Thursday, December 30, 2010

Between the Holidays

The snowman the kids built on the deck has melted away along with all the snow on the hillsides where the sledding took place. But the photographs and the memories still exist.
The Christmas tree lights are shining brightly, and I will continue to feast my eyes on them until after New Year’s Day. Christmas cards continue to dribble in, and I have more time to enjoy them than I did the earlier more numerous daily offerings.

Tired of left overs, tonight I fried the quail Gerry had put in our freezer some months back. With a can of biscuits along with quail gravy, supper was a success when Gerald got back from Cape where he had been shopping for a new front door.

Earlier he had taken his latest version of a wheelchair footrest pad to Katherine’s house and replaced the pre-Christmas one. I had not realized it was the new pad itself that prevented the footrest from being turned up when needed. (I thought the new leg pad prevented that and was, thus, left off.) The pre-Christmas one was definitely an improvement with air bubbles in the middle so Kate could not feel the metal edges with her feet. She had bragged so on the improvement on Christmas Day about the first one that I thought it was just the behind-her-legs pad that had yet to be improved.

But the material on the one Gerald finished today is made of a smoother material and had some feature to allow the footrest to be turned up as it is supposed to be when needed. Now he is going to make the pad behind her legs of the same smooth material. David and Gerald have both made pads in the past and tried various wrappings; and although they helped at the time, they would eventually wear out and the problem remained.

Multiple sclerosis makes every touch and every movement felt much more intensely and painfully than sensations feel for those of us who still have myelin protecting our nerves. A too hard touch or a heavy hand on a swollen ankle can cause harsh pain. A too gentle touch can cause a tickle that is maddening to the patient—and that can sometimes be helped by rubbing hard on the tickle. Pain is invisible and so is hard for the rest of us to even begin to fathom.

I don’t dare try to fathom it. In order to function, I have to not allow myself to empathize too much with that pain, but leg spasms are not invisible, and there is no ignoring them. Learning to break up a spasm is a challenging task since what works one time does not necessarily work the next time. The stiffness that can come in just a second is almost incredible even though you are witnessing it. Katherine had a Tysabri infusion at the hospital yesterday, so we are hoping she will in better shape by tomorrow. The day after the infusion is usually needed for rest. Katherine is my hero for the way she endures this imprisoning disease as cheerfully as she does.

We are following our kids’ and grandkids’ between-holidays activities with the comments and photos they put on Facebook. Soon the ones who traveled south will be coming back by the farm on their way home to work and their 2011 responsibilities. And later Leslie in northern Illinois will be coming south to return to her Tennessee campus.

Like the rest of the nation, I feel very bad for those who spent their holidays locked into airports without many comforts and missing out on their planned family visits and festivities. I feel concern for those still living and struggling on unplowed streets. I hope the sheer danger and difficulty they have lived through gives them the needed adrenaline and that the challenges give them the grit to recover and face the new year even stronger despite the terrible holiday disappointments.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Quiet After the Storm

The house almost seems spooky quiet when the last of the families leave after a holiday season. Gerald took off soon after the Archibald family and Gerry and Vickie and Geri Ann left to stop by a few minutes at Gma Shirley’s on down the road to say goodbye before they all drive on to Georgia.

Brian is on vacation this week, so after celebrating with his family up north, the Archibalds left Aurora early Sunday morning and arrived at noon in the village of Cambria at Erin’s new rented place for her first holiday hosting. Gerald and I were invited over, but it was good for their family to have some together time with less competition to hold those three little boys.
So Sam, Gerald, and I had lunch together here at Woodsong after church before Sam and I headed back to his house for my Sunday afternoon visit with Katherine. I hope Gerald got a nap in after we left, because later in the afternoon the Glasco-Archibald group came back for more sledding on one of the hillsides here. On Christmas Day after our afternoon dinner, everyone had done the same--except for Erin, Katherine, and I. We preferred to watch the snow falling outside the window while we visited. The sledders could imagine how much fun those little guys were going to have sledding when they arrived, and the photographs proved them correct.

