Sunday, June 27, 2010

Too Hot and Too Busy

There has been a lovely full moon shining in the sky outside our windows this week. Gerald’s garden is growing more beautiful every day. Brian’s soybeans in his new field where our country road turns the corner are a delight to look at. The corn in all the fields around us is higher than the elephant’s eye, and our neighbor Scott harvested the wheat field by our lane this week. We haven’t had anything to eat out of our garden yet, but at church for two Sundays now, there has been a box of sweet yellow squash someone is sharing. I was too late to get any last Sunday, but I picked up the last two in the box today. We keep getting rains, but oh the heat! June has been one of the hottest in the last hundred years, and I stay inside under the air conditioning.

Gerald pretends to come inside more because of the heat, but the truth is that he is hoeing the garden, cutting the phragmites grass beside the lake, working in his shop, or finding something outside to do many more hours than he is inside. Although sometimes he is in the air conditioning of the tractor, his work shirts without a dry spot on them prove he is often in the heat. He has been mowing the creek banks up at the other farm, and the farm looks good. But sometimes he has gotten out of the tractor’s AC to dislodge limbs blocking the flow of the creek. Overall, I think all the outside work is good for him; he is in much better shape than I am. I know very well who he is imitating—my father-in-law didn’t slow down in his 80s either. Yet I like it when Gerald comes in and takes a nap after lunch in his favorite leather recliner and sometimes works with his photography until the evening brings a little cooler air.

When Scott invited us over for lunch next door in his big building (barn, office, kitchen, combine storage—all of these combined), Gerald did take off from his lawn mowing for us to go. Scott’s company was having a field day with people from all over this nation and others to visit their research plots next door and over at Ridgeway. Fans kept the big area where tables were set up very pleasant, and sirloin steak sandwiches with all the fixings were delicious.

I stay too busy, and I cannot even figure out what I have done with a day often times. Partly because everything may take me longer than it used to do. Partly because of many interruptions, I suppose. Then I can’t refocus easily. I have cut out so many things that used to be a part of our daily lives that I should have scads of time to do whatever I please. I let housekeeping standards decline. I don’t talk on the phone as much as I used to do. (Many phone friends have died.)

Yet though I no longer garden or can or even cook very much, now I do write emails and follow friends on Facebook and Red Room. That is where a good many hours are dwindled away. I should not have just used the word “dwindled.” I am investing in following others’ lives through this Internet connection. Obviously, I think it is worthwhile or I would not being using time in this way. Poor Internet service is the greatest time waster—running two rooms away to unplug the computer for a minute or two and then plugging it back in and then returning to my office to try again—sometimes successfully and sometimes not.. Neighbors were by this week talking about a plan to get a new tower in our neighborhood. I hope that happens.

Erin drove up from Georgia Friday morning. She has spent most of the weekend with Johnston City friends since this was her only chance to see them before she leaves for Austria. Toni left this morning for an summer internship in Springfield, and Brooke is leaving tonight. A track coach from junior high, who must be quite a cook, had Erin over with his family—classmates of hers—for supper Friday night and then had the kids come in Saturday for quite a breakfast—pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage—all sounded wonderful.

She is back at Woodsong and napping now to make up for all the late-night gabbing at the sleep-over the girls had at her friend’s house. Although I am not as close to these buddies as I was able to be with my kids’ friends, I care about them and am always glad to hear good news about them. She will see Brooke and other friends tonight before Brooke heads back to Nashville and her two summer jobs.

Sam is off for a week at church camp in Tennessee, and Katherine said he was so excited about a week with his friends and not the least bit sad to leave them. She and David were thoughtful and somewhat somber with the realization that he is indeed growing up and friends are more and more important to him now.

Leslie is working at Barefoot Republic camp in Kentucky this summer, and Elijah is working at Freeport’s popular ice cream place this summer. He had already been to the annual Vacation Bible School in Kentucky with his youth group. Cecelie ran her first 5K with her daddy yesterday.

Trent and Brianna are busy helping their mom and dad, swimming, and enjoying their first litter of kittens now that they are living a rural life. There has already been one band camp for Brianna with an end celebration at their house after the final parade. This week she has a second camp, which will end with participation in a parade next Sunday. Trent’s activities on the computer and with games long surpassed my understanding years ago, and that and building projects in their garage keep him busy.

Gerry and Vickie and their girls are staying staggeringly busy as always with softball—camps, tourneys, practices, giving lessons. If the heat bothers them, they will never let you know it. Gerald likes telling about suggesting to Geri Ann, when she was a little girl, that they turn on the car AC, and she said, “No, Grandpa, I don’t want to get soft.”

Katherine is withstanding the heat that is so difficult for MS patients, and the Tysabri infusions have helped a bit the last two months after a previous time when she thought the benefit had stopped. We are grateful for that and grateful that everyone else seems to be healthy despite the heat and busyness.

I have been busy reviewing materials to present tomorrow night on the Trail of Tears for the Friends of the Crab Orchard Library. I stayed up much too late last night reading again one of the first books I read years ago when I first after retirement started researching the Trail of Tears--Frances Patton Statham’s 1993 novel titled Trail of Tears. I knew I would understand it better now than I did back when I first read it probably a decade ago. It was indeed more fascinating than the first time I read it. The story is so sad that I hesitate to say I enjoyed it, but Statham did a very good job telling the complex story.

