Wednesday, April 28, 2010

School Year Winding Down; Softball Winding Up

Katherine was interviewing a possible employee this afternoon, and wouldn’t you know that somehow her computer had corrupted files. When I tried to help her run off the application form on the computer, I kept getting boxed messages. I was about to give up when I clicked the x on the box instead of the OK button. Then the printing started—but important portions of the document were left blank and a three or four page document became nine pages.

Her life consists of many challenges, and this afternoon was a perfect example. One snag in her life kept being added to by another. I left with her still working with the computer and the potential employee, so I am not sure how she corrected or handled that problem. When Gerald, who was slightly under the weather today with a strained neck muscle, asked me how things went and I started explaining all the variety of difficulties that happened in a two-hour time span, I saw his eyes glaze over with the enormity of what she endured. You have to be a tough cookie when you can’t walk and your hands don’t work right. Fortunately, Kate is one tough woman.

We had planned to try and take her and the family out for dinner on Monday, which was her birthday. Her mother-in-law fixed a birthday dinner for them on Sunday—their birthdays are just one day apart. However, on Monday night, Sam had lots of homework and she and David needed the night at home, so Dave grilled steaks and served cheesecake for her birthday with cards and roses as usual. She said all the many many wishes on Facebook also made her day.

We agreed for her birthday that it would be fun for us to come in and order in food tomorrow night. The University of Georgia will be playing at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and the game will be televised on ESPN at 7 CST--our time. We decided today that pizza would be simpler than carrying in a meal that required serving dishes and some clean-up. We want to concentrate on the game. Sam will have completed his demonstration speech for language arts tomorrow, so he will be ready to celebrate—just as his cousin Erin down at A&M is celebrating tonight that she had finished her last speech—as well as a complicated group business project. Everyone is winding up classes and last essays and exams and panting for summer vacation to arrive. Our two seventeen-year-olds both have proms in their respective schools on Saturday night, so I know their mothers are busy with that on their minds.

After Katherine’s house, I arrived back to serve our supper of cold cuts at Woodsong—Gerald didn’t want any of the chicken soup I had fixed for something hot. We had some more fresh strawberries that we could dip in Splenda. He told me Tara had phoned. She, her husband Bryan, and the boys will be making a pit stop in Williamson County tomorrow night to give the two older boys a chance to run off some energy. They too want to watch Georgia’s game, so we are hoping they come to the Cedars for pizza as Katherine would then be the first Glasco aunt to be able to meet our Payton. Her sisters would be so jealous. After their break, the Archibalds will be driving throughout the night while the little ones sleep to arrive in Georgia for Tara’s Southern Force softball tourney. Bryan, too, has just finished a big project at work, so I hope this trip is a relaxing one.

I’m going to the Dixon Springs Agriculture Center tomorrow to talk to third and fourth graders about the Trail of Tears. My station will be one of many that groups of kids will pass through all day. On Friday, I will be talking to fifth and sixth graders. Younger children attended this Forest Stewardship Week extravaganza on Monday and Tuesday. Over 3,000 school kids will have attended this very annual  event this week right before Arbor Day. Everything is outside, so it should be a great day tomorrow ending with pizza with Gerry’s team on television. Home softball games are over for both Georgia and A&M, and tournament time is rapidly approaching.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rainy Days, Puffy Clouds, and Softball Games

After last year’s rainy spring, farmers here have been pleased to have had a dry spring in order to get started planting. Then the rains began Friday night, and we had rains off and on all day yesterday. Driving to town in the afternoon, the cast-over sky seemed to enhance the freshly washed vividly green landscape all around me. Then it started pouring. The rain slacked off when I arrived at the beauty shop, but then increased when it was time for me to leave. I was grateful for Gerald’s large camouflage umbrella.

I had planned to run by Katherine’s, then pick up two or three items at the grocery store, and go on to the library in our village to check out the book I had ordered. Safely in the car and pulling in the wet umbrella after me, I decided after talking to Kate on the phone, to just hie myself home. Later that afternoon, it cleared off nicely, and I drove to the village and picked up The Healing of America by T.R. Reid.
That morning I had just finished reading Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, one of the very earliest of English novels. I’d chosen it from the book case at the Country Inn last weekend at Freeport. Guests are allowed to take an unfinished book with them when they depart and turn it in later after they finish it. I’d heard part of the story all my life, and I wonder if I may have read some condensed version in an elementary school book. At least I knew Robinson had a buddy named Friday and I kept waiting for him to appear. Robinson was alone on that island a long time before Friday came and was rescued from cannibals. I was beginning to wonder if Friday were actually a character in that book after all.

Published in 1719, the book has the stilted rhythm and the moral weaknesses of that era, but I found it very interesting to read. I liked all Robinson’s coping techniques to survive being stranded alone better than the last part of the book. All the exciting shoot ‘em up stuff at the end bored me as he had to fight his way off the island and make a dangerous trek through the mountains and France before finally becoming wealthy for a happy ending. But then I don’t like car chases and violence in today’s books or movies either. I can take happy or sad endings, but Defoe’s seemed too contrived. I felt bad to learn from notes in the book that Defoe died forgotten and unrecognized for his classic.