Aidan and Maddux both throw themselves into any activity with laughing gusto, and Maddux was delighted to have a new ride to add to all the “tractor” rides that Gpa Gerald provides. It was amazing how much Maddux’s vocabulary had grown since he was here at Thanksgiving. Maybe having that second birthday did it for him. Baby Payton was crawling on all fours since the last visit rather than “swimming” as he did before. He isn’t talking yet at nine months, but he jabbers happily and smiles most of the time. I think he is understanding most of what is being said to him.

The Archibalds didn’t open our presents until this morning, and it was satisfying to see how much Aidan and Maddux liked the inexpensive tiny shiny little lock boxes and little lamps we gave them. I remember writing in a journal a couple decades ago how much their mother Tara appreciated gifts and never grew blasé despite our concern that she may have had too many toys, just as most kids do since the Great Depression ended.

With so many living grandparents—something many of us never had—it seems almost impossible to keep toys held down to a reasonable amount. But I notice modern parents are good to pass on outgrown toys these days. My own dolls and toys and my children’s toys were scarce enough that they were usually too worn out to pass on.

When I used to visit parents in housing projects, I always saw plenty of toys inside and out of the homes. I know there are plenty of American children who may not get many toys for Christmas; but with the help of angel trees and the work of various groups that collect toys. it is usually possible for diligent parents (if not too sick to ask for toys for their children) to provide some presents under their trees. And toys need not be expensive for children to learn from them and have fun with them. The play with the boxes the toys come in always proves that. The bath toys at our house are all collected plastic odds and ends, and I have been pleasantly surprised at how much the kids enjoy them.

Gerald was heading to get his truck serviced since the manager said it was a slow day at the shop, and then he was going to explore Calico Country for materials. He spent a lot of thought and energy before Christmas trying to figure out how to alleviate some of the pain-causing footrest problems that Katherine’s chair has. His research and development efforts did pay off on the footrest itself, but the pad behind her legs did not work out. So he is determined to keep trying to solve this.

Erin gave me two new books for Christmas, so while the house is quiet, I think I will go enjoy.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Perfect Moments

Our youngest daughter, Mary Ellen, wrote something on Facebook that has really helped me this season: "There's no such thing as a 'perfect life,' but there are such things as 'perfect moments.' And I appreciate each and every one of them!" I asked her on the phone if she created this thought, and she said no she had heard it several times. I had not heard it nor thought it through on my own before. And I thought it so profound that I am going to share it with you.

Mary Ellen and her family are soon going to be driving down for supper and to spend the night and tomorow here before they leave for Florida on Sunday to go see Brian's mother. She brought three wonderful casseroles for Thanksgiving Eve supper, so I would not have to cook two days in a row. Although they were delicious, we were unable to half finish them. So I froze them. We will be having them tonight again when the Taylors get here. I am looking forward to them. So I am not having to think about cooking. Gerry and Vickie have been here since Tuesday, but they are eating with the Johnson Clan tonight, and David and Katherine and Sam are celebrating with the Cedar family. Our family Christmas dinner will be tomorrow. We will all be together except for Jeannie's family and grandaughter Tara's family both in northern Illinois. Jeannie's Leslie keeps us updated with remarks and photos on Facebook, so it is almost like having them around. I am enjoying sharing their holiday. I wish they were here--but I am glad they are having time to enjoy one another without that terrible drive down.

I can't believe I am having time to blog on Christmas Eve. Every time I have thought this fall I might be caught up, something happened. Thjs week I lost a day because I woke up with itching wrists one morning. Cream for another purpose stopped the itch--but when I went to bed late that night, I had whelps and rash all over me from the neck down. Some kind of allergic reaction--maybe from the face moisturizer I had applied to Katherine the day before. A predisone shot, and lots of meds, which I will be taking for days yet, got the situation in check pretty quickly. I was so grateful I did not have shingles since the rash circled my waist. I felt free as a bird when I left the doctor's office--one of those "perfect moments" to appreciate. Katherine had shingles recently and I had been so smug that because I had paid $200 for a shot a couple years ago I did not catch them. Then I thought my pride had brought my fall--and what was I going to do with all these loved ones--including the babies coming to our house during Chirstmas??? So I was really filled with gratitude and appreciated just having an allergic reaction. Funny how I appreciated my good health more after being covered with a rash than I would have if I had not had anything wrong.