She had John Ross and his 13th detachment going by land until reaching Paducah, which is what people thought back then before some very old records were discovered. She was also evidently mislead as so many people have been by the John Burnett letter written on his 90th birthday with his whopper that he watched Quatie Ross die on the trail and be buried there. (She didn’t. She died in harbor at Little Rock and was buried in a cemetery in that city.) Burnett was not even on the Trail of Tears since he was discharged the year before.

Oddly his emotionally appealing letter is all over the Internet despite it falsity. Every year we are learning more accurately the history and location of the places where the Cherokee marched through dust, mud, and snow. Someone said there are literally thousands of documents in the National Archives waiting for someone to have time to study, digest, and disseminate the information contained there.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Yardstick in the Living Room

Usually the living room at Woodsong stays pretty neat since Gerald and I hang out mostly in the family room, kitchen, or our offices. Of course, the living room gets used a great deal when there are family or other gatherings. I read there sometimes, but that does not mess it up.

Right now, however, there is a throw, from my ancestral roots of Bedford County, TN, spread out on the floor. Baby Payton was sleeping there briefly yesterday morning. The wooden train set that I gave Gerald is out from under its home on the bottom of the coffee table Gerry made us in shop class his senior year at Crab Orchard High School.

(I gave Gerald this train bought at a craft show after the little mechanical wind-up train he and Erin once bought me for Mother’s Day had stopped working. That little train played with by the kids over at Pondside Farm and put out under the tree at Christmas was a favorite present of mine. When we moved to Woodsong, I wrote on the box it did not need to be moved since it no longer worked. I noticed Gerald brought it over here anyhow, so I figured that shopping for it with Erin was a favorite memory of his also.)

The yardstick came from the kitchen pantry, where Aidan found it yesterday after he took over my dust mop that I was using to gather up some dusty footprints I’d created on the tile there after I came in from riding with Gerald and Payton on the “mule.” After our ride, Aidan woke up, but he wasn’t ready for breakfast yet. He began his a usual list of activities with Gpa Gerald—playing with the wagon, shovel, and wheelbarrow at the lime pile; riding all the vehicles from lawn mower to big tractor with Gerald; and boat rides on the lake.

Somewhere in here, however, he played in the living room with the train; and once when I came upstairs, the room was empty, but every chair cushion was precisely and neatly taken from its chair and place directly in front of it on the floor. The child in me thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of that neat placement in unexpected places, but the housewife in me put the cushions back on the three chairs facing the center of the room. Later I noticed the cushion for the fourth chair swiveled to face the lake also had its cushion in place on the floor. That cushion, the train set, the yardstick, and the throw are still cluttering the living room. I have had time to straighten, but there’s been a reluctance to wipe away the evidence of our morning visit from Tara and her three sweet sons.

Little Maddux, 18 months, was the last to wake up, and by the time Gerald took him on all the rides and then Maddux joined the breakfast table where people kept eating in shifts and even returning for a second egg as Aidan did, it was after 11 and Tara wanted to get her troops on the road to Aurora and Daddy. So beautiful blond Maddux, who captures everyone’s heartstrings with his quiet manner, left behind no footprints on this part of the planet. We are still talking about Aidan, 4, opening up the doors under the sinks and trying to discover how the plumbing there works. We thought that was either super smart or the result of having a daddy in architecture.

I had thought I would be fixing lunch, but since everyone was still at the breakfast table after 11, I did not urge Tara to stay. I knew she wanted to be home and we all wanted her to get there safely as soon as possible. She and Gerald had come in from the Chattanooga tourney at 2:30 that morning, and Tara promptly had everyone carried in and bedded down. I had stayed up in hopes of seeing them before bedtime, but at l:30, I went on bed. Since we took over Payton once she had nursed him yesterday morning, she got to sleep a little later than she might have otherwise.

Except for the memories and mementoes, life here has resumed to normal although Gerald had lots to tell me about all the Johnston City friends he saw and others he met at the tourney, and I was able to tell him about being taken out for Father’s Day by Mary Ellen and Brian.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Newspapers Aren't Going Away! Gary Metro Said So!

Gary Metro’s assurance that we will have newspapers to hold in our hands at the breakfast table for the foreseeable future was such good news that I thought it deserved its own headline and blog. Metro, editor of our regional The Southern Illinoisan since January 2007, gave a personal look back on the changing newspaper industry and an optimistic prediction for the future at Thursday night’s Southern Illinois Writers Guild meeting.

He pointed out that of the 1400 daily newspapers in the country, only 11% had failed. He said a much higher percentage of super markets fail than that, but we don’t see the media coverage predicting the demise of super markets. His theory was that the newspapers’ competitors in the radio/television industries want a greater slice of the advertising available and, thus, they are quick and noisy to publicize and lament over the dying newspaper trend. He does admit that many cities, such as Chicago with The Tribune in bankruptcy, can no longer keep two newspapers in town, but he doesn’t see the need for competing news in one city. (I’m not sure I completely agree with that, but certainly that’s the way the trend is going and one of the reasons “the dying newspaper industry” is a hot topic right now.)

