not be better by Friday. I told her I wasn’t up to coming in.

During the night I decided I would just spend today in bed. And I did. I meant to get up to fix Gerald a bite of lunch, but I was sleeping and he had already fixed his own by the time I joined him. I went back to bed with alarms (two clocks) set so I wouldn’t be late picking up Sam. Gerald offered to go, but with no walking required, I felt like doing it and I was certainly rested. I would just go through the drive-in at the pharmacy for the meds. There were five cars ahead of me, so I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to get out in the wetness of the snow.

When I picked up Sam, I told him I was going to get Gerald and me a pizza for supper and wondered if their family might like one too. I could do that before I took him home if he wanted, and he thought it was a good idea. Come to find out, he’d had a scholar bowl meet this morning early and then the after-school lesson, so I think he was ready for something to eat. Again lots of folks evidently had the same idea and the cars at the window were constant. There was a wait after going through the ordering window, but I didn’t have to walk a step as the worker carried the pizzas to the car.

Back at Woodsong, Gerald and I ate pizza downstairs in the family room as we watched the evening news. I took two prescribed pain pills. No dishes to think about. Gerald carried the left-over pizza upstairs. Later we listened to the State of the Union address, and now I am blogging.

I think the pain pills have really helped—or else I was getting better anyway—that is one of the problems if you take something. You don’t know what you might be masking. I will know when I wake up in the morning.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some Give All They Have

Wind and rain stormed the house last night after I stayed up too late and went to bed just as it hit. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep with all that noise, but I did. When I woke up this morning, the rain was falling gently. Maybe it quieted like that while I was falling asleep. After the rains stopped during the day, it was warm but turned chilly this evening.

We stayed a little late after morning worship as Gerald had brought his tools to put up a high shelf that the children can’t reach in the preschool room. We can now lay out supplies for the day’s lesson, and volunteers will have a safe place for purses—even if they happen to have meds in the purse. Since it was later than usual when we arrived back at the farm, I fixed us a bowl of canned soup and a hot pocket in a matter of minutes. I had the fish thawing that Gerald’s buddy had given us, so I fixed that for an early supper and it was good.

Because of some arthritis brought on by the rainy weather, I think, I probably would not have gone to evening worship, but I wanted to be in the preschool room during that service with two-year old Lena. She and I are just getting acquainted, and I did not want to miss an opportunity to be with this extremely bright little girl. We also have a new family with an older special needs child they have adopted, and he really likes to be with the preschoolers each service. And it would be a good thing for his mother to have an hour’s time to worship without concern for him.

However, we think it is good for him to be mainstreamed and stay in the worship hour rather than playing with the preschoolers. Although we appreciate quiet, our congregation also has a strong tolerance for any noises children make. We have had special needs children before. We also have had foster children and teenagers—one teen with a two-year-old child, who evidently never had been in services before, and though they trekked in and out to the restroom or for water, we were thrilled to have them there with their foster family. When we still had them with us, I used to silently pray as they watched the stable families around them, that they would have such homes someday. A little confusion or disturbance by children as they learn to be quiet is a good thing in our opinion.

We do, however, let this new child volunteer to help once a month in the morning just as we do the other two children in his older class. Seeing him grow and develop makes me feel we made the right decision. Tonight he volunteered to help me with Lena, and I really needed him because of our policy that we must have at least two caretakers in a preschool room. Then at the last minute, Katie rushed in the building and also volunteered. I was glad to have this high school freshman, who is quite talented with little ones. Before the service ended in the sanctuary, little Hayden—visiting tonight with his grandparents—joined us.
Thanks to Katie, we had plenty of help. With my arthritis attack, I was especially grateful.

Lena’s mother warned that she had not had a nap and might be grouchy. After the first few seconds she cried when her mother left the room, Katie quickly distracted her and she was a smiley and engaged child from then until her father came to take her home. Mostly the children played—with blocks, musical instruments, papers and colors, transportation toys. But we also had time to teach this morning’s lesson about working together. (Our lessons can take anywhere from two to ten minutes for this age group. We know they learn by playing whether we attempt a lesson or not.)

