Friday, December 30, 2011

A Strung-Out Christmas Celebration

After our Thanksgiving with the entire family, Jeannie was down the first weekend in December, and I gave her some of her family’s gifts. When Leslie came through here on her way home after her exams at Belmont, I sent the rest of them with her. Her visit spurred me to finish decorating the trees by then.

Next Mary Ellen’s family came on December 23 this year, which was different than past Christmases, but I was happy they could go to be with Brian’s mother in Florida this year. They are still there to celebrate their wedding anniversary on New Year’s Eve at Disney World—one of their family’s special places.

Gerry and Vickie arrived on December 24 in one car, and Geri Ann rode up with Erin, who had been in Georgia to have their family Christmas before that. Gerald was so excited that Tara and Bryan (the Archibalds) were coming with our great grandsons because he had traded tractors and he wanted to break in the new “buddy seat” with those three little guys. However, it turned out that was not to be on that day or the next.

Bryan had received word his mother had been admitted to the hospital up in northern Illinois. So instead of leaving Georgia for our house, at first they thought they’d keep going straight to Chicago-land to arrive there as soon as possible. However, as they received better news, they decided to break up that long car ride for the boys by attending the Johnson Christmas Eve gathering at Gma Shirley’s house down the road from us as originally planned. Then they could travel on north through the night with the boys sleeping in their car seats and they would be there for his mother’s scope procedure at the hospital on Christmas morning. (That turned out better than feared, and she was able to leave the hospital the next day.)

We were invited down to Gma Shirley’s also if we wanted to see the Archibald family. And we did, of course. The three great grandsons were in great form and high spirits despite the long car ride up from Georgia, and we loved seeing all of Vickie’s family since we don’t see them as often as we did back in the day when Vickie invited both sides of the family to her Johnston City house for birthday and graduation parties down through the years.

I’d seen pictures of Kinsley, Tara’s cousin Jeremy’s pretty little girl, but the photos did not show how sweet she was. Watching her carry Gma Shirley’s little dog Buddy around was so cute, and it was fun seeing her interact with our great grandsons and to realize they were very much a part of that large extended family. Maddux’s tight hugs clinging to Gerald was almost enough to compensate for our disappointment that they wouldn’t be coming over to spend the night and be with us Christmas morning.

Of course, to go to Gma Shirley’s house is to eat very well also with counters and tables full of food offerings. She had three tables pushed together to make one long one in the dining area beside her kitchen, and the table and holiday decorations were everywhere to please our eyes. I had not known that cardinals were her special bird, and those bright red creatures on her white tree were so pretty.

There was a lot of laughter, of course. I have been concerned that little Payton would be taken advantage of by his older brothers, but that was quickly disproved when I saw him hit out at the older two to get what he wanted. I enjoyed seeing that, and the older two boys could have cared less for their tough little brother showing his spirit. However, the most memorable event of the evening was seeing Erin, age 25; Sarah, age 21; and Geri Ann, age 17, swaying and singing together on the couch waving their Justin Bieber toothbrushes that Gma Shirley had given them.

Reluctantly we said good-bye to the Archibalds and everyone else, and I hurried to do some last minute details at Woodsong before Gerry and Geri Ann came over to sleep. With our invited guests decreased by five, I had extra time to spend with them on Christmas morning, and it was quite leisurely before the morning worship service at our village church, where Vickie met up with us.

We arrived back at Woodsong with smells of the baking ham and dressing filling the house. Unlike many years, no one had a second place to go to on this day. For the first time in perhaps decades we only had one table with ten for Christmas dinner. The Cedars had celebrated with David’s family on the Eve, and Dave. Katherine, and Sam arrived about the time that Gma Shirley did. We were so glad she came because she and Katherine have always had a special bond and they were able to have a good visit together.

Gift opening was much less chaotic than usual with fewer families here, but it was still fun. The weather was fantastic all week including the day we woke up to a beautiful snow that had melted by evening. Gerry had arrived with the squirrel dog that Steve Smith had loaned him to hunt with Aidan in Georgia, and he and Gerald enjoyed hunting as soon as Gerry arrived on Saturday and again on Monday and Tuesday. Long after the men had gone down to Union County to hunt with Keith and DuWayne, I was startled but enjoyed being woke up by our grand-dog Chloe that Tuesday when someone left the front door ajar and Chloe untied herself and joined me at the foot of our bed.

Wednesday we had to say goodbye to Gerry, Vickie, and Geri Ann. We drove into town with them for breakfast with Erin, who’d driven over from Cambria, before her family returned back home to Georgia. Erin was preparing to fly down to College Station later that day to meet up with Texas A&M friends, and now we are following her vacation there on Facebook.

The rest of Wednesday we continued eating Christmas Day left-overs and the Italian beef sandwiches I’d prepared when I thought the Archibalds were coming earlier. But Gerald was excited as a little kid knowing Aidan, Maddux, and Payton would be arriving Thursday to enjoy one more Christmas celebration. They were in Galesburg by this time with Bryan’s father and step-mother for that Christmas celebration, and the boys were enjoying the children’s museum there before driving downstate.