Enthusiastic about online newspaper publishing, Metro sees the new business model for newspapers as not just a print newspaper but as a media company. He held up a copy of the main paper and also copies of two niche publications—Southern Business Journal and SI Magazine. And then he displayed a book recently published and made available by his newspaper. Web only content is an important part of that model.

He has seen the newspapers’ presence online grow, and he has been a part of that growth making sure something is added to The Southern’s website every hour. Online advertising is a greater source of income for his paper than the print edition. He wants reporters who can do it all—write, photograph, and have competence with the Internet. He foresees newspapers soon providing their news to smart phones. He claims his paper now reaches 75% of this region’s population and thus greatly out does the performance of other media. He knows no one can predict the future with certainty, but he believes newspapers have a bright future.

Metro was first published in his school newspaper at age 7, and he has the clipping his late mother saved to prove it. He wrote for his high school and college papers, but did not think about journalism as a profession until some of his college writing sent off unbeknownst to him by his sponsor received awards.

Graduating in depressed times, no one was hiring at many newspapers. After working in another vocation in his hometown of Rockford while he sent out resumes to papers within a l00 or so mile radius, he finally landed a job in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, south of Milwaukee, at The Northwestern. Like all journalists then, he used a typewriter, and the paper used hot metal typesetting. Later there was photo typesetting and now computerized typesetting. As a journalist, he has seen the constant changes in newspaper going from mechanical age to the digital information age. He held up an early newspaper almost double in width in comparison to our current Southern Illinoisan.

He had worked as editor or managing editor of papers in Racine, Wisconsin; Mason City, Iowa; and more recently at The Times of Northwestern Indiana at Munster. This south side of Chicago paper had eight different editions as well as web only content.

I hope Metro is right that newspapers will successfully adjust just as they did to radio, news films at the movies, television, and now the Internet. And I hope this adjustment includes accurate and thorough reporting by highly educated reporters that have the scientific, economic, and technical knowledge we need to survive in this century.

Friday, June 18, 2010

After Vacation, Scrambling to Catch Up

Traveling is one of my favorite things to do—partly because home always seems so comfortable and refreshing afterwards. Yet the reentry into ordinary life takes some scrambling and emotional readjustment. While I have tried to catch up with laundry, mail, newspapers in the vacation packet, emails, blogs, and now Facebook, Gerald has the lawn and his garden in good shape again. He accomplished a small custom mowing job for couple he mowed for last year, and he has made connections with our good neighbor Scott about whatever those two have to work on together.

Nevertheless, Gerald has still managed to attend two softball tourneys since we have come home. First, the afternoon of the day we got home, he rode with Gerry to St. Louis area. Gerry dropped him off at 2 a.m. or so the next morning. He got to see granddaughter Tara, who was there with the 18-and-under Southern Force, but not her four-year-old Aidan who had decided to stay longer with Gma Vickie and Gpa Gerry down in Georgia. Vickie and Aidan were watching Geri Ann on the Georgia Southern Force team at Birmingham, and Erin was substitute coaching this team for Tara.

Then Wednesday night this week Tara was planning on driving down from Aurora after finishing a softball lesson up there and hoped to arrive at Woodsong at midnight. (Gerald was really scrambling to arrange to go with her since he had thought the tourney at Chattanooga where they were headed did not start until Friday—not Thursday—so he lost a day of prep time.)

I stayed up to 2:30 hoping to help her and the babies inside (who sleep when they travel at night) but mostly just to see those dear faces. Although I knew she probably had gotten a late start and undoubtedly had road construction this time of year between there and here, I briefly started to worry. I debated phoning—but I always think a phone call in the middle of construction driving is not helpful. I knew she would call us if she needed us.

Gerald then woke up and did phone her, and she was only thirty or so minutes away and she was late for the reasons I had surmised. I had lain down on the upstairs couch so I would hear her come in—but when she did, I went on one side of bookcases and she took sleeping Maddux down the stairs on the other and had him soundly settled in the baby bed in just a few minutes. I did get to hold and rock Peyton briefly for Tara, but very quickly they too disappeared to downstairs bedrooms. I did not go to sleep again easily, but I hoped Gerald did since he would be driving when they planned to leave at 5 a.m. I woke briefly to hear their voices as they left, but decided the kindest thing I could do was stay in bed and not break their focus as they hurried to gather up and get on the road again in order to play ball at 1 p.m. yesterday.

The next I knew the phone was ringing at 9 a.m. Tara was driving now. Gerald phoned to say they had unexpectedly decided to take our car since Tara did not have her vehicle loaded with equipment since it was already there. They had hurriedly emptied the car of my jacket and raincoat in the trunk, the bags of empty med bottles I had collected that the free medical clinic has quit recycling and that I offered to a crafter, the cloth carrier full of song books I needed to take to a meeting I was going to have to miss last night, etc. (Gerald hates that I leave things in the car so that I do not forget them, but since usually he drives the pickup and I drive the car, he tolerates my using the car for a storage system.)