Back home from the library, I prepared Gerald and me a light supper and afterwards, we sat looking out the windows onto our lake while the clouds gave us a moveable feast of beauty. The skyline was filled with large fluffy white clouds with a couple small blotches of silver grey and an elongated streak of silver grey clouds above the puffy white. Leafy trees on our little island gave us a collage of greens from pale lime to bright green with the dirty green of the big cedar mixed in. The sun in the west was highlighting the trees so that they almost sparkled. Then the winds blew those clouds on. Above the lake was now a ceiling of grey. New puffy clouds blew in trimmed at the bottom with a row of silver grey almost like the rickrack that grandmothers used on the hem of little girls’ dresses. The sun was still making the trees shine, when rain hit the western kitchen windows. After a brief but intense bit of rain, calm descended again as the night darkened.

I quit the moving picture show in our windows and made the phone call I had been trying to make for a couple of days to visit with my sister. On Thursday, I called and visited with my brother, and I wanted to share that visit with her and to feel the better human connection that the voice gives us over emails. She was ebullient over the green earth club at the middle school across the street having been at her home that day. The kids have a grant to buy plants and provide neighborhood homes with landscaping help. They had visited her much earlier and talked over the plan for her house, and someone with a tiller and someone with mulch had visited homes that week. Now was the big day when the kids put the plants into the ground and completed mulching, and the students accomplished this despite the cold day in Amarillo.
Rosemary and Phil love kids, so knowing these children were involved with this impressive learning activity pleased Rosie very much. She was also still excited about the regular Friday evening supper she and Phil serve to their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. They will have anywhere from a dozen to 15 or so usually—just whoever has a schedule that allows them to show up. But with their grandson Philip Todd and wife Jennifer on leave from military service in Hawaii (after earlier serving a couple of times in Iraq), there were 18 present the night before. She fixed two roasts in her crock pots and Phil fixed a meat loaf. Lots of veggies and Phil’s famous cookies, and she made two big frozen strawberry pies with a new recipe. I always like to hear about the Friday night gatherings and imagine how good everything tasted.

After our long conversation, checking Facebook and hotmail, surfing a bit on a favorite writers’ site, I started my new book and went to bed later than I should have. Today was another off-and-on gently rainy day, but we were only away the farm for church services, since we wanted to follow Georgia and Texas A&M softball games.

Both of our teams won. The game with A&M (ranked 21) against University of Missouri (ranked 11) was on television, and it was an exciting game to watch. Missouri made us fearful we might end up losing the advantage three home runs had given us. But we did it. Rhi Kliesing hit a single in the bottom of the seventh that broke the 5-5 tie allowing a runner to cross home plate. Missouri had walked freshman Meagan May that inning because earlier she had hit two home runs breaking the school’s single season home run record. Since pitcher Mel Dumezich was on Tara’s summer team a couple years ago and Aidan still has a crush on her as his all-time favorite softball player, we were especially glad to see her victorious after the team’s discouraging loss yesterday. And, of course, we were happy Georgia has had 15 straight wins now.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Another Brief Visit from Tara and the Boys

After driving all night from Athens and taking Gma Shirley to her place down the road and around the corner from us and down that road (where Gerry used to ride his horse to visit Vickie during their high school days), Tara and her three boys arrived at Woodsong around 4 a.m. Tuesday.

Gerald had gone to bed very early with plans of hearing them when they arrived although we had left the porch light on and the door unlocked. They entered so quietly that we might not have heard except Aidan, who was carried in after Payton still in his carrier, was some what disoriented from sleeping. He spoke up while Tara went back to get sleeping Maddux from his car seat. Gerald and I both heard that sweet familiar voice form our bedroom beside the front hall, and we hopped out of bed to welcome our returning guests.
Tara had the two older boys in bed asleep almost immediately and as soon as Payton had been fed, they too retired to their downstairs bedrooms. Gerald and I were astounded at how peacefully and quickly Tara, Aidan, and two babies were settled for the rest of the night, and we too went back to sleep peacefully ourselves.

Gerald slept late—almost to seven o’clock, and when he returned from his daily walk down the lane to fetch our morning paper, Aidan had come up to the kitchen to join him for cereal. Of course, Aidan and Gerald both had big plans for the short time they would be with us. After playing in the lime pile and rides on the “mule,” the big lawn mower, the tractor, and the toy tractor, Gerald’s shed was emptied of vehicles, and they both ran down enough to come back into the kitchen.

By this time I was up. Aidan explained to me, “I’m a little tired. I don’t usually sleep this early.” I knew what he meant. I slept a little earlier than usual myself.

I asked Aidan if he would like an egg, and he said yes. (We do 30-second eggs at our house. Spray a microwave-safe dish and break an egg into it. Beat the egg and then cook in the microwave for 30 seconds.) Toast? Yes. Then when the toast was done, Aidan decided he needed peanut butter and jelly as well as the egg between those two slices of wheat bread. Of course, Gma Sue was glad to oblige although I supposed he would never consume all that. But with only a little crust remaining, his plate was soon emptied.

