Friday, February 26, 2010

King of the Mountain

Unmelted mounds of snow bulldozed up against light posts in town parking lots are the only evidence of recent snowfall. The large heaps in the first lot I visited were all dirty with soot, but this afternoon in another lot, the pile of snow was mostly white. Bright sunshine made today crispy clear. Starting with a noon appointment for haircut, I’ve had a busy afternoon of appointments, but the warm sun between appointments made it pleasant.

After a feel-good shampoo and styling with shorter hair from my favorite talented cosmetologist, I picked up a couple of prescriptions and some bananas and ran by to see Katherine, who was busy on the computer, so I had time to visit Salvation Army. I wanted to see if they still had the glass serving plates that match my pattern that I should have bought last week. I saw them when I took my plastic sacks there to recycle them. But I don’t really have a good place to store any more dishes. I was in a hurry and decided it was foolish to buy something I didn’t have to have--even if they were cheap.

All week I had sometimes regretted that decision. Surely I could clear out a place for them. And I might need them at sometime in the future. Or I could loan them to others with that same pattern. Why didn’t I buy them before someone else did? (One method I have always used when deciding whether to buy something is whether I continue to think about it. If I forget all about it, obviously it wasn’t too desirable. But if I keep on thinking about an item or garment, I know I must really like it. Since I keep everything forever, that is important.)
So today I looked over the eye-catching loaded tables in the middle of the store and knew I had waited too long. Finally one last table. They were still there! The clerk helped me carry them to the car. He said I’d need help carrying them in at home. I said I’d just unload them a few at a time—that way my husband would not have to know about my perhaps silly decision until I had them washed and stored someplace. (Where?) I think sticking the glass plates into the dishwasher and using them for parties is cheaper than buying paper plates for a party. And I like eating off glass better—although I will admit paper plates are more colorful and can emphasize the holiday or theme better than the glass ones.

With my new dishes wrapped in newspapers in a sturdy box and safely in the trunk with a few other treasures because I “really” needed them, I headed to Johnston City. There I had a not-so-good news in a consultation with my dentist. He and I both had received the report from the specialist he sent me to last week in Mt. Vernon. Now I had several unpleasant alternatives to mull over and choose from as we devised a plan and decided which gamble to take in future appointments as he repairs my teeth. None of this was unexpected, so I wasn’t too disappointed.

Before the next early evening appointment with the optometrist, I entertained myself by looking for photo corners I need. General Dollar didn’t have them. But as I stepped out of my car in the next parking lot, I was treated to a sight that made my head turn twice. Yes, there really was a boy on top of the mound of snow. Obviously feeling the promise of spring in the midst of winter’s remains, his hands were in the air celebrating. I’d never have the nerve to make a spectacle of myself by climbing such a snow mound in public even if I physically could, but I was so glad he did. He was the King of the Mountain, and I was ready to be his willing subject. He was in his own world and wasn’t aware of me, but I was delighted with him.

Inside the store, I headed to the office supplies and the photo department thinking I might find photo corners. I didn’t, but there was a cute teenage girl behind the counter with an admiring young man hanging over the counter conversing. They too were in their own world, but I thought I’d ask to make sure there were no photo corners—just in case I had missed them. I never could decide if the young man was another employee or just her admirer because he was the one who responded when I inquired. I might as well as been asking for something from the 17th Century instead of the 20th from the look on the young man’s face. He had never heard of photo corners and had to ask me to explain what they were. I am sure his photos are all on his phone and computer. Although he was polite and smiled gently at me, his amusement at my quaintness was all too apparent. We parted with both of us mentally shaking our heads. It looks as if I will have to break down next week and go to my least favorite store on the far side of Marion. I don’t like Wal-Mart because I can’t find my car in their huge parking lot and I can’t locate anything inside their large store—or at least not quickly.

As I stepped outside I was hoping to see the boy on top of the snow heap again. He was gone. Next I heard the sound of a goose caller that hunters use sending its provocative call throughout the lot. Then I saw the back door standing open of a van parked near the heap. My boy was still there reigning and enjoying life.