On the road, however, they discovered my cell phone was still in the car because that is the only place I use it and not then if I can help it. Knowing I’d be sleeping in, Gerald waited until 9 to phone me. I was glad they had taken the car, especially since he said he had driven for a couple of hours in some of the hardest downpour he’d ever experienced.

I was already running late for the day’s plans. I had an appointment for an archivist in the library at Southern Illinois University Carbondale to look at personal scrapbooks I’d kept during my four college years in the early 1950s just in case Special Collections wanted them for local/social history purposes. (They did.) After a quick breakfast, I made a couple of necessary phone calls, and I found a rolling suitcase to transport the scrapbooks and hoisted them in the back seat of the pickup. I delivered the song books to the proper location in the opposite direction and then headed to Marion.

By this time, I realized that Gerald not only had my phone but the quarters I keep in ash tray and the $l00 bill in the console. I had managed to spend or give away all $170 left over from vacation, and my bill fold was empty. I had a coin purse on vacation with change in it, but I had not thought to find and grab it. Not to worry. I thought I would just stop at the bank site located inside Kroger’s and get some money. By the time I reached there, it was pouring rain and I also gave up my plan to run in and get Stefeny to do something with my permanent-less hair. It would do no good since I’d soon be out in the rain again. I also realized that if I made it to the doctor’s office before the technician’s lunch hour for my one week-late INR, I did not have time to stop anywhere.

I got the INR on the opposite side of town and way past Kroger and there was plenty of time to get to the SIUC library now. I had found a lonely dollar bill in the pocket of the rolling suitcase evidently tucked there in case I wanted a cola or something at a Writers Guild book signing. I was hoping I’d find free guest parking at the library, but if not, I’d run in and get change for that bill. As it continued pouring rain, I was grateful that I’d phoned my friend who usually rides with me to Guild and told her I was not sure I’d go that night—and neither was she since she had an out-of-town med procedure—and I had no phone for us to make last minute plans.

By the time I arrived at Carbondale, it was a different world—a dry one. I had plenty of time and I parked the truck in a 15-minute slot at the library thinking I’d go in and get change for my dollar bill. But although I like driving the truck and being up high enough to feel like king (or queen) or the road, I only drive it two or three times a year and parking that big old thing is not one of my talents. There was one empty visitor space left. Before I got out of the truck, someone swooped in and took that empty spot, put their quarters in and left me without hope. I saw how lopsided I had parked and did not feel I ought to leave the truck like that even for 15 minutes.

Since I had plenty of time, I thought I’d just drive over to the big parking lot by the Student Center; and if I were lucky, I’d find a visitor’s spot with left-over time on the meter. I did—between a tall metal girder on one side and a little blue car on the other. I pulled in—scared to death I’d scratch the truck or hit the sweet little car. I was so lopsided that I was scared to pull out but I safely did after realizing these parking slots were not really for visitors.

I went around, found the visitors’ spots two aisles over next to the street and found a slot without a red “Expired” sign popped up. It was next to the stairs up towards the road beside the Student Center and so very easy to park there. When I got out and looked, the meter seemed to have a full 8 hours left. That did not make sense—why would there not be some time expired if someone had just left it? There was no sack over it as there was one non-functioning meter. Why look a gift meter in the mouth? By now it was later. I lifted the suitcase down and realized I could not go up the steps with it, but walked on up to the other Student Center entrance, where the parking lot had sloping sidewalks for wheelchairs to access the street. It was hot and muggy as is typical after rains in Southern Illinois. I crossed the street and welcomed the air conditioning as I walked straight through the Student Center to the outside trail leading through the woods I love. The trees were still dripping water but my hair was already a mess, so I did not care. Soon I was at the library and in Special Collections.
By this time I had begun to think more about that parking meter. Did the sign there say there was a $75 fine? Would someone charge me that if some campus police could tell it was obvious I had not put any money in that meter. I asked the person I was seeing for an opinion, but he didn’t know. I had even hoped someone would say, “Don’t worry. I’ll be able to fix it if you get in trouble.” Or maybe someone would say: “Let me tell you about secret parking spaces on the other side of our building.” I’ve had both those things said to me before when asked to come to meetings at SIUC, but no one said either yesterday. So I left the scrapbooks, got change for my $1, and walked back on the path now going upward in this direction through the woods to the Student Center and across the street to the parking lot. I really welcomed the air conditioning this time.

Remembering I had parked across from the entrance to the Student Center, I looked for the truck right by the entrance—and it was not there. I was confused. I had not been gone long enough surely for it to be towed as some signs warned. And that visitors’ sign definitely did say there was a $75 fine. I wondered how much it cost to retrieve a vehicle that had been towed. I kept looking for a campus police figuring he would have pity on me when I showed him my quarters and good intentions. None were to be seen. Would this be funny in ten years? I hoped so as it was not then.

A sweet lady pulled into the parking space next to where I thought I had parked. She saw my look of confusion and asked my problem. She felt sure no one would have towed a vehicle that quickly—and she had a phone. Let me call the parking people for you, she offered. I was so grateful and she started dialing. Then I saw our truck way down by the other Student Center entrance that I had not been able to use because of the steps there. And I remembered I had parked there in an identical looking space. I was too relieved to feel embarrassed and thanked my good Samaritan profusely before she had the phone call made that might have embarrassed me.