Nest our courageous Tara came up with 15-month old Maddux, who was feeling shy but cheerful. She fed him cups of milk and Fruit Loops. Then Aidan declared that Maddux needed an egg. I prepared to fix him one, and Aidan took the egg from my hand saying, “I want to peel it.” Then I understood why he wanted Maddux to have an egg. He enjoyed tapping it and breaking it into the bowl with just a little spilling on himself and the counter. Maddux didn’t eat much of the egg, but he did get some protein and his big brother got practice peeling a raw egg. Gma Sue got an early morning dose of pleasure.

Down in Georgia, Gpa Gerry had helped Maddux overcome his fear of the noise of vehicles—so much so that Maddux did not want to get off the four-wheeler down there. So Gerald had to take both the big boys outside for farm adventures. Payton woke up and Tara brought him upstairs freshly diapered and swaddled in a blanket. He was wide awake, content and cozy while I held him to allow Tara to eat breakfast and busy herself with other chores.

Occasionally he had a digestive pain of some sort and made noises of discomfort but would soon be happy looking around with his big eyes trying to discover who this new person was holding him. After quite awhile, his blanket was disturbed enough that I took him and laid him on the dining room table intending to re-swaddle him.

That was just what he needed—to lie free on his blanket and swing his arms and kick his tiny legs. His mother and I were a fascinated audience as he went through his round of exercises for us and showed us how close he could come to rolling himself over.

Eventually Tara brought his clothes to put on him. I had assumed he would go through life wearing his brothers’ well-furnished wardrobes. However, since he was born early and was smaller than the other two boys, she still had some never-used newborn outfits to use with him that they’d never been small enough to wear. As beautiful as he had been with just the diaper kicking and stretching his naked limbs, he now looked so sweet in his tiny soft shirt and pants, which his mother with all her experience placed on him with much quiet efficiency. Again in his blanket, I was gifted with him once more, and Payton and I enjoyed the morning together. And it was a gorgeous morning—warm with gentle breezes that felt so good.

By this time, Aidan and Maddux had been outfitted with life jackets by Gpa Gerald for a ride in the rowboat down at the lake. Tara, Payton, and I had to go see all this fun. The drive-way was cluttered with the vehicles that Gpa had shared, and the little wheelbarrow and shovel was left by the lime pile—a pile Gerald created for these great grandsons under the open shed at back of his shop.

All too soon, it was 11, and Tara wanted to get back on the road to avoid rush-hour traffic if possible. (She had experienced that in Atlanta.) We could not in good conscience encourage her to stay longer. We had had a great time, heard about Geri Ann’s six home runs in the Southern Force tourney, and had fresh news from her mother and daddy down in Georgia. Her car was repacked, and we saw how she managed to get three car seats in the back. With another round of hugs and kisses and silent prayers for their safety, we waved as they started down our lane for the long trip ahead of them to reach their upstate home where Daddy was eagerly awaiting the return of his family.

Maybe tomorrow I will reluctantly pick up all the toys scattered throughout the house.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Good Weekend and All That Jazz

Tara and her sons left Woodsong Friday morning after breakfast, and we did the same. They were eager to see Gma Vickie and Gpa Gerry and also GGma Shirley, who is visiting at Athens, GA. Shirley had not yet met Peyton, so everyone was excited.

Tara’s summer team, the Southern Force, had a tournament south of Atlanta this weekend, so that was one purpose of this trip. Now after coaching at the tourney, she’ll have a good visit with her parents and Geri Ann (Tara’s high school sister who plays on her summer team), and she’ll have an especially good visit with Gma Shirley since she is riding back home to our community with Tara. This should make traveling with three little ones considerably easier than the trip from here down to Georgia.

We were on our way to Freeport at the top of the state, where our youngest grandchild, Cecelie, a fifth grader, was one of the 12 dancing princesses in the Carl Sandburg School spring play. Her big brother, Elijah, was one of the more than 50 kids involved for the second weekend putting on the Freeport High School’s 30th rendition of Showtime. We drove by our fields and saw our son-in-law Brian busy planting—and farmers were in the fields all the way up the state. (One sad sight was seeing one farmer in the field harvesting last fall’s corn crop. It was standing pretty good and so was worth harvesting, but that’s the latest I’ve ever seen.)

Half way up the state, we swung by Raymond and met our daughter Mary Ellen and our granddaughter Brianna at Subway for lunch. Brianna wanted to see Cecelie’s first big play. All our grandkids like it when life allows them to see any of the Freeport plays, musicals, or Showtime. Sam wanted to go, but he was going up to Illinois State with his band for state contest.

We arrived just had time to check into our favorite motel, Freeport’s Country Inn, grab a sandwich across the street, and find Cecelie’s school for her 6 o’clock performance. Jeannie was waiting outside to give us a good parking spot and take us through her art room on the way to the gym/stage.