We also reviewed last Sunday’s lesson on the poor widow who Jesus said gave more than the rich folks who put money in the temple offering box and made a loud clatter. The kids liked being given coins to put in the cardboard “temple offering box” with a hole in the top filled with an open-mouthed canning jar filler. Their coins made loud noises as the coins hit the cookie sheet hidden inside. I hope they remember that the poor widow, who gave less than a penny, gave more because she gave all she had.

I wonder how many folks in Haiti tonight are giving all they have to help those suffering around them.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Daniel Coyle and Jim Muir

When I ordered Coyle’s The Talent Code from Amazon, I also ordered his only novel Waking Samuel. I don’t read much fiction, but as soon as I finished The Talent Code, I read this mystery, which read easily and held my interest. I also ordered Coyle’s first book which came out in 1995--Hardball: A Season in the Projects.

Since it is out of print, I ordered from one of Amazon’s second-hand book sellers. It was slow coming and arrived yesterday, and I must confess that is why I did not blog last night. I was always interested in Cabrini-Green before it was razed, and I knew I would like this nonfiction account of some volunteers who started a Little League program there. I didn’t get a chance to finish it today, but I am eager to learn the outcome of characters that Coyle has already fastened in my heart.

Tonight I went to our first 2010 Southern Illinois Writers Guild meeting. I was planning on going, but only learned yesterday that we would have Jim Muir as our speaker. I knew then that program would be good, and it was.

Jim’s columns used to appear twice weekly in The Southern Illinoisan, and I was always eager to read them. They were courageously controversial and full of passion and emotion. The Southern lost a valuable resource when it messed up and lost Jim. However, our region benefited because Jim soon started a new magazine Southern Illinois Sports Connection. Later he bought Marion Living, and now co-founded Saluki Illustrated, which appeals to Southern Illinois University Carbondale sports fans everywhere. His active mind is already considering other possible publications. This are distributed free at multiple spots around the region. You can also subscribe to Saluki Illustrated at

Jim’s life story is fascinating. Five days after his 18th birthday, he went down into one of the local coal mines and there he worked underground for 20 years. When he read the sign on the bulletin board that the mine would be closing in 60 days, he had three small children and had to scramble to find employment. He started college at Rend Lake and worked at three part-time jobs to survive.

He saw a notice that the college paper wanted writers, and for some reason he did not seem to understand, he applied with the sponsor who asked him if he had done any writing. He admitted he hadn’t but would like to try and would quit if he couldn’t do the assigned stories. That college writing was all the formal training he ever received. Although he finished his associate degree there, he never had time for any writing classes.

The college sponsor told him one day that the Benton Evening News needed a writer and suggested he try for it. Jim laughed that he was already working there as the night janitor—one of his part-time jobs. He made $7.50 an hour and was thrilled with the $75 he received each week for five nights’ labor. When he added writer to his janitorial duties, the editor posted his assignments on the cleaning closet door. For two years everyone joked that was Jim’s office. He went on up the ranks at the Benton paper becoming an editor and then onto The Southern for several years. He is also a long-time radio announcer. He produces and hosts “Talking Sports” on Saturday morning and “Sound Off” on Wednesday—both two-hour shows on Station WQRL in Benton. He does play-by-play for the Benton Rangers basketball, football and baseball.

Even though Jim exudes energy as well as friendliness, one wonders how he does it all. I suspect the secret is he has found a career and business that he obviously loves and is having a good time. He preaches that it is never too late for a writer. He was 38 when he started college and writing for the first time in his life. He was 53 when he started his first magazine, and he admitted he knew nothing about magazines. His presentation was an inspirational way for our guild to start a new year.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Winter Week at Woodsong

We’ve had very cold weather, but as typical for Southern Illinois, we have also had pleasant winter weather this week. (The local saying has always been: If you don’t like the weather, stick around and it will change.) Evidence of the cold temperatures were Gerald’s two young buddies fishing out on the middle of the lake where they cut holes. The second day the temp was changing and I wondered if they were safe—but they assured Gerald the ice was still plenty thick. I’ve got a mess of cleaned fish in the freezer that we will enjoy one of these days.
I have been useful. I picked up Sam from junior high and took him to the orthodontist when his braces needing fixing. Since the dentist is just across the street from the Dairy Queen, it has always been our tradition when I take him to make a stop there afterward.
I made a make-up interview appointment for Katherine with a possible substitute aide. I haven’t heard yet how that went.