I gratefully walked down to the truck and looked at the meter—still registering a full 8 hours. It had not moved. Would I get a ticket if I stayed there? No one around to ask, of course. Looking up again at the $75 warning, I moved the truck on down a couple of spaces—most of the visitors’ slots were empty right then. I parked perfectly and put my four quarters in the meter giving me two hours of honest-bought time to go back and use at the Special Collections Center at Morris Library. I walked back through the Student Center and the woods as fast as I could to not waste time. I was drippy by the time I reached the air conditioning of the library but a little smug that I’d had my exercise that day.

The helpful young attendant took my order for the George Washington Smith papers, and I signed the release paper for donating the scrapbooks which the archivist thought had programs and other papers not likely to be available elsewhere. I grabbed a pencil and went to work on the Smith material that would take weeks to review if I really examined them. I mostly wanted to work with Smith’s 1930s research on the Trail of Tears, and I barely glanced through a small portion of those materials when I ran out of time. Maybe someday I will have an entire day to go back with plenty of quarters for 8 hours and spend the day with Smith.

I quit in time to enjoy the leisurely walk back through the woods and not risk getting a ticket if my four quarters had been used up and that nasty red “Expired” sign showed up. I did not doubt if that happened, a parking lot attendant would appear at that precise moment. By the time I left Carbondale, it was 4 p.m., and the weather was perfectly clear. There had not been the road construction as I had feared when I left home; and with no rain, I decided to attend the Writers Guild meeting at John A. Logan College because I really wanted to see and hear Gary Metro, editor of the Southern Illinoisan who was speaking. I knew parking at night at John A. would not be a problem. I could read in the library until our 7 p.m. meeting.

I was tired and realized I was hungry, and I had no money. Who would take a credit card? I assumed Golden Coral would although Gerald has always paid when we went there a couple of years ago and I doubted if he used a card I found several empty places on the far side of their lot, and parked the truck expertly—hey I am getting good. It was four-thirty. If a combined breakfast and lunch is called “brunch,” I wondered if a combined lunch and supper should be called “lupper.”

Of course, they took my card. I looked forward to sitting to rest, enjoy people watching, and enjoy the ice water and coffee as much as the food. Over twenty years ago when Jeannie was at Eastern, I sometimes deliberately stopped alone for a meal after I’d taken her up to school and I remembered thinking that it was good for a woman to learn to dine comfortably alone since she might someday have to do so. That is more true today than then.

There were interesting people to observe and make up possible stories about. Some happy stories. Some sad. Couples who had lots to say to each other. Others who ate silently. A couple with a child of a different race who could not possibly be their biological child. How sad was his life before he joined them? Was his story happy now?

There was an elderly couple with an adult son, who did not look retarded but acted so. The mother smiled and even laughed once at his conversation with much flailing of hands. I was grateful she could still enjoy him, but knew this was not the end-of-life time she had envisioned for herself and her husband when this baby boy was born. Her neatly dressed husband whose coloring reminded me physically of my brother, sat silently throughout their dinner time going to the various buffet areas for food, which he seemed to eat sparingly but quite competently. Yet from a blank look on his face, I felt he might not ever be available for conversation any more with this wife and son. I wanted to scream to this woman: You are a hero. You are looking after the ones you love when there probably are few rewards other than knowing you are doing the right thing.

Most of us were dressed in light-weight clothing, lots of jeans and tees, several in shorts. Only one woman in a formal jacket over her blouse. One very tall professional man had on the only suit--a black suit with blue shirt but no tie thankfully. A large percentage of us were obese. One very tall slender attractive young woman was as tall as the extremely tall man who happened to be beside her at the buffet. Her hair on top of her head made her two inches taller, and I was glad she did not worry about her height as girls used to do in the old days. There was a cute very young teen who had liquid of some kind dripping off her plate, and she carefully avoided it with her flip-flops as she realized it. I was glad her look of embarrassment did not last long. Several people had cell phones and had pleasant looks as they perused text messages. No phones rang nor annoyed. I did overhear a phone caller ending the call with “Love you too.” Felt good.

The two sixty-looking men nearest me were the only ones I could hear conversing and the only thing I heard was the name of Bobby Fischer and the word “chess.” One had short hair and was slender and smiley. One with a pony tail was extremely heavy and awkward looking because of that.

There was a young teen boy with a brimmed hat on, and an attitude to go with it—a good attitude I could tell. I wished I knew him. Another young teen was was sitting with what I surmised were his great grandparents. I saw several grandparents with a child. One young woman was dining with two adorable preschoolers. One family with the mother looking stressed, her somewhat older husband happily carrying and caring for their preschooler as he went down the buffet line while the mother took care of her mother, I assumed, who was with them. My only unpleasantness was the realization that I did not have anything to leave on the table for April, the very attentive employee who served our area handing out hot bread and who kept our coffee cups full. If I ever go back and I probably won’t, I’ll tip her double. Hopefully others tipped her well.