Cecelie’s other grandmother and friend Jerome were already there. Rick was working at the track meet, but he had been there with Jeannie the night before to cheer Cecelie on. Jeannie had roses for her and Gerald took photos, so Cecelie was ushered into the Freeport theater world with sufficient attention. Having her big cousin Brianna come just to see her was quite an honor, and the two blonds had a great weekend together since Brianna is talented with younger children.

After that show, taking only time for the photo session and to view Jeannie’s students art work using perspective, we hurried onto the Jeannette Lloyd Theater on the other side of town for the jazz band concert followed by Showtime. Gerald dropped me off to go back for an early opportunity to sleep after the long drive up. Seats were sold out and we needed one more, but Jeannie went up to view the show from the balcony, so the blonds and I had good seats.

As always, neither the jazz band nor the Showtime cast/crew disappointed. This year’s final segment honored senior citizens—after first roasting us with humorous skits. I’d seen Elijah’s monologue during Easter weekend, and I’d already told him it was sometimes too realistic of my life to be funny—though I could not keep from laughing. Then, however, some very talented older people (friends and grandparents) joined the high schoolers on stage and showed that they too could sing and dance very well.

It was sweet seeing Sam Wellman (who was at Woodsong with Elijah’s sister Leslie who once brought a group down for a summer Eiler Grey tour she created singing at coffee houses) and his partner join the older couple dancing, and Sam pretended to take his dance moves by observing the senior citizen. Finally they changed partners. The entire ending with many messages flowing from the seniors to the kids was very endearing, and the kids’ adoring responses warmed the cockles of us oldsters’ hearts.

Saturday was spent sleeping in, helping Jeannie put photos of Showtime’s spring tour into frames for the entire cast, lunch at Culver’s and our usual Freeport activities—Gerald checking out their Rural King and Menard’s and the cousins swimming together in our motel pool. Before we knew it, it was time for the cast potluck. Jeannie found time to make Mexican chicken pie, and we joined other families for this annual event in the cafeteria before the sixth and final performance of Showtime. Then the kids had their annual balloon launch on the front lawn, another photo op for Gerald. We found out seats in the rapidly filling theater and anticipated the jazz band and this year’s guest artist Ken Jarczyk.

Towards the end of the concert, after director Bill Petersen’s introduction of Jarczyk telling of the many jazz greats he had played with, Jarczyk would enter. Each night Petersen would lead him into sharing an anecdote or two about these famous musicians. This last night, I noticed he had on a sharp looking cap he had not sported on Friday night and that Petersen’s questions were different.

Telling about being with an awe-inspiring alto sax player while still a very young man, Jarczyk explained how he got up his nerve to approach his hero for advice and hoped, of course, he might hear a compliment from him on his own playing. The great’s response went something like this: Kid, there will always be someone who has better tone than you. Kid, there will always be someone with better technique. So always wear a great hat!

Immediately, as the jazz ensemble began to play again, the kids pulled out and donned the most colorful variety of hats and headpieces you can imagine. We had a visual treat as well as an aural one as they ended their participation in this last Saturday jazz performance before the curtain closed. And quickly reopened with the show choir giving a rousing opening rendition of “Showtime.” Some had somehow managed to change from the jazz band tux into the required costumes for the opening scene.

From then for the next hour and a half, these kids moved sets, changed clothes with lighting speed, interacted with the audience, and sang and danced with intense energy. After their tour and six local performances, they were bound to be tired, but you could not have told it as they gave their all to make the last night special. I was so glad I was there. I was also glad to go back to the motel to rest, while these kids stayed to strike the set.

We met up with the Eiler family and Brianna again at worship this morning, and after lunch and final goodbyes, we headed toward our end of the state. We learned Tara’s Southern Force had won their tourney, Gerry’s Georgia team won their home games against Auburn, and Erin’s A&M also won. When we dropped Brianna off and visited with Trent at their house out from the village of Waggoner, we found out Mary Ellen had gone to help Brian at the farm and she was leaving about the same time. We agreed if we passed on the highway we’d wave at each other.

As it turned out, she needed gas and we were both going by Okawville’s DQ about the same time, so we agreed to have supper together. We hashed over the good weekend together, and a couple hours later we were here at Woodsong and Gerald showed me his slide show memento of our trip.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Daddy's Birthday

My father was born April 15, 1898, and so he would have been 112 today. Tonight his great great grandson Peyton Archibald is sleeping in his little crib that his grandmother paid 50 cents for.

Our granddaughter Tara and her three boys came to Woodsong around 6:30 to spend the night here before leaving in the morning for Athens, Georgia. We have had so much fun playing with Aidan (almost 4) and Maddux (16 months) and snuggling Peyton (5 weeks). The two big boys had to use their shovel on the lime pile and push the little wheelbarrow around. Aidan took a ride on the "mule." Maddux did not want to. Everyone is sound asleep now after supper, baths, etc. I am going to bed now too.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Another Teenager, Dandelions, Old Age, and Softball

We just came home from celebrating our grandson Sam’s 13th birthday. With a band trip coming up to Illinois State at Bloomington/Normal, he declined the recent custom of celebrating with buddies and asked his folks to just have his grandparents over this year. It has been awhile since we were the honored guests, so both sets of grandparents were glad to oblige. It was great fun to see him receive his new guitar that he is eager to learn. Lessons have been arranged, so we are looking forward to hearing him play at his next birthday--if we get invited for that occasion again that is. Otherwise we will just listen as we have opportunity.