Although I haven’t done much cooking this week, I nevertheless put food on the table at meal times. I experimented with bran muffins and little loafs of bran bread using Splenda. The little loafs flavored with walnut flavor and a generous handful of real walnuts were tasty.

Gerald had two appointments set up on Friday—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. So I didn’t think he would be home for lunch. Then a phone call came saying a death in someone’s family made them need to cancel the afternoon appointment and maybe he could come in on Monday. I quickly phoned him so he would not go to the other town for the second appointment, and I hurriedly fixed salmon patties for our lunch with salad and a “baked” sweet potato. (I can fix even a large one in the microwave in less than ten minutes.) As it turned out, he was able to reschedule the afternoon appointment after all by going up to West Frankfort, where he needed to take the car anyhow, so that worked out well.

I finally had our neglected piano tuned this week, and I made my delayed eye examination appointment. I intended to start setting up appointments with my dentist but wanted to wait to find out when the eye exam would be. That is the first thing I am going to do in the morning.

The mail brought me a sweet personal note from a friend in Florida who is recovered from cancer, and one day I came home to a strange package that was delivered by the UPS man. As I struggled with the cardboard box, I knew a moment of irritation thinking that some company had sent me something I had not ordered.

Then I remembered. I’d sent off a manuscript—a simple account of the way our family celebrated Christmas when I was a child--to a senior citizens’ magazine years ago, and the editor wrote they could not use it that year but if I didn’t mind their holding it, they might use it the next Christmas. It wasn’t very good in my opinion, and I had no plans for it, so I said sure they could hold it. But they did not use it the next Christmas either and returned it. I then sent it off to Reminisce. They finally wrote it might be used on their website or someplace someday, and I forgot all about it.
Right before Christmas this year, I got a nice packet with a personal letter and a representation (copy) of their monthly e-newsletter, and there was my memory “Christmas in the 1940s.” The letter said it would also be on their website when they redesigned the site in late 2009. I forgot to look until tonight, and I couldn’t find it. But my pay for all this is a tiny metal replica of a classic ’57 Chevy convertible that identifies me as a Reminisce staffer. I’ve never been paid with a toy car before, but it is kinda cute and I am kinda proud of it on the bookcase in my office.

Yesterday was spent in our home county because of the death or our sister-in-law Barbara’s 95-year-old mother, who died in a nursing home in Missouri. She was brought back to be buried by her husband in a peaceful rural cemetery. She had lived with Barbara’s younger sister Karen for many years after many years in our sister-in-law’s home. We arrived early for the graveside service and walked the grassy hill top looking down on country fields. I had dressed warmly, but the weather was pleasant unlike the bitter cold I expected.

Barbara’s sister grew up spending her summers with Barbara, and so we considered Karen one of own. After many years, it was good to see her and her husband again and meet their grown daughters, see Barbara’s brother Willie and family, and see some of our own great nieces and nephews that had we had not seen in too long. Friends, neighbors, and church members had filled long tables for a buffet feast at Barbara and Keith’s house, and most of us went there to continue our visit and reminiscing.

The one thing I worked on this week was preparation for a meeting tonight after our evening church services. Our small village church has had two to four children in our preschool department for a few years, and we were organized for that. Now we are very pleased to have new families that cause us to have eight or more children with different ages. We’ve have grown a little disorganized with this influx.

The last babies we had in that classroom are now four. To make floor space for the eight, we moved two baby beds to another room. We are ready to find some babies to fill those beds while their parents attend Bible study and/or worship. One such baby was born Friday. We have enlisted several new volunteers to teach the children during worship services, and the meeting tonight was a training session for those volunteers.

We often use a teen or older child to work with one or two adults. They are good help, and we like knowing we are providing them with training in child care. I like to think the kids and teens will be better fathers and mothers someday because of this coached introduction to child care.

I know the preschoolers have increased language and social skills because of the teaching at church. Eye-hand coordination is increased as they use scissors, crayons, glue, toys, chalk, play dough, and other materials. These activities will help prepare them for reading, and then they will not be dependent on us to tell them Bible stories. It is wonderful to see so many volunteers eager to invest in our most precious resource.