Rested and no longer hungry or thirsty, I went on to John A. Logan and hurried down to the library to browse in the genealogy room only to find it closed at 6 p.m. this summer. But the genial librarian there renewed my community borrower’s card and let me check out two books quickly so I had entertainment while I waited for our meeting to start.

I drove home without incident and stopped at the end of the lane for our mail and retrieved the wet newspaper I had not thought about in the morning since Gerald always walks down and gets it for us. I spread the paper out to dry, checked the email, dressed for bed where I saw the coin purse lying on my bathroom counter, and went quickly to bed and soundly to sleep. It had a silly kind of day but overall a good one.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Our Amarillo Holiday

Approaching Amarillo, we passed the numerous signs challenging us to eat a 72 oz. steak to get it free. We arrived in Amarillo early Monday afternoon and checked into our motel. Then we hurried to visit my sister Rosemary and husband Phil, whom we had not seen for a year.

(If you accept the Big Texan steak challenge, you have to pay $72 up front and then get a refund if you can consume within an hour the steak and the large meal that goes with it. Supposedly 8,000 out of 48,000 big eaters have done so and had their name put on the wall.)

I have no desire to eat such a steak nor to observe the participant trying--on a raised platform no less. Besides my sister Rosemary and husband Phil are such good cooks that we’d be silly to eat elsewhere. Rosie had a roast in a slow cooker all afternoon giving forth great aroma, and it looked wonderful smothered with gravy sauce on the platter at dinner and it tasted divine. So did everything else. As he does most nights, their grandson Shiloh joined us at the dinner table on his way home from work.

Rosie and I spent the afternoon talking as fast as we could to catch up on family news, and we looked at each other’s family photos. Their local daughters, Gloria and Candy, dropped in and out and their daughter Cyndi phoned to invite us down to Hereford the next night for dinner. Son-in-law Herman did not make it the first night, but he made a point to come after work on Wednesday night. Gloria’s granddaughter Allie Jean, one-year-old, was the highlight Monday and Tuesday night, but we also appreciated seeing Allie’s parents Jennifer and Trevor. Adorable Allie, a blond replica of Jennifer, showered us with kisses as she bid us goodbye each night.

Rosie does Tai Chi every Tuesday and Thursday morning, and I have gone with her sometimes, but this year I rested at the motel before our Tuesday afternoon visit preceding our trip down to Hereford.

Going to Hereford also means visiting The Gift Garden. Merle Norman Cosmetics and the gift shop at 220 Main Street is the three-generation establishment of Rosie, Cyndi, and Cyndi’s daughter Heather. We arrived shortly before closing time on Tuesday, and that was Gloria’s weekly day to be working there. They had recently redone the front entrance with a new sharp looking red awning and a painted-rock design Cyndi and Heather did on the sidewalk leading to their front door—with the city’s permission.

The inside was also completely rearranged and different than last year. Cyndi is an artist, and it shows at the store. Heather, our beautiful red head, is dramatic by nature, and that also shows. One of the most beautiful displays was Jennifer’s original crafts. Jenn has started Allie Jean Creations featuring pretty hair bows, tiny flip flops with exchangeable bows, lovely streamers for decorating hospital rooms for baby’s arrival, and fancy diaper “cakes” for gifts or for refreshment tables at baby showers. I loved looking, but such frilliness isn’t needed by our three great grandsons.

We didn’t have much time to shop, yet I hurriedly found some unique greeting cards and came away with a new supply. In earlier years, Rosie would bring down Thursday lunch for the family at noon and serve it in the back room. I got in on that once. She had to give up the tradition a couple years ago when she broke her ankle and started Tai Chi to recover, but she still does the store’s bookkeeping.

From there we traveled over to Cyndi and Jerry’s house, for all the yummy food Cyndi had prepared. We saw their major front lawn landscaping that they are doing, and we toured Cyndi’s back yard, which is one of her best artistic projects. We enjoyed the terrapins there. Inside was Sunny, the strikingly colorful parakeet. We heard Cyndi take a phone call from their younger daughter Tori, who with her husband Randy live in Oklahoma. Tori is almost through veterinarian school, and she was telling her mother about a diagnosis she had made. (Tori is my great niece who had her photo taken with tigers one summer when she worked with them.) Heather and Kelly and their four beautiful children were invited too to visit with their Illinois kin folk, and as always we got hugs coming and going from not just the grown ups but from Bret, Austin Philip, Cayson, and Autumn Rose.

Despite rain threatening, Austin put on his ball uniform and prepared to pitch at their 8:30 game. Since earlier games had been cancelled by weather, they were glad when this one was not called off—but Heather was hoping the needed rain would come after everyone got back home. It didn’t, but went south. Jerry had been called out the night before to repair lines, so I am sure he was grateful lights kept burning. We visited on the trip back to Amarillo and for awhile at Rose and Phil’s house before we left to turn in.

On Wednesday, Gerald took me over for an afternoon visit while Phil had an INR appointment and Gerald went to a favorite tool store and stocked up. We had really planned to go to down to Gloria’s and also phone granddaughter Tosha that we were coming to see the redecorating at her house. Then we realized the men had the cars. Candy was coming over and was delayed by an expected phone call, so Rosie and I were able to spend more talking time together. And that was good.