The table flowers tonight were scarlet azaleas from their front yard. I had picked some lilacs from Katherine’s little bush on the side of the house Monday and taken them in so she could enjoy their fragrance. The tall dogwood in their back yard is flowering gloriously; and beneath the dogwood and even further out, the ground is covered with sweet purple violets. These are especially welcome to view out their bedroom windows since the derecho did severe damage to their back yard a year ago. They are gradually getting it back in shape, which was no small chore for David.

Going to town right now is especially pleasurable because so many lawns have bright flower beds and flowering trees and shrubs. Beautiful yards are probably kinder to passers-by than the home owners, who often see their own flowers briefly when they enter the house by the attached garage. This is similar to people who make efforts to look attractive. They only see themselves a few minutes in the mirror, while the rest of us get to enjoy their beauty for much longer periods of time. Some people think the beauty-conscious folks are vain, but I think they are generous and are being good to those of us who look at them.

Our azaleas are just now beginning to bud, and the other grandmother tonight said theirs were also still in the bud stage. We have the best crop of dandelions that we have had in years, and I notice many other folks do too. I love their bright circles and think they make a lawn even prettier, but Gerald does not appreciate them. Our lane was bordered on both sides with a row of dandelions that had not been there in past years, and I was enjoying them. But before they took over the grass on both sides, Gerald sprayed them last week. Since he cares for the lawn, I could not complain. (At least not very much.)

When I was working in the flower beds the other day, we quickly ran out of mulch. Gerald brought in a large amount in his pickup today and placed it in plastic garbage cans close to where I need it. So I have tomorrow morning’s work cut out for me.

Another neighborhood death occurred on Monday for a sweet friend from long ago. Our two youngest children were in the same class through twelve years of school. She has been housebound for several years now. Her husband also has been very sick for a long time. Their four sons and wives have coped beautifully during these many years providing care themselves when the parents were less handicapped and then adding extra workers when constant care became needed.

Today’s son and wife and the helper staying with the husband before tomorrow’s funeral encouraged him to brag on the cake I took over, and he graciously did so. But I could tell he did not remember me, and I saw a tear in the daughter-in-law’s eye as I felt a lump forming in my throat. It hurts so to see previously strong independent folk become weak and elderly. I remember those years when we watched our parents age. It makes me wonder what is ahead for those of us just a few years younger than the neighbor.

Since we don’t write the script, we’ll take what comes and try to reap whatever benefits are available in the often sad last chapters of life. My father especially had never known any kind of health problems until his last decade or so. He had always been intensely independent and always a helper of others rather than needing help. I was pleasantly surprised at how well he accepted the limitations that Parkinson’s Disease and heart attack and stroke imposed upon him. I am going to try and keep his example in mind as I continue to age in the years ahead. On the other hand, I may turn out to be a real pill.

To end on a happy note, University of Georgia softball team won both games in their double header against Mississippi State at Starkville last night.  Between phone calls and a visitor, we listened and cheered them on.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Goodbyes, Hellos, and Softball

After last goodbye visits to Ernestine and Leah from brothers Garry and Keith and wife Barbara, Gerald loaded the car trunk with multiple suitcases and bags. He transferred the car seat for Emmy over to our back seat from Garry’s car that Ernestine and Leah had been borrowing during their visit here from Wyoming. A little later than we hoped, we left Woodsong and headed to Saint Louis. We weren’t on a strict schedule, but Ernestine and Leah wanted to check into their motel by the airport in time to have a good night’s sleep before the flight back to Rock Springs.

We stopped at the post office in Marion for Leah to take in excess items collected while here to mail home, and we stopped at Saint Clair Square to find a restaurant for our evening meal. By the time we were in Saint Louis heading west to the airport, Emmy was protesting loudly that she had enough of that car seat. At that point, we began to notice that we were moving very slowly and finally to realize we were stuck in a traffic jam that had been created by a wreck ahead. With her mother on one side and her grandmother on the other to entertain her, Emmy quieted and really did well as we sat still or occasionally inched forward. When that ordeal was over, we were almost there.

Their first floor room was waiting for them with a crib in place, and Gerald quickly found a cart to pile their luggage on to take to their room as they would have to do the next morning when they caught the shuttle bus to carry them to their flight. We left hurriedly because we were saddened by farewells and we knew how tired everyone was. (We learned from follow-up phone calls this afternoon that Ernestine had not slept very much worrying that the crib was not up to code. Leah slept well because she had been up and down every hour and a half the night before with teething Emmy at our house.)