I just had time to get to the optometrist at 5:30. Since he didn’t see me till after 6:00, I would have had time to look at Wal-Mart, but I didn’t know that. He thought some vision problem I was having was not caused by my eyes changing, but from a film that often comes after a cataract procedure has aged. He said I could have it corrected in a simple procedure that won’t take but a couple of minutes, and I left with promises that the receptionist would call me when she sets that appointment up with the opthamologist who originally did the cataract surgery.

It was almost 7:30 when I got back to the farm. Gerald and I ate a bite of supper together and talked a bit about our day. He is still sore from the workout he had yesterday as he helped Brian clean out the grain bin after the trucks hauled away the remainder of last year’s soybean crop. By the time I neatened the kitchen and made the coffee pot ready for tomorrow morning, he was asleep in the family room “watching” a ball game. Not wanting to wake him, I didn’t plant a kiss on his forehead as I sometimes do when I walk by. I shut the door to my office and began checking emails and Facebook messages before writing to you on Woodsong Notes. I enjoyed remembering that boy on top of the snow mountain. Long live the King!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Newspapers, Our Visiting Musician, and Softball

A high point in the week for me was hearing Chandra Green again at Southern Illinois
Writers Guild on Thursday night. Chandra has a most remarkable life story—one that could only happen to an incredibly gifted woman. Dropping out of school at 15 to marry and escape an alcoholic father, she went to work at the West Frankfort American and said she literally fell in love with journalism the minute she walked in and smelled the ink. She continued working at area newspapers through repeated bad marriages but acquired a GED and an incredible understanding of writing, page design, editing, and the business side of journalism. She also has acquired a long-standing stable marriage with the love of her life.

I met Chandra through her column in the Southern Illinoisan, and I was delighted with her writing and her stories of Ma, her elderly grandmother, and her mom—the Queen of Stuff. Rising in the ranks during her 16 years at the Southern Illinoisan, she became an editor, and she credited all those early co-workers who helped her learn the ropes and love her job. But changes and pressures there caused this largest area newspaper to lose one of their best talents--just as the paper also lost Jim Muir, our Guild speaker last month. Chandra did not say she was one of their best talents—but as a reader I knew she was. And so was Jim.

Employed at other work where she missed that smell of ink, Chandra came up with an idea as she sat at her kitchen table with a daughter. The daughter was taking a college class, which required her to make a business plan, so she was able to pick her mother’s brain for starting a niche newspaper. By the time the business plan for her class was completed, the daughter and her mother had determined to use it to start Heartland Women. They succeeded at what everyone believed was an impossible task. Five years later the award-winning paper is still going strong, and Chandra offers area writers an opportunity to sell their work. The free twice-monthly newspaper, which is distributed widely in several counties is filled with columns, feature stories, and news of area women.

In the midst of the declining use of newspapers by a public who now often depend on the Internet for news, Chandra has shown it is possible for a newspaper with a clear purpose to establish itself. (I won’t say a clear audience because I think many men read Heartland Women.) Could anyone do it? No, only someone who has the enormous talent and knowledge and the incredible work ethic that Chandra has.

I worry that she works too hard, but I love to pick up her paper. She pointed out that while she was in journalism because she loves to write, all the other duties consume her time and she probably spends little more than two percent writing. Someone has to sell the advertising that keeps the paper going, and often she becomes the one who has to do it. Her two novels sit half finished and unattended.

After the bitter cold weather at the first of the week and then the dire predictions of more bad weather this weekend, it was hard to believe how beautiful yesterday and today were. Coats weren’t really necessary although most of us were still wearing them out of habit. (I saw some wearing shorts.)

Folks were grateful for the break from cold and for the delay of the predicted heavy rain that replaced the icy weather predictions. A friend involved with the Red Rose Gala to raise money for the Marion Civic Center was concerned what bad weather might mean to that effort. Our neighbor of many years died Wednesday after three or four exhaustive weeks for his family while he was in hospitals and rehab, and I was very thankful the weather stayed pretty today for his funeral and the burial in a neighborhood cemetery. Our granddaughter Leslie was arriving at Woodsong at bedtime last night from visiting friends and family up at the state speech contest in Peoria, so I was very relieved she wasn’t driving on scary roads. Tonight the delayed rain began with gentle sprinkling, but she was safely back in Tennessee by then.