If you are still Christmas shopping, let me share another Facebook quote that Tammy Morris Waters, a Southern Illinois writer, shared: Reposting this wonderful quote I just read: "Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect."
~ Oren Arnold

Tammy posted an article on and it is an important one on bullying. Let me share it if I can. (I do not do well with figuring out how to do things mechanical. I almost never figured out how to start the windshield wiper on our new car this morning. I tried and tried to no avail. I stayed in the parking lot and got out the book--and it made no sense. Right before I panicked, I pushed the lever the right way. I long for the days when engineers were smart enough to use simple instructions like "off" and "on" and not confusing symbols. These new engineers are evidently not as competent as the ones a few decades ago. Ah well.

Here is Tammy's article, I hope: Is There Life After Bullying? - Associated Content from Yahoo! -

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Everyone!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Almost Christmas and Rosemary's Birthday

Cards are all sent, both trees are aglow, all the decorations I plan to put up are up, but the pies still aren’t made. I cannot find the pumpkin pulp in either freezer. I know it is there, but we had so many left-overs from Thanksgiving that somehow I have covered up the pumpkin. I may have to buy canned pumpkin when I go to town tomorrow. I did make one pan full of bar cookies today—the first cookies I have made since I made some for the Women’s Club at the first of the month.

Erin had flown down to Georgia this weekend to help her dad and Geri Ann in a softball camp, and she and Geri Ann drove up last night in Geri Ann’s car. (Erin’s car and dog Sadie were here at the farm.) It was almost 2 a.m. when they arrived here this morning, so we were glad to find them sleeping here when we woke up this morning. Erin had to go to work, so she and Sadie were off fairly early although she did delay a bit after Gerald told her he wanted to wash the salt off her car when he used the high-pressure washer on his truck.

Geri Ann had a well-deserved opportunity to sleep in before she took off to have lunch with her friend C.C. and to go to her cousin Drew’s away game tonight and then on to Crainville to spend the night with Erin at Erin’s house.

When I sat down to blog awhile ago before midnight, I realized as I had early this morning that today is my sister’s birthday and I had not phoned her yet! I knew her card would not have reached her yet in far-off Amarillo, because when I got ready to send it last week, I could not find it. I had bought a special card weeks ago, and it has been on top of the dining room buffet waiting.

Alas, it had disappeared when I was ready to mail it. (I found it today when I put up the last of the Christmas cards off the dining room table. It has been covered up so well that even though I looked there, I did not see it.) So I sent her a substitute non-birthday card I had saved for her in the distant past because of the roses on the front. (Her name is Rosemary, and we usually call her Rose or Rosie.) The envelope for this substitute card was missing, but I found a substitute envelope that worked even though not perfectly. But this was a few days after I intended to mail her card. Since I still haven’t mailed her little birthday gift, I will just enclose the real birthday card with that.

With all this forgetfulness going on, I did not want to also neglect the usual birthday phone call. Fortunately, Rose and her husband Phil are night owls and don’t go to bed until 1 a.m. or so. So I am just not back to blogging after a good birthday talk with my sister.

I learned all the latest news of their very large and complicated extended family created by their adopting four daughters long ago. Philip Todd is still in Iraq (again—many times), and his wife Jennifer and son Philip Ray had come down from Colorado Springs for a pre-Christmas visit in Amarillo before she goes back to spend Christmas Eve with her mother. They were at Rosie and Phil’s most recent weekly Friday night supper for all the gang who wants to come. Shiloh had brought his date and introduced her to the family that night. Katelynn, Ty’s daughter by his first marriage, was in town to visit with her Gpa Herman and Gloria, so she was there with them. And on and on.

It is always fun to hear about all their great grandkids who love to play together at Phil and Rosie’s—just as their parents used to do. Rosemary said today she had practiced saying, “I am 85,” but it still seemed unreal to her. It is unreal to me too since she goes to Tai Chi twice a week, teaches at an after-school Good News Club once a week, plays the organ every Sunday and Wednesday at church, and on and on.

Rosie has always been my mentor and inspiration, and she continues to set a standard I will never live up to. She was eight when I was born, so she loved lugging me around, our mother told me. When I was in grade school, she was off to college, but came home on the weekends and led our children’s group at church on Sunday nights, and she was always giving us parties at our house. When I was in high school, she was still my confidant and gave me good advice. Sometimes in my journals, I have called her my mother-sister because she has always been there for me.