Since our Thursday night meal was ready (more left-overs) when the Archibalds arrived, I really wanted us to eat while it was hot before we opened the presents under the downstairs tree with them. But realizing there were presents waiting made the boys more eager to open than to eat. Three tractor-type toys still upstairs saved the day, and they played madly with those by the living room tree until we got to the supper table. At last I got to put out the three little special Christmas cups I had all prepared for Christmas Day.

It was a pleasure to see the three boys eat like hungry boys do. I had planned for Gerald to sit between the two youngest. However, Maddux, 3, happily sat in the high chair that I had ready for one-year old Payton, who his mother explained, thought he was too old to sit in the high chair. So he sat on the other side of Gerald by his mother. After supper we went down and opened presents in the family room, and everyone was ready to go to bed early so the tractor riding could begin this morning.

Even Payton was ready to join the two older boys for a tractor ride this visit, which he had not been enthusiastic about before. Then Aidan, 5, remembered the lime pile that Gerald created just for him originally, and all three boys had to play there digging with their little shovels, sliding, and filling their shoes with lime. Gerald got a kick out of Aidan taking charge and giving orders, which Maddux followed but Payton simply ignored, which did not bother Aidan in the least. Tara said Payton is not a follower, and we could see that this visit.

Meanwhile, Tara and Bryan were packing one more time after all their stops of this holiday vacation. We are always amazed at how organized they stay with the constant commotion of the boys and all the families they visit. Final hugs and kisses are always somewhat sad when we aren’t sure when we will see each other again The lime left on the kitchen floor has been swept up, and the tree lights are glowing.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Lights of Christmas--Especially on Cherry Valley Road

Have the lights ever been more beautiful than this year? I love all the lights in our village of Crab Orchard and at the homes Marion and on the square there. The new bright multi-colored lights this year are such a visual treat as I do the season’s shopping and many errands. And all this beauty is free for us to enjoy!

Many families in our area make sure they take a drive to Candy Cane Lane in West Frankfort, and it is certainly worth the drive. But if you don’t have the gas or time for a trek to West Frankfort, consider driving out Old Creal Springs Road until you see the darkness broken by the magnificent display just west of there. (If you are coming from Creal, you will turn left. If you are coming out from Marion, you will turn right. This road only goes west, so you really cannot miss it.)

A couple of years ago I discovered these two houses in deep country on Cherry Valley Road with breath-taking excess of light. Going to see those lights has become an important part of my personal Christmas celebration.

This year only one house is decorated, but the lawn and house has sufficient light for an entire block. Cherry Valley suddenly turns south right after this beautiful light-filled experience, and I like to continue on the road up and down the hills and hollows past the homes back there until you come to West Ellis. Driving this narrow rural road is the sort of back roads adventure that I relish; and though I know no one along here, I like thinking of their lives off the beaten path and so close to nature. You may find this drive a little daunting, but it is perfectly safe. Just go slow. I would advise you to be alert for deer although I have never seen one there. I hope you don't either.

At West Ellis at the top of the last hill, if you turn left, West Ellis will lead back to the Old Creal Springs Road. At the Old Creal road, you could turn left there to drive back to Marion. Or if you want, you can continue on West Ellis which is briefly one with the Old Creal road. Then the road splits with Old Creal Springs going south. If you continue on West Ellis, you will go through the wooded swamp area I love especially when the leaves are on the trees overhead. Then you will quickly come out at the village of New Dennison and Route 166. Turn left (north) to go back to Route 13. At Route 13, you will reach Marion if you turn left (west) and reach Crab Orchard if you turn right.

No matter where you live in this nation, many people have gone to much trouble to put a lighted tree or wreath in their window or sometimes to much expense and hard work to decorate their entire lawn and outside of their homes. The bright lights can add color and excitement during these darkest days of winter. I hope you have the chance to enjoy them.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Glasco Christmas Letter 2011

Woodsong Christmas 2011

Dear Friends and Relatives,

This verse has meant much to be recently, so I will share it as my Christmas gift to you: Be still and know that I am God.

We had several school and class reunions in 2011 as well as our annual SIUC Baptist Student Union reunion. My Anna-Jonesboro Class celebrated our 60th anniversary, which was made especially wonderful because Lois (Ferrell) Doctor and husband Tom and grandson Josiah came from California and Oregon, and we had a great visit with them as house guests at Woodsong. Gerald finds plenty to do in shop and helping out others. I participated in Trail of Tears and Writers Guild activities and still blog usually twice a week.