Leslie was ready for bed when she arrived at the farm late last night, because she’d had a slumber-party type visit Friday night with a high school friend now at University of Illinois, and the two met up with the Freeport speech kids at Peoria. I offered sandwich fixings and a very brief visit and encouraged her to go catch up on her sleep in the brown room. That’s the windowless room everyone wants because it is completely underground and great sleeping. (When our son-in-law dropped in Friday night, I invited him to sleep in another guest room because I told him I was saving the brown room for Leslie. However, he was already planning to sleep in their camper at the other farm, which is parked there most of the time. He had farm business to take care of with various people on Saturday before he returned home to his family in central Illinois.)

This morning we were pleased to hear Leslie sing at worship. She had forgotten her guitar, but after mulling it over last night, she realized she did have a song she could sing with piano. We hurried home from church for a quick spaghetti and salad dinner so she could get on the road in time to make a 5 p.m. rehearsal back at Nashville. She had a CD of Miles Davis on his trumpet that she must memorize and be prepared to sing in a jazz class on Tuesday. So she was planning to listen as she drove.

By this time, Gerald was finding the Texas A&M and Georgia softball tourneys on his computer, and those games occupied most of our afternoon. Both teams were hosting tournaments this weekend, and we had been following them as best we could, and both teams won all five tourney games.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Winter Continues

Monday our trip to Paducah was aborted after hearing that morning about local wrecks on the slick roads. We decided it was a good day to stay home although we did run into town in the afternoon since Katherine did not have an aide on that day. (The roads were fine by then.) Sam and Josh were outside in the snow playing football despite Josh’s cough. Wouldn’t you know that when the kids could have had a snow day, they were already off for President’s Day?

Tuesday we traveled down to Kentucky with the pickup over the beautiful bridge and
across the Ohio River, where a lot of Southern Illinoisans like to shop since Paducah is only an hour away. We were replacing some aging appliances that we figured were costing us too much in electricity and water as well as not working as well as they once did. We broke up our comparative shopping trip with a restful lunch at Olive Garden—one of the chain restaurants we don’t have in Marion—so that was fun, and their huge salads are delicious.

Although the store we bought from offered free delivery and would install for a fee, Gerald elected to haul our choices home in the pickup. He wanted the challenge of installing them himself. We drove home through the snow-dusted brown roadsides with white clouds overhead diluting the blue of the sky but giving blue tint to the woods on the horizon. It had been a good day.

Yesterday morning Gerald volunteered to take me up to Mt. Vernon to see a dental specialist that my local dentist wanted me to see. We left the farm shortly after six for this 7:45 appointment. He dropped me off and found a place nearby to get breakfast. I thought I was to get an incomplete root canal redone that was first done fourteen years ago. After more x-rays and a consultation, however, the specialist advised me to not do this. So we were back to the farm fairly early in the day, and I ate breakfast and read the paper while Gerald started installing the new dishwasher.

With this new one, I won’t have to constantly fix the tines with bread wrapper ties to hold them up. That did not bother me, but I did not think glasses were coming out as shiny as they should. Gerald found a clogged copper tube under there that might have been the reason for the cloudiness. I’ve keep wondering if he wishes he had let the store folk install it. It has taken a little longer than he thought it would. He found various faults with the way the last dishwasher was installed. He had to make a trip to town for something. He needs his new glasses that will be ready at the end of the week, so he is having some difficulty seeing under the counter. He wants to get done, so he can start to build more batting tees for Gerry, which will require some pre-building shopping in Cape Girardeau. Nevertheless, he enjoys learning new things and needs to keep busy with projects. I am trying to keep from feeling sorry for him and just realize it has turned into a couple of days’ entertainment for him. I am sure it will be done perfectly this time, which the “professionals” did not accomplish when the previous dishwasher was installed.

I don’t think placing the new washer and dryer where the ancient ones sit in the garage will take him long. I belatedly pointed out to him yesterday that the boxes for the new washer and dryer already out of the pickup and sitting in our garage both said that unloading/installing was supposed to be a two-man job lest there be back injury. He said he hadn’t noticed that warning on the boxes—but he used the fork lift on the tractor to unload.