I am glad Phil cooked her a special breakfast this morning of two strips of bacon and egg, toast, apple butter and coffee—all prepared just the way she likes them. She needed that substantial breakfast for energy to enjoy all the cards, visits, and phone calls that kept her busy all day continuing through my near-midnight call.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Weather Outside is Frightful

High winds after a Sunday of falling snow caused schools in our area to be called off today. Our pastor said yesterday that he wondered about calling off morning services, but he was glad he didn’t since most people made it. The director of our children and youth program yesterday afternoon wrote on Facebook that the crowd was bigger than usual, so the decisions not to cancel were correct. It is always difficult to know.

Gerald took me in the pickup into Marion to see the Cedars yesterday afternoon, and it was slick getting in and out of their house just as it had been at church. (But our pastor was out helping us safely inside at church, and Gerald did the same for me at the Cedars.)

It was exciting to open the Southern Illinoisan yesterday and see a front-page story and photograph of Hua-Ling Hu holding her new book The Undaunted Women of Nanking. When this busy season is over, I am going to settle down and concentrate on these diaries of this Illinois missionary and her Chinese assistant as they worked together with grit and pure moral courage and saved the lives of many women and children in Nanking. This new book with their translated diaries is available through the University Press at Southern Illinois University, Barnes and Noble, and, of course,

I stayed inside today and enjoyed looking out the windows at the beauty there while I felt snug and cozy. Despite the cold, actually the roads were better today than yesterday. (Our driveway had drifted last night but snow was blown the rest of the way off by this morning,)

Granddaughter Erin said she had no problems on our roads when she came over to pick up her dog Sadie. Gerald has been dog sitting while she went to the coaches’ convention at San Diego. Since Sadie would ride with him or walk with him to the mailbox, Gerald grew fond of her. Although Sadie is a house dog at Erin’s, she was seemingly quite content to sleep in Gerald’s shop, and she absolutely loved playing in the snow and running around the farm.

I had the downstairs tree in the family room decorated last week, and Saturday night Gerald put together the new pre-lit tree for the upstairs living room that we bought that day at Paducah. I had replaced the downstairs tree with a pre-lit one last year and was determined to do the same upstairs this year. The stores were already out of some of the advertised trees. (Erin got the old tree with its strings of lights for her house.)

Today while I listened to the music of Susan Boyle, I put the ornaments and the roses on the new tree. I set up the manager scene the Taylors gave us one year, and put batteries in the clock that plays carols that the neighbors gave us in 2003. I have wreaths on three doors and a couple more to go. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get the rest of the decorations out of the big boxes sitting in the guest room and place them. Most are gifts from previous years and so they carry memories.

Gerald put the first batch of cards in the mail for me today when he went to a doctor’s appointment. But that annual correspondence project has just barely been started. The dining room table is awash with envelopes, stamps, et cetera, and it will probably stay that way for awhile. It does every year. And sometimes I finish up the job after Christmas. When cards have come back because of wrong addresses, I have sent them out with another catch-up note in July.

I had hoped to start baking and freezing the Christmas pies this week. We’ll see. I’ll be going to town tomorrow. Sam has a mid-day orthodontist appointment, and I need to buy some Christmas cards and more stamps. So pie making may not start until Wednesday—if even then. I learned a long time ago that what I want to do but don’t get done will not really matter on Christmas Day.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Once Again

Once again, Dear Abby printed a letter accusing those of us who write annual Christmas letters of being egotistical, boring, etc. One part of her advice was on target, however: Just toss them if you don’t like them. If you are a decent friend, you will not pick apart a friend’s efforts and make fun of them behind their backs or to their face.

I always get tickled that Abby, who presumes she has wise answer for multiple problems of other people, thinks it is egotistical for someone else to share news about his/her family. Ah well. I am glad for the advice columnists, but I am also very grateful for those who love me enough to share the news about themselves that I am longing to know.

I understand that some people do not have the time, energy, nor desire to share their lives with others and simply send greetings. I appreciate those lovely cards and the thoughts and efforts behind them. But even more, I love the cards that include a letter telling me what is going on in their lives and news about their children and people I care about. These letters keep me connected and aware of what is happening in others’ lives. I like to read them when they come in and re-read them on New Year’s Eve and maybe once or twice during the year as I think about those people and their families.