Phil had grilled barbecued chicken breasts to go with Rosie’s prepared dishes, and we sat down early to supper since Rosemary plays organ at the 6:30 evening church service on Wednesdays. Again we were able to visit with Shiloh, and I washed a few dishes before Rosie and I left for church. Doing the dishes is Phil’s usual contribution on Wednesday nights, so he finished.

Once a larger congregation, Grand Avenue Baptist Church has decreased as the neighborhood has changed. With many Catholic Hispanics and Asians moving in, the one-time building of a Lutheran congregation is now a beautiful fenced well attended Catholic Church. I have visited Rose and Phil’s church infrequently but enough that Rosie’s friends greeted me by name. After a shared time of prayer for stated needs, their interim pastor gave the best Bible study I have ever heard on one sentence of Jesus’ model prayer: Give us this day our daily bread.

Already feeling blessed by the service, I heard a man’s voice in the back ask to say a few words. He had come in late and not been noticed. The interim pastor readily assented, and the visitor stood and told his name and his story. He was in Amarillo from Virginia for the first time in 40 years for his 40th high school reunion. He had only been in this church once before, he said, and that was over 40 years ago at the funeral of his cousin who was killed in Viet Nam.

After that funeral sermon, his uncle had stepped out and he followed him down the aisle and heard the pastor saying, “Would you like to be forgiven for your sins?” He said he knew he had been bad, and he answered yes. In that after-service, he accepted Christ as his Savior and said it was the happiest day of his life. Soon he finished high school, his parents moved to another state, and he went away to college.

He met a young woman who was also a Christian and they were married. He said he had never been in church in his life, so his wife had to teach him all the Bible stories that children learn in Sunday School. He found out who Moses was. They had three sons, and he said two are now pastors. As he went by the church that night, he just felt he should come in and thank the congregation for what they had meant in his life.

People clustered around him welcoming him after the service, and he picked out the photo on the hall wall of the pastor who had been there 40 years before. “He had the kindest eyes,” he commented. Someone asked who his cousin was, and suddenly everyone was talking excitedly about this family (now passed on) that they had all shared heart break with at the youthful death of this son.

As we came out of the building, we saw the youth in the parking lot from their upstairs gathering. Rosie’s great granddaughter Desi was with them. We got to take her home and see Tosha’s house after all. And her husband Jeremy and son Eric—the little gregarious redheaded five-year-old that Rosie and Phil are privileged to take to Sunday School each week. Oh, and Tosha’s beautiful cats.
She did not know we were coming, but she had made a cake. A very special chocolate cake she had wanted to try, so she made herself an early birthday cake. She pulled it from the fridge and insisted we must take almost half of it home with us. It had chocolate pudding between the layers and whipped topping with maraschino cherries garnishing the top and looked luscious. (It was.)

By the time we got home, Herman and Gloria, Jenn and Trevor, and Allie Jean had dropped in to say goodbye to us, so Rosie sent home some of the cake with them and we still had plenty for the four of us. We planned to leave the motel early Thursday morning, so we were saying our farewells that night.

It was Rose and Phil’s 6lst wedding anniversary. On their 50th and last year’s diamond anniversary, their daughters did as much celebrating as Rose and Phil would allow. Rose and Phil aren’t big on anything that might be mildly ostentatious or that would call attention to themselves. Having kids, grandkids, and great grandkids constantly dropping in and phoning is their daily celebration of life.

They married knowing they would have to adopt to have a family, which was not easy with college and draft duty to complete before they could acquire the house and financial status that was required by adoption agencies in those days. Since older children were less likely to be adopted than infants, they decided to adopt older children. Eventually there were four girls raised in their home. The cake that Tosha sent home with us was especially heartwarming because she is the daughter of their late daughter Trudi, whom we lost in January 2002 to lymphoma. We didn’t get to see Trudi’s sons—Tydel and Philip Todd—on this trip. (Todd will soon be on his third deployment to Iraq.) With eight grandchildren and fifteen great grandchildren, Rose and Phil know their 61 years together has produced a fine heritage.

By 5:30 the next morning, we were on the outskirts of Amarillo heading home to Woodsong.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Home Again

Since leaving Woodsong on Wednesday, June 2, we have seen rice fields in Southeast Missouri, continued road construction in the beautiful Ozark mountains, rolling hills with cattle feasting in Oklahoma, lots of softball games at the Hall of Fame Stadium, windmill farms as we left Oklahoma, sparse short trees and shrubs on flat lands in Texas, and many friends and relatives including the new friends we made at the Women’s College Softball World Series.

Thrilled that University of Georgia women’s softball team had made it to the elite group of eight World Series teams, we packed hastily as Mary Ellen bought us tickets on craigslist, and we scurried to leave things at home in as good a shape as possible. We had time to stop and see Gerald’s first college roommate Harold Smith and wife Jo in Springfield, Missouri.

Harold is actually a third or fourth cousin, but his family lived “up the creek” from Gerald’s family, and my mother-in-law considered Harold’s mother her role model and dear friend. When Harold came home from two years in the military and Gerald had not liked the summer after high school on the floor of the Caterpillar plant in Peoria enough to hang around to get in their engineering program, the two young men rented a room together at Carbondale for a three-month term. Then Gerald was lured back to the farm to help his dad, who had rented more acres in the Mississippi bottoms.