I was supposed to have a long postponed eye exam yesterday an hour before my usual pickup of our grandson Sam from his trombone lesson after school. However, the optometrist’s office called to say a couple of other patients had been late and gave me opportunity to reschedule. I was glad to go to town a little later. Katherine was at the hospital for her Tysabri infusion, and I wanted to be able to stay around when I took Sam home until she returned, so I could help her out a bit. That worked out well since Gerald was still at work with tools spread all around the kitchen, and he didn’t mind my being a hour late with supper when I offered him sandwiches and a reheated bowl of homemade soup from Monday.

By the time he finishes these projects and the latest winter book he is reading, obtains the supplies for the batting tees and refines his plans, he is hoping his outside shop will be warm enough to go to work on the tees without too much heating expense. That should keep him busy until spring planting time when he will likely help our neighbor Scott and our son-in-law Brian a bit. Oh, yes, we will need to celebrate his 80th birthday before then too.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

No Crocus But Softball Season Is Here

As I drove home from church tonight on slippery roads with poor visibility, the snow was coming down hard. I felt like spring was not just around the corner. In fact, we’ve often had heavy snows and even blizzards in March here in Southern Illinois.

Nevertheless despite the snow tonight, the Winter Olympics going on, and another month of winter to go, women’s college softball season has started. This weekend had tournaments for both “our” teams. The University of Georgia team, where our son is an assistant coach, traveled to Florida, and won three out of four games. (Friday’s games were rained out down there.) Granddaughter Erin’s Texas A&M team played five games and won four.

Gerald was able to get audio accounts of A&M games on the computer, but Georgia’s game tracker was mute and not functioning for us. We had to find out the Bulldogs’ news by phone calls to our granddaughter Tara up in Aurora. Tara keeps up with her dad’s team by constant phone and text messages with her mom and/or her little sister Geri Ann. They were able to drive down to Claremont, FL, on Thursday night since Geri Ann had a long weekend break from high school. Tara has coached a summer traveling team supplying players for the colleges, and naturally she takes intense interest in college ball.

Gerald enjoys the excuse to phone Tara because he not only likes to talk to her but he likes hearing our two great grandsons in the background. He claims Maddux said PawPaw. Aiden had been to hear his uncle play and sing yesterday, so he was busy with his play guitar imitating.

Erin has already completed her four years of college play, but she is in her fifth year since she lost education credits from St. Catherine’s and others from Notre Dame when she transferred to A&M. (I am assuming if she ever decides to teach, those education credits will count towards a license in whatever state she ends up in.) Right now she helping Jo Evans, her much admired coach, with this 2010 team, and she is mighty excited at how well they are doing. Erin is also giving private lessons to some kids in the area until her graduation, and she loves working with them. Then she heads home to her parents in Georgia to get in shape for a summer in Europe playing for the Austria Sharx.

I’m dreaming of another trip to Oklahoma City for the Women’s World Series at the end of the season. I am hoping that Georgia and Texas A&M both make that tourney, but I certainly don’t want one of them to end their season with them playing against each other. In the meantime here at Woodsong, we will finish up winter following softball, and surely the crocus will be here before we know it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

February Weather

While the TV announcers exclaim with news and pictures of the blizzard in the East, I look out our many lakeside windows and can see only variegated brown ground cover with white snow stripes despite this week’s two snowfalls. Our school kids here in Williamson County, who were hoping for a snow day, were disappointed when the 3-7 inch prediction fell short and the roads stayed in good shape thanks to the highway department. President’s Day on Monday is going to be welcome to weary students wanting a break.

During an earlier snowfall, I saw a couple very tiny snowmen in a couple of yards, but I’ve seen no forts or evidence that the kids have been able to enjoy a good wet snow here in our part of the Midwest. I’m sorry for the kids about that lack and also sorry for the destructive record breaking snows in the East. For myself, despite enjoying the beauty of snow and always liking being snowed-in, I am grateful for anything that saves our local road budgets snow removal costs.

It is soup and chili weather, and that is what our church sent over to the International Luncheon for students at Southern Illinois University yesterday. I didn’t go because of an annual doctor check-up, and I did not help because everything was already planned by the time I volunteered.

Charlene Morris, who has made this luncheon her special project for several years, was having knee surgery. Consequently, she and others were highly organized and early on cooked all the meat for freezing so that after the surgery Charlene would only be putting it together for the soup. Charlene not only made soup but went along with her husband Gerald to deliver it. She was tired of being house bound. I am wondering how they transported that huge amount of soup. Jo Barger, one of the area’s best cooks, made the all-vegetable soup for those who didn’t eat meat. It took a lot of will power on her part to refrain from seasoning those veggies with a bit of beef. I am sure if Jo made it, the soup was good, and the reports at the village church tonight was that menu hit the spot with chilled students.