Although there are years when I have felt I needed to share sadnesses and troubles and have done so, I usually try to write only about the good things in our lives. That is what I also usually do in my blog posts. Some people consider that bragging. That is ok with me. I feel it is merely appreciating and sharing the blessings that come our way. I know it is better for my mental health to concentrate on the good things even as I struggle with many many problems and heart aches.

I have never wanted folks to think that our life on the farm was idyllic and free of strain and grief. I also know that sharing struggles often helps people too, so sometimes I am even generous enough to share the bad things of my life. The Bible says we need to rejoice with those that do rejoice and to weep with those who weep. Christmas letters are one way to allow people to do so.

So thank you to everyone who will send me a letter this Christmas, and below is my gift to you. If you don’t have time to read it, don’t feel guilty. If you don't like Christmas letters, don't get mad--just don't read it. Just enjoy it if you want to review our year with us:

Woodsong Christmas 2010

Dear Friends and Relatives:

Thanks to Bryan and Tara Archibald, our third great grandchild was born March 7, and this beautiful smiley baby is named Payton Dean. His two big brothers--Aidan, age 4 ½, and Maddux, age 2--are fascinating to him and they seem to like him too. Bryan continues work as an architect, and Tara keeps their Aurora home and three sons well cared for with his help. She also cares for a friend’s baby girl and manages Southern Force 16U softball team, which requires a lot of traveling but also allows her to see her parents and Geri Ann frequently.

Gerry and Vickie are still at Watkinsville, Georgia, where Geri Ann, an Oconee High School junior, was just chosen as Class AAA pitcher of the year and a member of the all-state first softball team. Vickie amazes us with all she does including caring for Jerry and Lu Champer’s adorable Mia and a neighbor’s little boy, Matthew, during the week. She gets in lots of grandmothering with Tara’s three boys. Georgia Bulldogs Softball went into the semi-finals at the Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City again last May. We were there to cheer them on, and afterward we drove down to Amarillo to visit my sister Rosemary and husband Phil and their families.

After her graduation from Texas A&M, Erin spent several weeks with her family in Watkinsville doing softball camps for University of Georgia and getting ready for her summer in Europe, where she played for the Austrian Sharx. She was with her family again after her return until she became assistant softball coach at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She and her dog Sadie now live in a small house in Cambria, which she is renting from Brad Boyd, a Crab Orchard alum. We think that is kinda neat!

Only one of our four families has stayed in the area--Katherine, David, and Sam Cedar. David is still with General Dynamics, and Katherine is still battling multiple sclerosis. Sam is in the eighth grade and one handsome guy in his tux when he plays trombone with the symphonic band,. He recently attended the junior high IMEA all-state festival at Edwardsville, is active in his youth group and plays basketball with his church league, and is on the Scholar Bowl team.

Granddaughter Leslie can break up her trip to Freeport from Belmont University in Nashville, TN, by stopping over night with the Cedars as well as with us at Woodsong. Les is a junior now and works in the health department office and as a resident fellow in her dorm. Music and church activities and a certain guitar player with red hair keep her schedule full. She coached music and drama last summer at the Barefoot Republic camp in Kentucky. Gerald took her to Texas last spring to visit seminaries and they also visited Don and Helen Ruth Dillow, Bobby Sanders, and Erin at College Station.

The Eilers of Freeport--Jeannie, Rick, Elijah, and Cecelie--stay busy. Rick heads the high school math department, coaches track, and runs daily. Jeannie teaches art in fifth to eighth grades and is on her bike whenever possible. Elijah had the lead again in this year’s musical How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. Bryan and Mary Ellen, Trent, Brianna, us, and Sam were all able to attend. Afterwards, Lige began speech contests. Cecelie, our youngest grandchild and family violinist, is in sixth grade now and keeps up very well with her older cousins. Last spring Brianna and we saw Cecelie singing in her first musical and attended Elijah’s Freeport High School thirtieth annual Showtime also.