Here’s a run down on our children:

Katherine and husband David Cedar and their son Sam
have their lives darkened by her progressive multiple sclerosis. Katherine keeps her faith and can usually be cheerful despite constant pain and multiple health problems. Around the world millions suffer from various causes including starvation, but it is heart breaking when you see the suffering up close. David tries keeps his spirit up by hanging out at his friend Jim’s hunting camp and actually got three deer this year--a buck and doe will provide them lots of meat. He makes excellent venison sausage. The third deer actually got David as it hit his car and almost totaled it as he was on the way to see Katherine at the hospital. That car was replaced with a new one, so Sam was made happy. He has over a year yet for a license. Sam is a joy and he keeps us aware of the youth scene in Marion band circles and at Second Baptist Church. We enjoyed visiting evening services at their church when Wendell Garrisons was interim pastor for a few months.

Gerry and Vickie’s family had many changes. Erin is in her second year at SIUC as assistant softball coach and loves her job. Her year’s challenge was a torn ACL the second night she played with a local coed softball team. Because of infection, she has had five surgeries, and months of therapy. She is doing great after a tremendous amount of work. Tara with her Southern Force 16U won the prestigious Boulder tourney and for fifth time went to Final Four at the ASA nationals. This fall she became assistant softball coach at the University of Georgia. (Gerry is now associate head coach.) Tara’s husband Bryan is still with the same architecture firm in northern Illinois, but commutes from their home in Georgia. The Archibalds and Gerry and Vickie rent and share a big house with three floors. Vickie is the official baby sitter for Payton, 1; Maddux, 3, and Aidan, 5, who just started kindergarten, and she also still sits for Matthew! Geri Ann helped lead the Oconee High School softball team to another state championship and was again named as Player of the Year by Athens newspaper. She has signed to play next year at the University of Georgia with her dad and sister! Softball must make girls beautiful. At least Gerry and Vickie’s three are!

Jeannie and Rick are busy with both teaching other people’s children and nurturing the three talented Eiler kids--our music and acting grandkids. Leslie and her fiancĂ© Mike Thompson will finish their degrees at Belmont before their June 23 wedding. Elijah had the lead in The Foreigner last spring and spoke at his high school graduation. He is now studying at Illinois State to become a teacher for the visually handicapped, a long time interest of his. Cecelie is in 7th grade and as beautiful as her sister. In addition to her intense interest and talent as violinist, she was in the Freeport High School musical this fall when they did Annie. Rick still heads up math department, coaches and runs. Jeannie amazes us with long-distance bicycle rides.

Brian and Mary Ellen keep their dual careers going full blast. Mary Ellen now is a buyers agent for Jane Hay Sales and Staging of The Real Estate Group in Springfield and loves it. Brian continues his work at Stone Seed while also increasing rented acreage here. We are grateful for high yields he consistently grows on our farm with Stone Seed and other Monsanto brands. Trent graduated from Lincolnwood High School with high ACT scores and is enjoying his freshman year at Lincoln Land Community College. He hopes someday to work in a film-related career with his computer skills. Brianna, another of our blond beauties, is busy with band, junior class vice president, and student council. Sam went up to see her in the Homecoming court and to attend the dance with one of her friends.

Gerald and Sam traveled to Tuscaloosa to see Georgia play softball. Nephew DuWayne and Gerald saw Southern Force at Chattanooga and Oconee at Watkinsville. I went along for the Oconee state championship at Columbus. We managed trips to Freeport and Waggoner to see other grandchild events. Vacation Bible School at Center was great with Elijah, Trent, and Brianna here to help. Easter and Thanksgiving weeks were special times with families coming and going as they will this season.

Love and Merry Christmas,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Good News of Answered Prayer

Late this afternoon, Katherine received a call from her infectious disease doctor saying that after 48 hours the culture taken on Tuesday was clear. What a lovely Christmas present. She was trying to be prepared if necessary to do another round of infusions and continue in fear that this antibiotic might fail again. Instead of fear, there is celebration. If the next step of oral medication succeeds as hoped in preventing the return of this infection, which has weakened her and exacerbated the multiple sclerosis, we will really have cause for rejoicing.

Once again we feel the enormous respect and appreciation for the medical profession when it provides answers that not only prolong life but improve its quality. I pray regularly for medical researchers, because those in that profession are my heroes. I do not know their names, but I know their worth. I am also grateful for young junior and senior high school students who right now are studying and working hard to get the background needed to palliate illness and discover the treatments and cures for the diseases that destroy life and happiness. Anything we can do to advance science in our schools is a wise use of our tax dollars.

Perhaps almost as wonderful for her comfort as the doctor’s report was the find of her husband last night. David and I were surprised to bump into each other at Wal-Mart after he got off work and after I left Katherine’s house. Both of us were wandering all over that huge store that I usually avoid like a plague. (I get lost both inside the store and in the parking lot.) We were in search of jell or gell pads that Katherine had heard about. Neither of us was successful. (I had asked at least seven clerks but no one knew anything about jell except for shoe linings, which was not what we needed.)

We had to laugh since both of us had our shopping carts filled with possible devises that just might eliminate some of the pain that comes to anyone who must sit all day in a wheelchair. (I recently read where a nursing home let their workers volunteer to spend one day in a wheelchair, and these volunteers found out just how uncomfortable a chair was.)