I made a favorite pork chop recipe today for our noon meal. Years ago the late Marguerite Lashley, a school librarian and New Dennison neighbor, shared her favorite way to fix chops as we rode to a club meeting together. She had gotten the simple directions from a chef at a New Orleans restaurant. Back then over at Pondside Farm, Gerald was raising hogs, and I collected pork chop recipes. (Fried pork chops with milk gravy is superb, but we needed variety, and I rarely fried foods even back then and certainly don’t now in our senior years.)

So today after flouring, seasoning, and browning the chops—I use olive oil—I peeled potatoes and sliced them and sliced large white onions to add on top of the chops. The layers of onions and potatoes were also seasoned with salt and pepper. Then I covered it all with water. This takes a big skillet. Then starting on a high burner and later turning down to low, I cooked until everything was tender. The kitchen smells are wonderful by the time this meal is ready to serve. I had five very large chops, so I was able to take the meal to Katherine’s family for their supper to make their house smell good on a winter day.

Even though the fields around our lake are rich with native grasses providing food for birds and small beasts, the snow makes the seeds a little harder and less pleasant to retrieve, and the birds flock to the feeder on the deck. We’ve had chickadees and juncos, sparrows, jays, cardinals, red-bellied woodpeckers, and a downy woodpecker, and some birds I don’t know. The starlings also come and are not as welcome because they drive off the smaller birds. I heard Gerald muttering the other day as he watched, “I guess God created the starlings too.” He was trying to be sympathetic to their hunger, but they certainly aren’t pretty and their manners aren’t the best. But they are hungry this cold weather, and I am sure they are grateful for the bounty Gerald supplies.

Monday, February 08, 2010

So Many Books...

As Gerald and I started home from Friday night fish down at Lake of Egypt with his brother Keith and our sister-in-law Barbara, the snow flakes kept getting larger and larger. They were melting as they hit the road, but we could see snow accumulating in the grass beside us.

The fish had tasted extra good to me because dental work on Thursday left me with a temporary gap where a capped tooth had been, and I was given written directions to only eat liquid foods. I had broth for supper, a milk shake for breakfast after a routine blood work appointment—that had been easy to fast for, and tomato soup for lunch before I spoke on the Trail of Tears to the Marion Women’s Club. I settled on coffee as my participation in the club refreshments since my 24 hours were not up. Fish, slaw, and potato salad surely beat drinking my meals.

Saturday morning the snow again covered the ground, but only lightly in comparison to the snow a friend in a Washington D.C. suburb facebooked about. She had 13 inches on her porch, which she had cleared the night before, and 21 inches in her yard. Roads here were fine, so I gathered a few of my books for the first time in months, found my toy tractor that I always use on my table top, and drove to the Marion Illinois Centre Mall for Southern Illinois Writers Guild’s participation in the fifth annual Winter Book Fair there.

I looked forward to the day despite knowing I would not sell books since everyone local who wanted one had probably bought it years ago. But I knew I would enjoy meeting new authors and seeing friends with their books. With some writers not there yet, I quickly shifted my name plate so I could sit next to my friend Maxine Pyle, whom I had wanted to congratulate on her beautiful book on Congressmen Ken Gray.

Before the day was over, I’d visited with Roberta Phipps, Jari Jackson, Jim Lambert, Fog Gilbert, Joy King, Jon Musgrave, Joanna Beth Tweedy, Carol Jennings, and met some writers I'd not met before. I also met Carol Jennings’ cute daughter Honey.

We owe the book fair to Carol since she came up with this idea and promoted it to the mall management. We had fine foot traffic and could not ask for a more attractive venue or a better organized book fair. Right now people aren’t flush with extra cash to buy nonessentials, but when the economy gets going again and it will, I suspect the fair will become even more profitable to area writers. I forgot at the end of the day to ask our president Jim Lambert how our anthologies sold. One woman who bought one as a get-well gift for a friend came through and had several of us autograph it.

