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

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