After this meeting followed by visiting with a young friend in the church yard,
I walked into Woodsong, and Gerald had the new sound system he gave us for Christmas playing “How Great Thou Art.” It was a nice ending to a winter week at Woodsong.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti and Compartmentalizing

I find it difficult to write tonight. Images of misery are still in my brain. When I clean up the kitchen a bit and make the coffee pot ready for brewing the morrow’s coffee, I usually watch the news channels. Tonight’s news was almost too much to bear. How can there be that much pain and hopelessness so close to us and yet so far away.

I am used to compartmentalizing to survive. Someone said to others the other day that I was always smiling. I didn’t say anything in reply because I did not know how to explain that I live with grief. Seeing my beloved child in constant pain is an underlying condition of my present life. Yet I cannot allow myself to realize that condition—or I could not bear it. So I box it up, tie it up tightly to try and avoid its escape, and then put it aside. Then I try to think of all those other things instead of that underlying grief. I must not allow myself to think on that grief too much or I will break. And I must not break and cause more trouble. There is enough trouble without my adding to it. Yes, I am adept at compartmentalizing. And there is much to smile about as long as the string holding in the unthinkable does not break or the box doesn’t leak.

So tonight as I sit here to blog, I try to erase the images of the wounded and the dead bodies on the street. Dead babies. I try to think of what fun things I have done today to share with you. I had my hair done. I finally met for lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant with my friend Marilyn Schild as we have wanted to do for months now. We talked for two hours and parted as always wishing we could get together more often. I did other errands, such as getting an INR and picking up bananas, and everything went smoothly.

When I returned to Woodsong, I enjoyed the mail, surfed Facebook and Red Room a bit before supper, and then visited at the table with Gerald. Then I braced myself to watch the reports on Haiti. Now I am self-scheduled to blog. We’ll check out the local addresses for donations tomorrow. I am an expert at compartmentalizing. I must turn off those Haiti images, tie them up tightly, and not let them leak out. Yet I do not want to try and be funny or paint happy pictures of my day for you—even though it was a nice day. Somehow in my bright lighted office as I think of the dark night and pain down there, somehow the compartmentalizing seems obscene. Maybe I should pray instead.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Winter's Come

Although we received two or three inches of the three to five predicted, after Thursday most of the highways were cleared. Cars in the ditch were common on Thursday, and some had to wait for wreckers not just because the wrecker was tied up helping someone else but also Interstate 57 was considered too slick for it to be safe to have a wrecker pulling someone onto the road. But eventually most people got to work and back home again, and wreckers helped those that didn’t.

Some of our county schools were closed Thursday and some were not. More were closed on Friday although the roads were better than the day before. Many times when roads are safe in town, they may be impassable on rural roads. I know that my brother used to get up at 4 a.m. and drive the country roads in his district in central Illinois trying to determine if the school buses could safely make their pick-ups. I feel sorry for those having to make those decisions that could be life-ending for children if made wrong. That is a terrible responsibility. Whatever decision is made, some folks will feel it is the wrong decision. If parents have to go to work and children are home alone, accidents can happen at home. Generally at least the kids are happy when school is cancelled. My grandkids are. As a parent, I used to love snow days even if it did mean I spent the day bundling kids up, drying out gloves and socks, finding more gloves and socks while the first ones dried.

Now when the weather cancels my plans for the day, I can lazily snuggle in watching the birds at the feeder on the deck and feel no compunction to adopt new plans. We’ve especially enjoyed seeing a pair of cardinals there since we do not see them often at this house. I was really delighted when one flew to the ledge of our living room where I was reading. He was staring in trying to figure out what goes on inside that place he could not enter. I had this strong desire to be able to talk to him and find out what he was thinking. Such days seem special simply because I suddenly realize that my plans weren’t as important as I thought. Nature is humbling that way.