I traded books with a couple of authors and couldn’t resist buying a few. Now I have more piles of unread books to tempt and taunt me, but I am enjoying them nevertheless. I’ve read a few of Fog’s poems, looked at some of the fascinating photos and captions in Maxine’s book, and almost finished Joanna Beth Tweedy’s debut novel.

An area native from Murphysboro, Joanna teaches at Benedictine University at Springfield, but she came down for this event with her book On the Yonder Side of Sass and Texas, which has the southern part of the state as its locale. (Although the chapter I just finished before making myself stop in order to blog, was all about Sass’s visit to Rome. Sass’s real name is Arkansas and Texas is her sister.) Tweedy’s poetic prose and runtogether words make for interesting reading. (Some examples: sunshade, fogfulls, combobulations, harsh-headed, yammersnitch, orchardfulls, riddletalk, deathside. Yougettheidea.)

Just as we were leaving Woodsong for church this morning, our son-in-law showed up from central Illinois checking up on his rented land here. We left him to shower and come over later for worship and afterwards for the pot-luck barbeque dinner we had at church. With bright red Valentine decorations, Shirley Butler as usual had made our cavernous basement beautiful. The dessert table was aglow with gorgeous desserts. As we feasted on barbeque beef and turkey from the Old Home Place, there was time to visit with friends and to comfort Eddy, whose former wife June had died yesterday afternoon. With an “evening service” held immediately after the dinner, it was still early in the afternoon when we gathered our left-overs and some took plates to shut-ins. There was plenty of daylight to enjoy the snow-frosted cedar trees lining the highways back to the farm.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

National Trail of Tears Conference to be in Illinois This Year

The fields surrounding the house are brown again, and only small patches of snow remain. The senior citizens day at the local Kroger’s yesterday was unusually crowded, I suppose because so many hesitated to get out over the weekend. The lure of the senior discount and very pretty weather brought us there in force. Parking was so scarce I had to make several loops before I found a place on the edge of the lot. A few parking slots were still unavailable because of the huge piles of snow from the lot being cleared on Saturday. Besides the parking problems, shopping usually is not quick because it is always fun to run into someone there I have not seen in years, and yesterday was no exception.

In the evening I drove down Interstate 57 to turn on to the Trail of Tears Auto Route (State Route 146) and just around the corner to the lane parallel to I57 that leads to the historic Camp Ground Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The lovely rural church building houses the more than century-old congregation, which still thrives when other rural congregations have died out. With its cemetery being a certified site of the National Trail of Tears Association, the congregation has been most cooperative in helping promote remembrance of the 1838-39 bitter cold winter when a number of Cherokee were buried in the field at the camping spot that preceded the establishment of the church.

Our Illinois chapter president Sandy Boaz is a member there and makes us welcome whenever we need to meet in their vicinity. With coffee smelling fine and her own home-made zucchini bread awaiting us, she welcomed us to the large comfortable (looked spotless to me) fellowship area, and she immediately apologized for some dirt still on the floor from the previous day’s use as a polling place. I always love to go there and feel the hospitality that characterizes this church.

Last night was no exception when our board for the Illinois chapter TOTA met to confer with the national president Jack Baker and our executive director Jerra Quinton to discuss and help plan the national conference and symposium which will be at Metropolis on September 20-23 this year. Jerra was up from Little Rock with her mother as a guest and Jack had flown in from Oklahoma City to meet with hotel representatives this morning to work out conference details. Also present were guests Mary McCorvie and Heather Carey, archeologists at Shawnee National Forest, who have helped so much with the cleaning the Trail located in Pope County on the Crabb-Abbott Farm. I’ve always wanted to attend the national conference and hear the exciting research being conducted by scholars and interested folk. This year I will be able to attend, and I’m sure I will be writing more about the plans as they firm up.

Returning to the farm through Marion, I debated a late-night trip to pick up the items I forgot to buy when I left my grocery list at home this morning. I decided I’d rather get home and relax than save (spend) any more money at the grocery. Gerald was still up watching the last of two ball games he helped win, so we visited awhile before retiring.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Is January Already Over?

Whoosh. How the first month has flown. It looks as we’re ending the month at Woodsong with an accumulation of seven or eight inches of snow and it is lovely. I started blogging last night and it turned midnight, and I decided to finish the blog when I got up on the first day of February.