David and I started showing each other our selections that might be experimented with in Katherine’s care. I had seen the pair of foot warmers David had, but didn’t even stop to look at them. I don’t even know what these warm cozy foot thingies are called, but both feet fit into this snuggling looking container for feet. Today Katherine had this invention on, and the heavy padding beneath her feet had reduced the pain from the hard foot rest. Gerald had long ago worked on the footrest with padding and helped, but the problem was still severe. Aides were placing comfort devices between her feet and the footrest, and fretting with her. But nothing really solved the problem.

Now not only were the soles of her feet protected, but somehow this device held her feet in place where they were not sliding off the footrest nor painfully grinding against each other. If it continues to work as successfully as it did today, this discovery is a minor miracle for both her comfort and for the workers trying to help her balance in her chair.

It has been a good day.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Busiest Time of the Year

This always busy season is even more so this year because our daughter Katherine has been very ill fighting an infection. After her brief hospitalization, she was sent to yet another doctor and is being treated at home. Unfortunately, her usually excellent insurance will not pay trained personnel for this treatment. If it were not for her husband at night, her beloved morning aide, and her dear and highly qualified friend Michele Otto, who happens to be on “vacation” until we ruined it, I do not know what we would have done. We have gone through a series of being told one thing by those in charge and having things be another way. Yet we are very hopeful that this excellent doctor will find a way to end this infection. Gerald will be taking her to Carbondale on Tuesday to see how well these at-home infusions have worked.

After months of more surgery and therapy, we are thrilled that granddaughter Erin has conquered the scary infection caused by her summer knee surgery. She is all smiles these days when she drops in without crutches. She is working out to make that leg as strong as her good one.

Erin and her dad both were among those softball coaches in Los Vegas last week for conferences during their “dead” non-recruiting period. And I guess our great niece Tracy’s husband Cody Brown was there about the same time winning the World Series of Team Roping with his partner Tyson Campidilli. They split the $200,000 prize money. Tracy’s family members here in Southern Illinois are as involved in roping as our son’s family is in softball. I find it interesting but understandable that families seem to gravitate to the same fields and competitive passions. Our daughter Jeannie’s family is our music-drama bunch.

Gerald took our grandson Sam up to Assumption today to meet his Uncle Brian who took him onto Waggoner to participate in the first ever Homecoming at Lincolnwood High School. Lincolnwood’s basketball game was last night, but Sam could not go up then since he was playing with the pep band at the high school basketball game here in Marion. Tonight is Lincolnwood’s coronation, and he will be there to represent our family as his cousin Brianna participates as a member of the court for the junior class. I can’t keep from wishing I were there. Brianna has Sam fixed up as a blind date with one of her friends at the dance afterwards.

Gerald enjoyed visiting with Sam on their trip and then visited a John Deere dealer up there—always a pleasant outing for a farmer. He was home after 3 p.m. and said he realized after he got here that he had forgotten to eat lunch. (He and Sam had plans for a late breakfast in Mt. Vernon, so I imagine that he why he forgot lunch.) Kindly he found left-over pizza in the fridge and had fixed his own lunch before he told me anything about it.

I made some very good beef-veggie soup Wednesday morning, so that is what we are having for supper tonight. For my lunch, I had finished the left-over plate of the spaghetti that I’d made for us and the Cedars on Thursday night. With left-overs in the fridge plus things bought at Senior Citizens Day at Kroger Wednesday, the fridge has been overfull, so I am glad we can use the leftovers.

With no cooking today, maybe I can have Gerald get down the big boxes of Chirstmas decorations in the guest room closet and I can start going through them. Earlier this week, he got down the two boxes in our closet, and those swags and accessories are already in place. The two trees must be unboxed also and put together to hold all the pretties in the boxes, and I hope that can be accomplished early next week.

Part of my Christmas shopping is done, part is ordered, and part is still to be done. None is wrapped. My sister’s little birthday present was mailed yesterday to Amarillo. Oh, yes, I also really want to send out the Christmas cards that are waiting. I bought the stamps this week. These are all fun things that in the grand scheme of things will not matter whether I accomplish them or not. Being busy is part of the holiday tradition, and I am glad for the good part of the busyness—and praying that her time-consuming medical treatment brings better health to our daughter.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Goodbye Turkey; Hello Christmas

Many things did go better during this last full week of November. Only two days left now until the Christmas season. I drove home from Katherine’s last night enjoying all the beautiful lights so many people put up over the weekend.

We celebrated my birthday last Wednesday when Gerry, Vickie, and Geri Ann arrived from Georgia. Gerry phoned from Paducah and said to meet them at Steak and Shake (Geri Ann needed to visit it just once while in Illinois) and he’d buy my birthday dinner. I was already preparing to see Katherine, and Gerald went with me to meet them. So Gerald brought Katherine in her van, and Sam went ahead with me. Erin came over from her house. It was such a leisurely relaxed reunion—a perfect start for the holiday. The annual Turkey Tournament at Crab Orchard High School began that night, and our family was involved since Gerry and Vickie’s nephew Drew Johnson, a senior, is one of the basketball stars again this year. I stayed home and rested while Gerald and the Gerry Glascos joined the Johnsons to cheer our Trojans on.