Gerald had been out every day, but I tagged along yesterday to meet Leslie, our granddaughter returning to Belmont for spring semester. We met at Cracker Barrel for lunch and used one of our gift cards (with 19 cents left over) to feed us. She headed on down to Nashville to be on hand as a resident assistant in her dorm when the students began coming back today. We headed to the warehouse store for me to look for a seasoned port loin roast for dinner guests today. And we had to stop at Rural King for more bird feed and suet.

Today we were able to drive without problems to church, where a young man in the village had cleared the parking lot for us. The house was crowded. I think folks were glad to be out and about again. But I’ve heard more than one say they are ready for spring. It is going to take awhile. Yet as the poet promised, it can’t be far behind.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Going Foreward in a New Year

If you read my last blog, you may have guessed why I haven’t blogged on time. Yes, before we woke up on Tuesday, Gerald and I had caught the family flu. He dressed, however, although he reduced his level of activity. In fact, at the end of Tuesday, he said he had managed to do the most important two things he meant to do that day. He told me what they were, but I can’t remember since I heard them through the fog of spending the day sleeping in bed. I assumed food was no more appealing to him than me, but knew he could open a can of soup if his extra activity had created an appetite. Yet that evening when he carried down a small bowl of cream of chicken soup to the family room where I was semi-passed out in his recliner, I welcomed it and felt a little energy returning with the warmth of the broth. Enough energy I could get myself ready for bed and another ten hours of sleep.

On Wednesday although I was still less than energetic, I finally got around to finishing the holiday de-decorating that I had started on Monday. I had meant to phone a friend on Tuesday and see if we could meet for lunch before I shopped for groceries at the monthly senior citizens day. Of course, I hadn’t. With the prediction of wind and three to five inches of snow Wednesday night, I decided we really needed to stock some groceries since I had not shopped since before the holiday crowd had joined us. And we were almost out of gas. I decided to write some thank you notes and wait until late in the afternoon hoping my energy level would be up to grocery shopping.

Gerald must have sensed I was not looking forward to that trip to town, and he suggested he take me. He said if I’d make him a list, he would get a cart and help locate some of the needed items. With snow predictions, the parking lot and the store were filled to overflowing, and maneuvering the aisles was a challenge. Being a duel shopping team was a first for us, and the next day he was proudly telling his brother Garry the difference between cut green beans and sliced or French style beans. It just so happened when Gerald called him that Garry was in his local grocery with a list from Ginger’s aide and was trying to decide the difference.

After he put all the food stuff in the trunk, Gerald filled up gas tank where that lot too was crowded. He pulled into a slot that I’d have never dared try, and I stayed resting and warm. He carried in most of the groceries that night while I put out a bite for us to eat after I made sure freezer and fridge foods were put away. After supper I started unsacking and storing a few other staples. Today I have finally gotten most of those groceries put away.

I had received in Wednesday’s afternoon mail Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code. I’d ordered it immediately after Gerry told us about it at the supper table on Saturday night. Although multiple sclerosis is only a footnote mention on a couple of pages and the book is about hotspots of talent (soccer, singing, softball) and what made those spots happen, any book that is about building myelin was a must-read for me. Despite still dragging a bit from the flu and being tired from the monthly grocery binge shopping, I started reading The Talent Code instead of blogging. I forced myself to go to bed much too long after midnight but was too mentally stimulated by the book to sleep.

Both of us checked outside when we got up during the night and saw the prediction of swirling wind-blown snow had come true. Gerald slept late for him, and we woke up together with the ground outside our windows covered with angelic beauty. As he does each morning, Gerald walked down our lane to get the paper. I put away a few more groceries while the coffee was making. After we breakfasted together over the paper, I went right back to Coyle’s absorbing book. Stopping for lunch preparation and that light meal, I kept reading until I finished at 3:00 that afternoon. Then I got out of my pajamas and dressed for the day.