The Taylors, near Watkinsville, also keep busy. Bryan continues to do a great job farming our land and works for Stone Seed Company, north of Springfield. Mary Ellen stays busy with real estate, homemaking, and band parent activities as well as chauffeuring, counseling, commiserating, and cheering on Trent and Brianna and Lincolnwood High School friends. Trent, a senior, is a whiz at computer and Internet and is teaching himself to weld--with Gpa Gerald’s help. A sophomore, Brianna is an academic and clarinet success. Their band also went to IMEA all-state festival but at Charleston. She especially loves to write--but much to my delight, all of our grandchildren are writers.

As you can see from this letter, the children and grandchildren and their activities are what make this season and my life bright, I write about them frequently in Woodsong Notes, my twice-a-week blog. (I am also trying to write some Martin family history.) I was very proud of myself that I drove up to see Elijah in the lead of Enter Laughing visiting the Taylors on the way up and back and being able to attend Brianna’s band concert. Afterward I drove over to Mattoon and had a great visit with Jim and Vivian, my brother and wife.

Trent, Elijah, Sam, Brianna, and I all worked in Vacation Bible School at Center. Cecelie was the only one young enough for class this year, but Aidan has already informed me he is coming to VBS next summer! Geri Ann couldn’t be here that week, but she and some softball friends stopped over for a couple of days, so we had company 14 days straight in July.

Everyone came at the same time during the Thanksgiving holidays. (Thank goodness for the Taylor camper and the Cedars living in Marion because beds and couches were full!) We had a wonderful time despite the fact that 15 of 23 of us caught stomach flu. We won’t forget this Thanksgiving.

Gerald stays busy not only taking care of our lawn and garden and acreage around the house but occasionally helping Scott next door and sometimes helping Brian move machinery or clean up ditches or roadsides. He has made softball tees for Gerry, Tara, and Erin’s use in clinics and coaching. One of his busiest jobs is taking Maddux and Aidan on tractor, “mule,“ and lawn mower rides. Maddux made sure of that with constant pleas for “Tractor!Tractor!Tractor!“ Most of the year Gerald taught the men’s Sunday School class, and he frequently helps a child or grandchild with a special project or need. Of course, there are visits with his brothers Garry and Keith. He is not averse to making a trip to Lexington or Georgia to see Geri Ann play softball or hopping in the car with Tara and her three sons to watch Tara coach Southern Force. Gerald’s sister Ernestine and our niece Leah visited and introduced us to Emerson, Leah and Derik’s daughter. Once again we attended the SIUC BSU friends convention.

We look forward to Christmas with deep appreciation for what Christ did for us. Here is a verse to share for my Christmas gift to you: The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Psalm 118: 14.

Love and Merry Christmas, Sue

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Daily Doings and a World Premiere

Beds are back in order now. That feels good. Left-over holiday food has been eaten up, frozen, or thrown out. I am working on the Christmas letter and enjoying early cards from those more efficient than I am.

It was good to go again to Jackie Hancock’s rural home yesterday for the Women’s Club Christmas party. Last year she wanted us to come and see all of David’s beautiful outside decorations, and I am sure this year she wanted for things to be as normal as possible as life goes on without him. Her son and wife are still home from the Middle East, and Scott greeted us and served as valet taking our car keys, turning the cars around in the back yard with its beautiful forest, and having each car facing outward so we could leave without any problem. That was the nicest thing I have ever experienced at someone’s home. (Once I knocked into a mailbox, once I got off into slinging mud, and many times I have been nervous as I backed out hoping I was not going to do harm to someone’s car or tree or flower bed—or land in a ditch and have to be pulled out.)

We had met at the Marion library to car pool. I was delighted to have three lovely ladies ride with me. The youngest was 90, one was 94, and one was 95. Two of these three had driven to the library, and one had picked up the non-driver. These women are not the oldest in the club, but they are inspirational to us and give us hope that we too may be able to stay this active.

After the meeting I went by Katherine and David’s, and I barely got home in time for Gerald and me to turn around and go back to town for Sam’s symphonic band concert at 7:45. It was impossible to make the earlier concert of the younger Cadet Band. There was another group performing in another gym, and parking was scarce. We may have gotten the last space in that parking lot.