Later that night the Eilers arrived--actually it was Thanksgiving morning. Fortunately they ran late or the house might have been locked when Brian dropped off Brianna and Trent. (No, let me correct that. I think Trent arrived later at their camper with Mary Ellen, who had been tied up in Springfield with someone’s paper work) Sometime Sam arrived, of course. I can’t even remember when. People were coming and going to our house and to and from the Taylor camper, the Cedar house, and Gma Shirley’s house.

But in the confusion, the important things happened. Jeannie got in her bike ride and then went to help David get Katherine ready, which was a good thing since her wheel chair control broke and created a crisis. (On top of everything else, David now has the coughing cold that has plagued Katherine and me.) Mary Ellen was busy helping me in the kitchen. Younger grandkids—two now in college, two in high school, and Cecelie in 7th grade were rapidly involved together with their latest projects. Those six are the ones who always sit at the kitchen table.
I didn’t have Gerald put in the extra leaf since the Archibalds were celebrating Thanksgiving in the Chicago area with Bryan’s family. (The new table that can be expanded was bought before holiday time last year to accommodate great grandson Aidan, who certainly thought he belonged at that table with the big kids.) Our engaged couple Leslie and Mike arrived from Nashville even though they had to drive back that same evening. Erin was in and out all weekend, and those three were at the young adult folding table, so Erin finally got to meet Mike. Since Mike is an only child, we were wondering how he could stand the noise at our house, but he took it in stride.

Everyone had brought in food and colas including the deviled eggs that our kids had a lot of fun planning. (Thanks, Vickie, they were good.) We feasted all weekend on all the pies I had prepared and all the wonderful goodies Jeannie brought down from Freeport—and on Saturday we were able to enjoy her cauliflower salad she had planned. Mary Ellen’s casseroles are always delicious, and by the time the buffet and two narrow fold-up tables were filled up with food, we definitely had a feast—with so many left-overs for the rest of the weekend that thanks to the Walt’s pizzas that Gerry brought out Saturday night, we never even got around to the chili Jeannie brought. So it is in the freezer for the next clan gathering. I tried to lure everyone to have a bowl of chili after church yesterday morning along with my meat loaf—but they were all eager to get on the road to get back home in the heavy holiday traffic.

On Friday, the Eilers went down to Nashville for another Thanksgiving dinner that Leslie prepared in her little apartment. I think her co-workers helped her with part of the preparation, but I was impressed that she could do this. Mike’s parents had arrived from Ohio, and the two families that are merging in June had this special time together and even managed to see the beautiful Christmas lights at the Grand Ole Opry Hotel. Once again the Eilers arrived back at the farm long after midnight to fall into bed—but I suspect Trent, Brianna, and Sam were still up and going strong to greet Elijah and Cecelie. I didn’t ask; I went to bed at eleven.

People were going to the Turkey Tournament Friday and Saturday, and Jeannie got in a bike ride both days as well as doing some investigation on wedding bouquets. Rick was able to visit his Carbondale friends. The teens enjoyed running into town to eat and shop. They persuaded Mary Ellen to go with them to Carbondale on Saturday. Someone’s new board game soon took up half the dining room table. Gerry visited friends and was given a squirrel dog by Steve Smith, so he not only took the dog out but was very excited to be able to take Aidan and Bryan when the Archibalds arrived. I think there are still squirrel in the garage fridge. I better move them to the freezer too. (Maybe during Christmas break I will get the courage to cook them and the mushrooms from Arkansas that Steve sent us.) Son-in-law Brian finished combining the last small plot for our neighbor Scott, and Gerald hauled that corn to the elevator this morning.

Saturday’s biggest attraction was the Archibalds’ arrival with their three sons. Maddux had to immediately get out his Batman Cave from their car to show everyone. His 3rd birthday is not until December 11, but his northern Illinois family had given him an early party with a Superman birthday cake. (The Batman Cave adorned our living room the rest of the weekend and was popular with everyone.) Bryan just shook his head at their car loaded to its limit—and it not even Christmas. Little Payton,18 months, got up his nerve to pet the new squirrel dog Gerry had tied in the front yard, and all of us loved seeing the boys cavort with Ribby, Erin’s newest puppy she had finally brought over to meet us.

In addition to the championship Turkey Tourney game, Gerry and Vickie’s bunch had two local family birthdays to attend, so they and Gma Shirley, who had come to greet the Archibalds, were soon scattered, but Gerry and Geri Ann came back for the night. (We won the tourney, btw.)

I stayed up way after midnight to enjoy the games and final talk in the living room. Geri Ann and Sam had us laughing their jokes. Gerald shared his funny boyhood stories when he and his brother Kenny were Boys of Woodcraft and participated and marched in the adult rituals wiih axes on their shoulders. Their father wanted them to be serious. My favorite Saturday nighr memory, however, was the game when Rick played the part of the Great Houdini and enlisted Aidan, 5, to be his assistant. Aidan was more than adept at imitating Uncle Rick in costume and manner. I think we may have another actor in the family.