Today I’ve been busy finishing reading a short manuscript that a sweet neighbor asked me to write a foreward to. I have never written a foreward to a book. I picked up five books lying around to get an idea of what a foreward is all about. None had a foreward. This writer is someone special that I watched grow up and who courted his girl (also someone special to us) while they fished at our pond. We watched them and their three daughters through the years, and we like it that some of them have also fished with boyfriends at our present lake. His brief life story to be published by a local publisher brought back so many memories. I decided to just do it my way and hope it works well for the book. The foreward is in a folder ready to hand to him despite the week’s sick days. So now I am blogging two days later than usual. And I am feeling good.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Just Us Two Again

Our last holiday guest left this morning. We’ve actually had two shifts of visits. After the last Christmas visitors left on the evening of the 26th, we had one lonely weekend. Our son’s family and his oldest daughter’s family—Bryan and Tara Archibald and two little boys—left after breakfast that day to travel to Georgia. After celebrating and resting there together at Gerry and Vickie’s, they dispersed. Our daughter-in-law and their youngest daughter accompanied the Archibalds and our two great grandsons to Disney World.

Our son Gerry and their middle daughter Erin went on from Georgia over to Shreveport to attend the University of Georgia and Texas A&M football game. They sat together in Georgia’s section, but Erin wore her A&M attire and yelled loudly for her team. Gerry claimed she pouted when her friends lost, but dad and daughter continued traveling together afterward to a buddy in Texas who had kept Gerry’s car for him recently, so they parted amicably when Erin returned to College Station for one more semester of college and he returned briefly to home.

Sometime after midnight on Wednesday, Gerry arrived back at Woodsong and crawled into the bed I had not touched since they left. We were asleep. We had stayed up waiting until we found he stopped to visit with his cousin Neil down at Vienna and we went on to bed. He was able to sleep late that morning, and the bacon was ready when he got up.

Gerald likes it when we have guests and I sometimes fry bacon. Gerald’s dietitian says he should not have bacon, so he gets to cheat when I prepare it for others. Because he gets up so early, I never cook breakfast for Gerald other than preparing the coffee pot and laying out dishes the night before.

Often I don’t fix breakfast for guests either after showing them where the cereal and juice are. There’s always coffee made and a bowl of fruit on the table. There’s bread for toasting. The grandkids often barely get their self-made breakfast over before lunch is ready. They can sleep as long as they want after staying up visiting and playing together the night before. (I admit I sometimes fry bacon for Trent and Sam because they are so appreciative.)

However, Tara and Bryan’s little ones—Aidan and Maddux—get them up early. Not as early as Gerald usually arises, but early enough that they need breakfast long before lunch. While Tara and Bryan gladly fix their own cereal, I liked doing oatmeal and eggs along with the bacon so the little guys have choices. And Gerald and I enjoy sitting down again with them and their parents and indulging too.

Gerry was actually up here to work in a softball camp up at Collinsville at the end of the week, but in the meantime, he was able to see a lot of friends, visit his cousin Tim’s great new roping barn, loan a hunting dog to a friend, and run around with Gerald. Mostly, however, he was watching videos of batters and thinking and talking softball. At the table, on the phone, with buddies who dropped in. Softball is the usual topic of conversation.

While our son-in-law David went down to his friend’s farm to hunt, I spent Friday night with Katherine and Sam. Gerald and Gerry came by and took the three of us out to lunch at Mackey’s on Saturday. We enjoy the d├ęcor there since it was a project that Bryan participated in with his architecture class. Gerry loves the pizza because when their family lived at Harrisburg, they were quickly hooked on Mackey’s pizza. (Oh, David got another deer. His deer sausage as a pre-Christmas dinner appetizer was a great hit at Woodsong.)

That night the Archibalds arrived from Georgia on their way home to northern Illinois. We had been eagerly anticipating their return. Gerald had spent two or three days in his shop repairing the little tractor that once was Erin’s but which had been run over by a tractor or some vehicle. The day before Christmas, Aidan had spied the tractor while he was shoveling and dumping lime into the new little wheelbarrow Gerald had bought for that purpose. (Gerald says Aidan would take the lime all of two feet to dump and then reload the wheelbarrow.) He asked Gerald if he could fix that tractor for him, so Gerald was determined to have it in working condition when Aidan and Maddux arrived back from Disney World. With a new coat of John Deere paint, the tractor looked new.