Harold stayed, went on to college at Shurtleff awhile, and back to Southern Illinois University Carbondale for his degree. Then on to seminary and the pastorate. And eventually graduate school for a PhD in counseling to help with his ministry. Jo became a kindergarten teacher even as she mothered their two children.

After a longer visit than we intended and Gerald had inspected Harold’s big backyard garden, we stopped for supper and then went to visit our good friends Myron and Marjorie Dillow in the Baptist Retirement Center in nearby Ozark on the outskirts of Springfield.

Margie was smiley and looked lovely despite her long-time multiple sclerosis and two serious surgeries that had her in nursing care there until she was well enough for them to move into their own unit. Myron too had surgery followed by a serious back injury caused by an off-road driver suddenly pulling on the road to broadside and wreck their van (needed for Margie’s transportation). The injury continues to cause difficulties in his activities, but he continues to write, and he has strawberries and other goodies in the coop garden across the street even though a friend had to pick the strawberries this year.

Needing to go further towards Oklahoma, we didn’t accept the Dillows’ invitation to spend the night. Gerald told them we’d stop again on our way home. We did and now we have Myron’s two latest history books on a school and a community church out in Pitkin in the Colorado mountains, where they went for years for cooler summers for Margie.

We arrived that night at a motel in Joplin just as guests were being directed to the back of the building because of a tornado warning. We sat in the car in a downpour listening to the radio until the warning was lifted and the rain slowed enough for us to hurry in for the night’s rest.
We were in Oklahoma City in time to pick up our tickets that had been sent to our friends John and Mary Patterson’s home, check out our room in the motel, and our seats in the stadium. It was hot but we were under the roof, so it was tolerable. We enjoyed getting acquainted with those in nearby seats.

On our left, was a mother and daughter and adorable 13-month-old Cameron from Casey, Illinois, where the daughter Angela Ashley had played for Coach Thornburg and Olivet College, and then later taught and coached in the Casey middle school. Nancy Darling, the mother, had once worked for Schwan’s and traveled regularly in our end of the state. She now has a second home in Arizona, and these folks are avid Arizona fans but helped us cheer for Georgia.

On our right was John Dorman, an extremely knowledgeable softball fan, and his granddaughter Carley from Orange, Texas, and he soon knew everyone in sight. During the weekend, he was joined by his sister Donna Scales and his niece Jackie, also a school coach. They too kindly became Georgia fans, and we hope to meet up with them at the 2011 World Series.

There were other drop-in visitors in seats around us that were sometimes unoccupied by the ticket holders, and we all played, “Do you know?” and often found connections, such as the young woman who had played for Gerry’s Southern Force.

Our first game was Thursday night, and we faced top-seeded Washington, returning 2009 champions. We had defeated them a year ago one out of two games and that gave our team confidence. We did so again and went to bed that night delighted that we had put Washington in the losers’ bracket. (Actually it was more like 2 a.m. when we were able to reach the motel and settle to sleep. But the sleep was sound and sweet with the first victory behind us.) That meant we did not play again until Friday night.

Friday night put us in the losers’ bracket when Tennessee, also of the Southeastern Conference, beat us 7-5. After we had Saturday lunch with Gerry, Gerald went to the day games in the l00 degree heat, while I elected to visit the air-conditioned archives at the Research Center at Oklahoma History Center.

Locked away with only pencils to write with and wearing white cloth gloves, I made a good many copies of documents I had never seen before on the Trail of Tears. Actually this was copies of copies of the original documents, but I still had a very good time, and the librarians there were kind beyond measure to me. The Center closed before Gerald was able to come from the games and pick me up, and one of the workers saw me in the outside garden area and stopped to make sure I had a ride. I did not doubt that she would have taken me to our motel had I needed her to do so!

Saturday night we played Florida, another SEC team, whom we were very pleased to defeat 3-2.
The win over Florida put us in the semifinals for the second year in a row. Undefeated UCLA, wearing black wrist bands in honor of John Wooden who had died at age 99 on Friday, beat us 5-2. Since that was our second loss, that ended Georgia’s tourney participation. Had we won, we would have had to play UCLA a second time that evening to eliminate them with two defeats.

Meanwhile in Georgia, Tara was coaching the 16-and-under Southern Force in a weekend tournament and Geri Ann was playing. Vickie, Erin, Mary Ellen, and Brianna were there to cheer them and to enjoy taking care of Tara’s three boys. If we had gone into the finals, they hoped to drive out for the Monday night game. With Georgia’s loss, that plan had to be abandoned.

Gerald and I drove down to Bricktown after the game and had Sunday supper with Gerry and told him goodbye. The Georgia Bulldogs flew back on Monday morning to Athens. We left after a leisurely breakfast heading for my sister’s in Amarillo.

UCLA went on to quickly defeat Arizona two games in a row on Monday and Tuesday nights making Wednesday’s game unnecessary.   These two teams combined have won 18 championships our of 29, I think someone said.  It is time for a SEC championship