Gerald had been working in his shop all week when he had spare moments to redesign some part of the softball batting tees that he delivered last weekend and then found out one part did not work as he hoped. He thought our daughter-in-law Vickie would be coming through this weekend and could take them on to Athens. After we got in late Thursday night from Saint Louis, he also talked the next morning of delivering them himself to Oxford, Mississippi, where Georgia played Ole Miss. I just kind of shook my head in wonder at that idea, and he too decided he was too tired for that jaunt—which he had pointed out was only as far away (one way) as our round-trip to Saint Louis. Sure enough Vickie did come through here to pick up her mother for a visit in Athens, so early this morning Gerald took the redesigned parts over to her car at her mom’s place.

Because of so much rain and wind and the absence of my favorite hair fixer on the days I could get to town, I had a bad-hair week the entire time the Eilers and Ernestine and gang visited here. I was very happy to have an appointment for a much needed hair cut and styling with Stefanie on Saturday morning—another reason I was not going to go to Oxford, Mississippi. Afterwards I ran by Katherine’s hoping to complete a couple more coats of polish on her nails that we had worked on the day before when she said they were splintering. She was in bed and smilingly sent me on my way.
I knew the Taylors were down for Brian to start farming because Gerald told me as I left the house that I had missed a brief visit with our daughter Mary Ellen. I’d not heard her come in, and she didn’t want to slow me down when she learned I was going to town. So coming home from the beauty shop, I’d run by their camper. Only Brianna was there, and I asked her if she wanted to come over to Woodsong. She said no because Uncle David was bringing Sam out.

When I arrived back at our house, Sam was there thinking that was where Brianna was going to be. So he and I drove back to the camper and picked up Bri and Fifi. Fortunately, the lunch meat I had planned for Gerald’s and my lunch was adequate for everyone to have sandwichs. Brianna got to eat the last piece of the bunny rabbit cake—a cake that her mother, as a young girl, had started making us each year, but she had not had at their Florida holiday meal.

(I learned that Sam’s other grandmother makes the same cake but instead of a white cake, she makes a carrot cake. You know the cake where one layer becomes the bunny face, and the other layer is cut so you have two ears to place on the head and the remaining middle is placed under the head as a bow tie. I thought carrot cake was very appropriate, but since Mary Ellen did not like carrot cake, I know why she used the white cake mix we have used ever since.)

Sam and Bri had a good time together on the “mule,” riding bicycles around the lake, and doing their cousin Desyngia project (a book they are collaborating on), while Mary Ellen and I had a long mother-daughter talk we seldom have opportunity for. I was able to hear about their Florida vacation with Gma Dot.

The Taylors were back over today from the camper, but they had a very late breakfast and couldn’t eat lunch with us. When I came home from church and realized the chicken I had put out last night from the freezer and then into the fridge was still frozen, I hurried and fixed Gerald and me sandwiches again, so we could go catch the Georgia Bulldogs on the game tracker.

Bri was watching something on television in the family room, and Mary Ellen sneaked an afternoon nap in the brown room. For some reason, there was no audio announcer today and it was a long game (10 innings). It was not as thrilling a viewing experience as that close game should have been, which is why Mary Ellen chose to retreat to the brown room.

I fell asleep in my chair in the middle of the game. I was disappointed to learn I had slept through Brianna Hesson’s home run and Alisa Goler’s two homeruns. (All-American Alisa is so good and, thus, is walked so often, that she doesn’t have many opportunities to hit.) But I was wide awake during the extra innings and was able to experience Jenny Auger’s winning homerun in the top of the l0th. Alison Owen was pitching and held Mississippi scoreless in the bottom of the inning allowing Georgia to sweep the three-game series.

When Gerald then started telling me how close Starkville, Mississippi, is where Georgia is playing a double header Tuesday night before returning to Athens, again I just shook my head and went upstairs to cook the finally thawed chicken.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Most Beautiful Time of the Year

Well, Duke won—barely—but regardless, I am sure Willie Veasley will be a forever hero in Freeport. What a great game! We were sad Butler came so close but not close enough, but I had to be happy for the Duke parents and fans. Tonight I am happy for Georgia (vs. Georgia Tech) and Texas A&M (vs. Texas) as our teams won both softball games.

Our Wyoming guests finally came back to Woodsong Monday evening after we met up with them and Keith and Barbara at The Old Homeplace in Goreville for supper. Our house has been filled with baby Emmy’s happy squeals ever since. She talks a lot—just doesn’t use English yet although Gma Ernestine says Emmy (ten months) knows several words. She will say a word all one day and then she will refuse to use the new word again. It is obvious she knows what we say.

When Gerald or I try to entice her into our arms, she lets us know that as friendly as she is with her constant waving and flirting with us, she prefers to be held by someone from Wyoming. Her body language and nonverbal noise-making are quite communicative and effective, so she probably doesn’t have too much need for words yet.

I have only been able to hold her each morning by bribing her with the out-of-doors, which she likes. We go out on the deck for a while so she can look at the birdies flying all around us, the flag flapping in the wind, and Uncle Gerald’s pretty flowers down below us--bright red tulips, daffodils, paper whites, and hyacinths. We talk about these things and she points and answers with her private language. We sit on the swing there a little while, but that doesn’t last long until the nonverbal communication tells me we must be up and going.