It had once been Erin’s and it has a story. As a tot, Erin had gone with Gerald to some other town to visit a John Deere dealership which had a not-so-heavy vehicle for kids there called a Gator. Erin rode it all over the building and loved it. She hated to leave it, but since he had already bought them the little tractor that he gave to all the families in those days, he left the dealership. They were in the truck going down the road when Erin said she’d like to trade her tractor for that easy-to-ride Gator. She was so serious that Gerald asked her if she really would trade the tractor. She said yes, and they turned around and went back to the dealership to buy the Gator. And that is how Gerald acquired a little tractor for his farm by trading with Erin.

On Friday we had heard the sad story as the Disney World gang traveled from Florida back to Georgia. Their wonderful time was made even more memorable when Maddux started throwing up. Then it was Tara and Bryan’s turn. Finally in the car, Geri Ann was attacked by the same bug. Aidan promptly had to get out of that back seat and away from his beloved “G.” He and Vickie were the only ones not affected. They debated stopping to rest at motel but kept driving and coping the best they could. We worried about Tara, who is expecting a third baby in early April, but by Saturday when they started to Illinois, she and Bryan were feeling better. Then Aidan became sick. They phoned and said we might not want them at Woodsong with all this stomach trouble going on.

We assured them that we wanted them to stop if at all possible. It was cold and wet, and Gerald moved our car to the shop so they could pull straight into the garage and come in the kitchen door. However, when both boys were sleeping well in the car shortly before they got here, they debated if it might be better to keep driving. We were so glad when we saw them pull in. Gerald would have been a disappointed little boy if he did not get to show that repaired tractor to Aidan. And, of course, Gpa Gerry had been looking forward to seeing those two boys again—as well as their parents.

Although he was friendly, Aidan felt so bad that he gladly let his mother take him to the bedroom so he could sleep. After hearing they were sick, Gerald had carried the tractor inside to the den downstairs. With Aidan asleep, he lured Maddux to try it. I did not think a one-year-old would like it, but I was wrong. He was one happy kid when people pushed him around on it. And he quite amazed me as we watched him work diligently until he was able to crawl on by himself. His smiles made the back ache Gerald got from all that time on the shop’s concrete floor worth it.

When we got up the next morning, Tara and Aidan were in the family room. She reported that Aidan had been sick all night, and he was one unhappy little boy. Gerald showed up and got him on that tractor, however, and soon Aidan was feeling better. He and Maddux played together and Aidan even ate a little breakfast.

Bryan packed the huge collection of Christmas gifts (from the Johnson family gathering on Christmas Eve and the one here). They had left them here while they went to Georgia and Florida. With two car seats and all the gifts, there was not bit of extra space, but I handed Tara specially prepared plastic bags in case anyone became sick again in their seven- or eight- hour journey north. We were grateful to learn that the bags were not needed. Today Bryan is back at work, and Tara is once again taking care of a teacher friend’s baby. So she is already used to caring for three preschoolers.

After breakfast this morning, Gerry left cold Southern Illinois to head to cold Georgia. We had enjoyed an unusual visit with him, and we hated to see him leave although we knew he was eager to get back to his wife and Geri Ann.

I set to work taking down the upstairs tree and that is done. Gerald put the box in the guest bedroom closet. (That bedroom, however, is still a jumble of boxes and gathered Christmas decorations.) Next I started on the downstairs tree in the family room, and it is naked but still waiting to be taken apart. That bedroom where it will be closeted is also a mess waiting for all the little boxes that hold the ornaments to be filled and put into the big box to sleep until next December.

I would have finished more, but my important job today was calling a long list of possible aides to help Katherine on the one morning her regular aide cannot work. And with cold and flu season here, she needs to have possible substitutes available. A large percentage of people on the list were not home or were no longer at the listed phone number. Many could not do the transfer lifting.

Finally, I had one interview appointment made for Katherine in the morning. She had given me her tight schedule, which includes an afternoon doctor appointment tomorrow. I was feeling smug that an interview was set up. Typical of her life, however, one of her doctors had called this morning and needs to see her in Carbondale in the morning. The appointment with the potential personal assistant had to be cancelled and we hope rearranged later in the week. A more up-to-date list of available personal assistants is on its way.

A person with a chronic illness has a full-time job just seeing all the physical therapists, dentists, doctors, and other helpers that are needed. I’m sure those same helping specialists would tell Katherine it would be good for her over-all health just to get lots of rest. She wishes she could.