Families began to leave Sunday morning, and the last two groups left before lunch. I noticed though that the mothers all picked up and folded the blankets and sheets all over the place and neatened things. (There were nine to fourteen sleeping here each night.) Mary Ellen left the downstairs towels all folded neatly as only she can. Gerry had washed them, and Rick put them into the drier. (The kids are pitching in more all the time because they think I am getting old. Of course, I am not despite the birthday, but I appreciate all the help.)

Well, today's mail brought our first three Christmas cards, and I better quit writing and go upstairs to read them.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Things Gone Awry

This evening our granddaughter Brianna was again in concert with the Illinois Music Teachers Association annual performance at Eastern Illinois University at Charleston. She had been there all day practicing with the other band members from throughout the state. Since I did not get to go last year, when I first heard the date, I was hoping we could arrange to drive up for this. But nature had other plans for me this week.

After almost two weeks of coughing, last Saturday I cancelled joining other Writers Guild members to sell my book at the annual Autumn Fest at John A. Logan College. Since I did not expect to sell more than a book or two, this was to be a social event for me as I enjoy being with the other writers and seeing people I know in the crowds who attend. However, I knew I would not want to sit by me even though I was coughing much less and did not think I would be contagious. Knowing I could sleep in, I went to bed with happy contemplation of using the Saturday morning at home to catch up with all the things my lack of energy from the coughing cold had caused.

Alas, I did not sleep in. Even before Gerald woke up, which is always early, I was awake with terrible pain in my neck. I told him I needed someone to go google neck pain and figure out what was wrong with me. In my pained and groggy mind set, the only malady I could think of was infantile paralysis and I was pretty sure my polio shot was still good. Gerald assured me I was correct that it was not infantile paralysis, and later I found a google print out on neck pain by my pillow. First, however, he had grabbed the heat pad and put it under my neck and I did go back to sleep for a couple of hours.

When I woke up, I learned the hard way how dependant we are on our necks. Every step, every head movement in any direction, seemingly every word spoken caused my neck to hurt. A lot. A wry neck was not in my plans for the day. I already had a standard checkup scheduled with my doctor on Monday, so I was not about to venture to ER about my sore neck. Instead I just slept and moped and worried a bit about all the stuff not getting done.

I did run in to Katherine’s that afternoon, but I warned her when I got there, that I probably would not be much help. I had not realized not being able to turn my neck freely would handicap my driving as much as it did. But I went to town on back roads and was super careful and made it safely.

After her 3 p.m. lunch, we watched television together and I promptly went to sleep again. If I could stay asleep, I did not have to feel the pain. Again I drove home the back way and very carefully. I went to bed early. I craved sleep to block the pain. I can’t take aspirin because of being on a blood thinner, so I really did not have any meds to take.

We had planned to go to our church’s annual Thanksgiving feast Saturday night. I knew I could show up empty handed for the pot luck, but the pain made me sick all over, and I did not feel like being around people. Gerald had gotten involved with our son-in-law Brian who had finished his own harvest and volunteered to help our neighbor Scott combine a soybean plot he had on the field between our homes. (Scott had just had surgery.) I fixed Gerald a sandwich and left on the kitchen table and a can of soup heated on the stove and came down to watch the Republican debate hoping Gerald’s recliner might prove comfortable. It didn’t, and when Brian and Brianna came down to see how I was doing, of course, I couldn’t even turn my head to look at them. I moved to the couch to support my neck better, but I went to bed early.

The next morning I figured that I might as well hurt at church as to hurt at home, so Gerald and I did go to Sunday School and worship service. I’d told him he could take us out to lunch before we went by Katherine’s because I did not feel like cooking. I was pleasantly surprised when the pastor announced that there had been so much left-over food from Saturday night that volunteers had offered to serve them up for anyone who wanted to stay for Sunday lunch. So we stayed, and I felt as if we had gotten in on the Saturday evening’s celebration a little bit although when I heard about the program and some good things that transpired the night before, I knew we had missed a special service. (A man who had been on the wagon for many years and just now lost his job had a downfall. He had seen our church’s lights on and came to the service and was embraced by friends and congregation. Everyone had been glad our lights were glowing that night.)

Not only did we get a free lunch at church, we also got a bag of turnips. Charles Graves had brought a large box to share and even the bags to put them in. I fixed some the next day, and we will have turnips for Thanksgiving although Gerald and I may be the only ones eating them.

Later on Sunday, Katherine felt up to going to her church’s evening service, so after a lazy afternoon at home, we took her in her van while David rested. We picked up Sam at church and even went to the Dairy Queen after the service. Katherine had not been able to go for a long time, so the service and getting out of the house was good for her. I sat as quietly as I could to keep my wry neck still and knew I’d sleep good when I went to bed—quite early as soon as we got back home.