She loves for people to walk her holding her hands, and she can take a few steps by herself. Again she prefers to revert to walking with help even after she shows you she can make it from one person’s arms to another’s. Her mother Leah and Ernestine are actually happy that she is delaying walking till they get back through the airport and home again this Friday.

I have had a long talk with Ernestine at the breakfast table and a long table talk with Leah another day. Gerald brought Katherine and Sam out yesterday afternoon to visit and eat up Easter dinner leftovers for our supper. It was imperative that Katherine see her Aunt Ernie. Cousins Kath and Leah have always had a special bond, so Leah wanted to see Sam and Katherine wanted to meet Emmy.

Gerald and Ernestine went back to Goreville this morning for a long breakfast visit with the brothers, while Leah and I slept in. I was scheduled to be at Camp Ground Church in Union County for an Illinois Trail of Tears Association board meeting at 1:00, so I left lunch on the table and took off after grabbing a sandwich.

It was exciting talking with Carol Hoffman of the Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau about plans for the TOTA national conference to be in Metropolis on September 20 to 23. Several new sites have been certified in Illinois, and the National Park Service is having signs made, which should be in place before the conference.

We hope to have displays in the two Trail of Tears rest stops on Interstate 57 by May. Pope County brochures are already there for the asking. It has long been a concern for many in our area that while the rest stops bear the name Trail of Tears, there was no information available. Somehow the gravesite of King Nepture, the famous World War II war bond selling pig, (on the north bound rest stop) did not seem adequate for these two rest stops named for the Trail they are sitting on.

Because of so much progress made, which will make the Trail of Tears more noticeable and more accessible across the southern tip of our state, it was a satisfying meeting. Harvey Henson showed us the prototype of the new three-county brochure, which will also be available soon.

The drive down had been beautiful with red bud trees, which began blossoming on Easter Sunday and were in full bloom today. Despite the overcast sky and threatening rain, the drive back in far different muted light was just as beautiful. I arrived at Kroger’s for senior citizen stocking-up-on-groceries day just as the rain started, and I needed the big umbrella. Fortunately the rain let up when the young man helped me get the groceries in the trunk. Before I reached Woodsong, however, I was driving through a deluge.

Ernestine and Leah had planned to use this afternoon to see our sister-in-law Opal, who has been helping during their family crisis by caring for her great granddaughter Josie while her daughter-in-law Jaime was in Saint Louis following a stroke and heart attack. Leah also wanted to see her paternal grandmother’s grave in the Marion cemetery before they did some necessary shopping preparing for their trip back home. They were back to the farm late in the evening after the heavy rainfall allowed Leah to discover what her driver’s ed teacher had meant about hydroplaning. She hadn’t experienced this kind of rain in Wyoming. Lots of snow, yes, but not this much rain.
Today is our oldest granddaughter Tara’s birthday. It was also the due date for the birth of her new baby son, and her mother Vickie had made arrangements to be there for that occasion. Since this was spring break, it was surprisingly convenient for Vickie to plan to go from Georgia to northern Illinois. However, Peyton (one month old today) is already safely here before Vickie arrived for his scheduled birth. I bet they are having much more fun this week than if he had dallied. Three healthy little boys under four is much to be thankful for, and I know Vickie is having a great time with her daughter and sons.

At Woodsong what more could we ask? A baby in the house, blossoming pear trees, our little island abloom with redbud and daffodils, and Gerald’s little sister and niece here to help us eat up the eggs the grandkids died last weekend. Until autumn comes when I’ll make the same pronouncement, it is the most beautiful time of the year.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Easter Company Has Gone Back to Freeport—the Home of Willie Veasley

Well, I just moved the sheets from the brown room over to the dryer and stuck in a load of towels to wash as I write this.

When we built our retirement home, I found out Gerald truly wanted an underground house. I knew he was curious about them. I knew he sent off for information. Lots of it. We once went to see a partially built one here in our area that somehow Gerald had a connection with. We walked inside it (with owner’s permission), but we really did not see it after completion although I wanted to. (It either was never finished or was sold or something.) We also toured one, which was beautifully furnished and had been lived in for several years—built by the company Gerald wanted to use. It was a beautiful home. Since I kept saying I didn’t think I could sleep well with all that concrete and dirt over my head, I did not take any of this seriously.

A farmer’s wife like many ministers’ wives or military wives, etc., often does not get to choose her own home. You take whatever exists on the farm you are renting or buying. I like used houses, so that did not bother me. I was somewhat shocked when our first landlady Unile Bozarth, whom I loved and admired, casually said one time (nearly 50 years ago) that any woman worth her salt wanted a new house.

I had never considered wanting a new house until she said that. After I considered it, I came to the conclusion that I still loved old houses best. So I enjoyed living in the four houses on four different farms early in Gerald’s career. Nevertheless, when it came time to build a retirement home on the little lake Gerald had built, I did feel I should have equal say in what was built since I had never been able to choose before. When I woke up to the fact that Gerald was planning on an underground house, I suddenly caught on that he had not heard my repeated negative comments as I tried to be interested and politely appreciative of the homes we visited. Then I knew I had a problem.