Many churches in Kentucky were closed yesterday morning, but I don’t think too many here in Southern Illinois were other than some on rural roads. I didn’t even listen to the closings on TV because I knew our village church was gathering or we’d had a phone call. I had not been off the farm since Thursday, and neither had my sister and husband from their house down in Amarillo. They were grateful for a warm house and plenty of food, but they were getting cabin fever. Their son-in-law and grandson-in-law had cleared their driveways and they were ready to drive the few blocks to their church. They were disappointed when that service was called off. I was glad ours was not.

However, I was surprised when Gerald chose the car for our transportation, but I soon saw that even our country road was quite safe and the highways were totally clear. Of course, he had been to town and back as well as taking his lawn mower with snow blade not only down our lane but also clearing the near neighbors’ lanes. So he was aware that we were not really snowed in at all.

Two helpful men had brought their equipment and cleared our church parking lot; yet there were still occasional slick spots. That was not a problem since we were greeted by a cadre of young men who were ready to grab our arms and escort us into the building. The sure-footed, such as Gerald, did not need their help, but I appreciated it.

After we came back home and I enjoyed a quick chat with our daughter Katherine, I fixed tilapia, which I had thawed, for our lunch. I tried to fix it the best I could remember from seeing Rachel Ray do it the other day. It was good. Cleaned the kitchen while I watched a program on Book Notes, checked email, Red Room, and Facebook, and read a bit before it was time to fix us a sandwich for early supper so I could go to 6 o’clock evening service to hear a guest minister.

Darrell Chandler turned out to be an exceptionally inspiring speaker, who simply shared the story of his last decade with us. Ten years ago he had finished his seminary degree after years of taking classes while working full time. Confident he had followed the Lord’s will, atlast he felt ready to have more time for his ministry. Shortly after that he was in the pulpit and almost through his sermon. Everything went black. Quickly closing the service, he had his wife drive him to the hospital where they decided he must have appendicitis and they operated for that.

Problems continued. A six-week coma followed with an atypical near-death experience in which he briefly experienced a perfect place and peace he knew was Heaven. He woke up on his wife’s birthday and she told him of the middle-of-the-night call she had when the hospital staff thought he was dying. After continuing troubles, it was discovered that his problem had not been the appendix but rather two tiny holes in his colon allowing poison into his abdomen. It took seven more surgeries to solve the problems. He was faced with a mountain of hospital bills and unable to work. Then his wife, who had the health insurance, was laid off. He did not explain how other than through the Lord’s provision, but he rejoiced that they kept a roof over their head, one car to drive, and food on the table for the next year and a half. Finally after a nine-hour surgery with two surgeons, he was better
and returned to pastor a church.

Then bad health returned. After nine years, he had had 18 surgeries to take care of the original problem and the first misdiagnosis with it resulting problems and a final botched surgery. After an intense time with pain so great that he begged, “Let me die,” a final surgery took place that allowed him to eat foods he had not eaten in years and to be well enough to preach again.

Standing before us was a man who looked the picture of health and whose voice was strong and clear. Now he is teaching in a college and his preaching is done on weekends where he ministers to those who have serious pain in their lives—psychic or physical—and that means all of us. For Chandler has learned that all people have some sort of painful trauma or desperate problems in their lives that can better be survived once the burdens are turned over to God.

He had a simple story told in a straight forward non-emotional way, and yet our emotions were deeply touched and I knew I was not the only one with tears in my eyes. He had persuaded us with scripture and story that God loved us and was suffering with us even as we suffer with our children. It feels very good to be loved.

Driving home through the snow-laden landscape that 89-year-old Lela had praised for its beauty in morning worship, I walked into Woodsong expecting to retell the story I had heard to Gerald. But he was engrossed in a television movie about the life of Jackie Robinson, and I quickly joined him. That movie was followed by a history of racial relations in the baseball world that foreshadowed and greatly contributed to the radical change in race relations throughout the nation. It is hard for even those of us who lived trough those times to really remember how utterly silly and cruel white attitudes were in those years. The courageous clear thinkers, such as Branch Rickey, who stood against the entire culture and called it out on its wickedness was again enormously inspiring and brought tears o the eyes.

Altogether is was an inspirational day to start a new week. Now it is a new month.
Welcome, February.