Gerald kept his dentist appointment Monday morning, and then he took me to my doctor appointment that afternoon at 3. Afterwards we went by Katherine’s and visited with her. We kept trying to kill time in order to pick up the pain pill and muscle relaxant that my doctor prescribed for me. Somehow, the prescription order did not arrive, and then we were under a tornado watch and it was beginning to storm, and we decided to go on back to the farm rather than risk being in hail or wind. Gerald swung though a drive-in to get us a bite for supper.

Soon I was in bed asleep again. I called the pharmacy when it opened on Tuesday hoping my meds were waiting. I was told a couple of other orders were ahead of mine but they should be ready in an hour or so. Gerald ran in and got them for me and finally before noon I took my first meds. The doctor had warned me that they would make me sleepy. Since I was sleeping as much as possible anyhow to not feel the pain, that sounded good to me.

By Thursday, most of the pain was gone and I could turn my head--not perfectly but much better. Yet all I wanted to do was sleep. Vaguely I remembered that I’d planned all kinds of work for November when we returned home from our trip to Georgia but between first the coughing cold and now the stiff neck, none of that work had been accomplished. Although I very much wanted to go to Writers Guild that night, I did not think it wise to drive that far as sleepy as I stayed. I went to bed early and slept.

Yesterday morning, I did not take my meds because I needed to drive to town to meet up where the Woman’s Club was getting in their orders for frozen braided bread—an annual fund raiser. Afterwards, I shopped for some needed groceries including canned pumpkin for Thanksgiving pies. Usually I cook a pumpkin after using it for fall decoration, but I never got around to acquiring a pumpkin this year. I thought after lunch that I would clean the kitchen and take my last pills since I was so much better. And then after a nap, I might start making pies.

I was still at the lunch table when the phone rang. Katherine’s aide had taken her to Carbondale that morning for an appointment with her urologist as she could tell that despite two rounds of strong antibiotics she still had infection. The doctor would not let her come home, but put her in the hospital where she could be closely monitored during the next round. So I skipped that final dose of meds that I planned to take and went to her house where the outstanding aide had brought home the van and gathered items needed to be taken back to the hospital.

Sam was going to a weekend youth retreat with his church, and a friend was to pick him up to take him to the church bus. I was there to explain where his mother was and that she said to tell him that she was fine. Sam and I were both trying to phone her then, but her new phone, which has been very cranky about only working part time, would not let us get through to her even though I had called her earlier. Then Gerald and I took her stuff over to the hospital at the end of the afternoon. I was delighted to see the care being given her and finding out that she was going to have a good many tests she had needed but had been unable to arrange.

This was supposed to be David’s big deer hunting weekend at his friend’s farm with out-of-towners coming down for the annual family ritual. He had arranged for someone to stay with Katherine for the two nights that he would be away. By the time Katherine had gotten a garbled text to him that she was in the hospital, David had already gotten a 9-point buck and then a nice-sized doe. All he had to do was butcher them, and their winter meat supply was accomplished. He certainly did not expect his wife to be in the hospital; but as Katherine said, this weekend was probably as good a time as any since Sam already had a scheduled activity and David had not planned to be at home either.

We came home around l0 last night. Gerald went on to bed. I ate a bite of supper and checked email and surfed and evidently fell asleep at the computer. At 1 a.m. I went to bed and decided to take those two final pills I had laid out. At 11 this morning, Mary Ellen phoned and I stumbled out of bed assuming it was 8 or 9. Well, obviously I was not going to get much work done before lunch, so I thoroughly enjoyed a rare phone call from her. (Our kids keep in touch with Gerald by phone regularly and he reports the highlights to me, but I like the occasional long talks that I get.)

Gerald left to visit with his brothers in Union County and have lunch with Keith, so I ate a combination breakfast/lunch and read the morning paper. I was still in my pajamas at the table when granddaughter Erin came by for a rare visit since she is so busy right now with all the softball practices and recruiting trips that her job requires. In addition to this, she must take a great deal of therapy for her wounded leg. I thoroughly enjoyed her visit before she left to go on down the road a way to visit Gma Shirley, her other grandmother. While Erin was here, Jeannie called for a brief visit and talk about Thanksgiving before she went for what she expected to be her final bike ride in northern Illinois before she puts her bike into winter mode for “riding” inside the house. She has challenged Erin to a bike ride Thanksgiving morning.

I went back to the kitchen and started doing some of the many put-off chores—cleaning and sanitizing the hummingbird feeders Gerald had brought in and I had been ignoring, putting groceries away that had sat on the counter across from the pantry, all those kind of things. I finally started on the pie dough and put a bowl into the fridge for the next step tomorrow. I cleaned the kitchen and garage fridges enough to not be ashamed of them next week although certainly not as thoroughly as I ordinarily have done in past years. Then I brought up the frozen turkey to start thawing in the garage fridge. By this time, Gerald was home and had a nap, and I fixed us a bite of supper before we prepared to go to the hospital to visit Katherine.