The first solution was voicing my objections strongly enough that he heard me. Of course, it hurt his feelings since he thought underground houses were the way to go and such a house was already completed when he imagined the future. After all, he had never been able to choose a house either in all these years of marriage. (He did not say that, but I knew it. And he had worked much harder than I had during our years together.) I felt bad I had pulled the rug out from under his dreams. Still I did not want all that dirt on my head.

We were in Michigan visiting our youngest daughter’s family when Gerald saw a plan in the Sunday paper he liked. We both mulled it over, and he sent off for the inexpensive plans the paper offered. A couple of years later when we actually built and changed the plans considerably to fit our needs and our building spot on the lake, we had worked out a compromise we both liked.

The walk-out downstairs has three back rooms underground, but the upstairs has a regular roof over our head. (Yes, we had to have it repaired after the derecho, and I’m certain an underground house would not have had that problem. You know, of course, who the person was who handled the insurance people and the roofing contractors. I’m no good at that sort of thing.) Nevertheless, we have a compromise house—partly underground and beautifully above ground. We both like it.

Back to the brown room. It is the underground bedroom. With our grandchildren in mind, at first I was going to call the two downstairs bedrooms the boys’ room and the girls’ room. I decided that was a bad idea in case that sleeping arrangement needed to be changed, so they became the brown room and the yellow room. It turns out everyone loves to sleep in the brown room. With no windows, it provides the best sleeping in the house. Dark and cozy. Leslie like most college students is sleep deprived, and she especially likes to sleep there. I like knowing she is catching up on rest.

Because the yellow room has only a standard bed while the brown room has a queen-size bed, I had reserved it for Gerald’s sister and niece and baby, whom Gerald thought would spend Friday night here before going on to her brother’s house for her reunion. (The yellow room was reserved for Vickie and Geri Ann as they drove to Aurora—but those plans changed too. ) So the grandkids started filling up the couches although we didn’t have to go to air mattresses as we sometimes do.

When Ernestine and Leah arrived Friday afternoon, they decided they would be better off to go on to the Mississippi bottoms Friday night and wake up the next morning down there to go on to her afternoon/evening reunion, I told Les the brown room was hers. Now the sheets are drying to be put back on in the morning for our Wyoming guests.

We were disappointed that Ernestine and Leah missed seeing the Eilers who were shopping Friday afternoon, but since they were planning on having Easter dinner with us, no one was too concerned. We thought Jeannie and family would have a good visit today with her Aunt Ernie, Leah, and baby Emmy. Gerald took them down to Garry and Ginger’s farm—the home place where Ernestine was born and grew up, and we looked forward to today.

However, during the night, Ernestine became sick from all the weariness of travel and reunion with no rest. (The youngest sibling in Gerald’s family, Ernestine has a stroke a couple of years ago—but did remarkably well going back to work in about a month and not showing any observable after effects. But she knows to pace herself and get adequate rest—something you cannot always do when traveling and unable to completely manage your own agenda.) They had to postpone their visit till tomorrow.

The biggest disappointment for me was that Jeannie, who lives so far away and had to leave this evening, was going to get to visit her aunt and cousin, and she didn’t get to do so. Katherine had hoped to see them Friday night when David brought them out, but she enjoyed more visiting time with Jeannie since Ernestine was gone already. Katherine will be able to do so tomorrow or Tuesday when Mary Ellen is hoping to get to come down after they return from Florida. Gerry sent Aunt Ernie a hug by Internet that I’ll give her tomorrow.

Between cell phones and Facebook, families can keep in constant contact without too much time and expense. On holidays, we would all like to be together, but that is not feasible, so we enjoy the modern substitutes. We actually get more visiting done when there is just one family here, so we especially enjoyed Jeannie and Rick and their kids’ visit.

Saturday night was spent listening to Butler University beat Michigan State. If you want to see my quiet dignified son-in-law Rick vicariously coaching a ball team, visit Leslie Eiler’s Facebook video of the event. Willie Veasley had been one of Rick’s math students at Freeport High School. Leslie had Spanish with him. Jeannie remembered when he broke records while playing basketball at Freeport. All Freeport is very excited about this tournament.

When I explained that I had planned to be for Michigan because of Katherine McWilliams’ blog about how much it meant to Michigan to be in the Big Four with all the mood-depressing unemployment up there, Jeannie reminded me that Freeport had lost a lot of jobs also for several years now—and Willie Veasley was lifting their town’s spirits. So I caved and cheered for Willie. Sam, who was out to the farm to stay with his cousins, remained loyal to Michigan, and I was proud of his fortitude.

Actually, I missed the middle of the game because Gerald came in to announce that our granddaughter Erin was helping with the radio broadcast of Texas A&M softball team which was playing Nebraska up at Lincoln. So I rushed to his office and computer to see game tracker but to hear Erin’s sweet voice and splendid comments. When she went off the air, I hurried back to see Butler win and the Eilers wildly celebrate. If Butler wins tomorrow night, I am not sure I could stand the noise to watch it with the Eilers. But I will be pulling for Willie Veasley.