People were excited anticipating the world premiere of David Gillingham’s work “Lucid Dreams” written specifically with Director Jim Childers’ 47-member group in mind. Gillingham is a well known clinician and guest conductor, who is a professor of music theory and composition at Central Michigan University. Gillingham had heard and been impressed with Childers’ wind ensemble performance at the Illinois Music Educators Association’s All State Festival in Peoria a few years ago. Childers remained in contact with Gillingham, who has written many college band compositions and who wanted to branch out into writing for high school and advanced junior high levels.

From the program notes, I learned what lucid dreams are. Dutch psychiatrist and writer Frederik van Eeden coined the term to describe dreams where the dreamer is aware that he is dreaming. The composition began with controlled awareness and then darkened to “multiple dreams of various levels of fright.” Finally, Gillingham noted in the score that the composition “succumbs to lucidity and ends calmly with a hint of mysteriousness.” The standing ovation the crowd at the junior high gym gave the band at the end of the premiere presentation was lucidly appreciative. So were Sam’s two grandmothers after the concert seeing him in a tux that made us aware this young teen has mysteriously grown up when we weren’t watching.

Although I am sure Gerald was tired from his day’s outing to Union County and Cape to visit with his brothers, he pleased me by taking the long loop home so I could see the Christmas light display at the houses on Cherry Valley Road. Ahhhh.

Friday, December 03, 2010

That Time of Year

Driving home from Katherine’s on Sunday night, I took my preferred route—through the country roads rather than the highway. What to my wondering eyes should appear but the brilliant glow of the two houses on Cherry Valley Lane that celebrate Christmas with spectacular light displays. I only discovered this elaborate display a couple of years ago, but now enjoying it is part of my personal Christmas tradition.

Usually rural displays are somewhat modest, but these two side-by-side houses go all out with front and back yards aglow with fantastic assortments of decorative accessories and scenes. I was in a hurry to get home and fix Gerald a bite of supper, so I did not turn off the Creal Springs Road to drive up Cherry Valley, but I enjoyed the bright colors and the anticipation of making that extra loop while going home in the future. I really want to know who these generous folks are that light up the countryside each year.
I had already gotten my first Christmas card the day after Thanksgiving. I was expecting it. Valerie, my cousin Jack’s widow, makes a point to get her cards out this early every year. I am still not sure if I have any cards bought ahead, and I know it is time to write my annual Christmas letter.

I have just a few presents picked up ahead of time during the past year, but felt rather smug about those few. Then someone on Facebook wrote that they had their tree up and decorated and all their shopping done and presents wrapped. That made me nervous and left me feeling way behind. I am still straightening up and putting away from our Thanksgiving celebration.

Last night I made my first Christmas cookies—something I don’t indulge in to the extent that I did in the “old days” when our children were small and we gave them for their teacher/leader gifts. But I am supposed to go to my first Christmas party this afternoon with the Woman’s Club, and the inviting letter said to bring home-made cookies. I missed the last meeting, but I think these cookies are for some sort of in-club bake sale.

Gerry and Vickie have pecan trees in the backyard of their Georgia home, and they have enjoyed gathering and sharing their harvest. They brought me two containers of beautiful huge shelled pecans for my birthday—probably about fifty dollars worth if I were to buy them from the store. So I liked being able to use those in the Russian Tea Cakes I made last night. One of my favorite cookie recipes in the Betty Crocker cookbook, this cookie shows up with slightly different ingredients and other names in other cookbooks. Rich and not too sweet, the little white snow balls make a pretty accent on cookie trays with other kinds of cookies. I really am not fond of cooking for bake sales where products are supposed to be “nice.” I do not have the patience to make all my little cookie balls the same size nor fuss with them. I like feeding people and do a lot of that, but I am not a very good cook. However, hungry people don’t pay much attention to that.

I bought our Christmas ham at senior citizens’ day at the grocery yesterday, and I’ve started thinking of a menu that will not be a repeat of Thanksgiving although dressing, friend okra, and cranberry sauce will be expected.

When I get the house back in order from last week, I will quickly mess it up again getting out the artificial trees, which always shed when being assembled. Boxes of decorations will come down from high closet shelves. For a few days we will be living in chaos, but eventually Christmas memories will surface with the appearance of the accumulation of candles, manager scenes, Santa novelties, and lovely flower arrangements given to me in years past.