Because her phone was not working, I phoned David to see if he had taken her special pillows that brace her neck and help her legs. I did not want to have to go by her house if she already had them taken to her. He said he was on the way back to the hospital again and had the desired pillows in the car. I told him we’d see him at the hospital.

But again things went awry. We had gotten as far as Marion when Gerald’s phone rang. On the other side of Crab Orchard Lake just before Ike’s Honda, David had hit an 8-point buck which tore up their car—the Civic Honda they love so much. Would we stop and get the pillows? He had called the police and a wrecker which would tow the car just around the corner to Ike’s. We got the pillows, and Gerald told David we’d be able to pick him up after the wrecker arrived. But David said his friend Jim would come and get him. So we left him stranded by the highway just as the police arrived. The traffic was so heavy that the odds were slim that David’s car was the one the buck chose to assault, but that is what happened. We went on to visit Katherine, and she had a hard time figuring out that I meant the third deer had hit David rather than vice versa. She was already using the pillows by the time of her second visit of the day with David—by phone this time. He had called Gerald to tell him that both the wrecker and Jim had arrived, and by the way, he told Katherine that they had figured out her phone trouble. We did not get to ask for that explanation because we left when a therapist came in to give her a breathing treatment.

I have found out that many people have had stiff neck trouble—many much younger than me. The stories have been interesting. I realize I am blessed that I’d never suffered this before and that mine has cleared up as soon as it has. Now I am expecting things to go better for the little that is left of November.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Geri Ann Glasco signs for University of Georgia

If you are following Geri Ann's softball career, check out this story and the quotes from U of G's head coach Lu Harris-Champer:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lacey and Geri Ann

Theodore, the shih tzu, greeted us Thursday night proudly wearing a Saluki bandana around his neck. Inside the Newbold house, family members had on their identifying T shirts as Saluki Mom or Saluki Sister. The evening’s honoree, Lacey Newbold, had a shirt that explained how many bulldogs, wildcats, and other mascots there were in the sports world and then explained on the back of the shirt that there was only one Saluki. As a Saluki alum, I could not have been more pleased that Lacey had signed a national letter of intent to play softball next year for Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Lacey is the first female athlete to sign for a Division I school from Crab Orchard High School, our small rural school district located in the tiny village of Crab Orchard. She is a three-time All-South and two-time Great Egyptian Conference most valuable player and was named to the first team All State Squad last year. It will be exciting for fans to see her play her final senior year next spring before we have to travel to Carbondale to watch her skill. Her family and best buddies had been invited to celebrate the achievements of this beautiful young lady, and it was fun to see the replays of the previous evening’s newscasts when she signed for the Salukis and Cierra (C.C.) Hutchinson signed for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Our granddaughter Geri Ann down in Georgia, where their high school softball schedule is completed in the fall rather than next spring as in Illinois, had also signed that day for the University of Georgia. After winning the AAA division state championship, the very next weekend Geri Ann was playing with her travel team Southern Force. I was exalting that they had beat the California Bat Busters. Then this past weekend on Saturday, she did double duty traveling back to Columbus for Georgia’s high school all-star tournament. There she played three games, and in one game was able to pitch four innings with nine strikeouts. Having to leave early to get back to Watkinsville for the Southern Force tourney, she hit a home run, hugged her coach, and their family hurriedly took off for home, where she played two more games that evening.

Today’s young athletes have more playing time and more experience by the time they leave high school that was ever possible just a few years ago. I do not know if that is always a good thing, but for their skill level it certainly is. They often have to decide early which sport to concentrate upon and what other extracurricular activities they have to sacrifice.

(There are exceptions, of course. Right under that story in the sport section about Lacey and C. C., was a story telling us that local baseball standout Lucas Hileman from Anna was urged to join his school’s football team. A transfer to Indiana State after a year playing baseball at Baylor and a year at John A. Logan, Hileman, who will be a senior outfielder, acted on the suggestion by his strength and conditioning coaches that he should help out the Sycamores, who had a linebacker who was punting out of necessity. Hileman, 21, walked onto the football field, and helped Santino Davis go back to defense. In 28 kicks this season, he is averaging 41.9 yards per punt. Although Hileman was named Southern’s Baseball Player of the Year back in 2008, he also played six different positions on his high school football team.)

Dean Newbold, Lacey’s father, enjoys telling about Lacey and Geri Ann, when they were very young pitchers for their summer teams and played against each other. Lacey was playing for Creal Springs and Geri Ann for Johnston City. Each little girl wanted to beat the other one. One pitched, and the other got a home run. Dean said a big tear ran down the pitcher’s cheek. The next inning the other girl pitched only to have the opposing pitcher also hit a home run—and another tear ran down the second pitcher’s face. That was years before their playing together on Southern Force.

They have both come a long way to be playing next year for Division I schools, and we are so proud of their hard work and accomplishments.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

First Cold of the Season

Fall pleasures have been severely diluted by my first cold of the fall-winter season. GRRRR.

A week ago I started thinking I had a mild cold, and it grew more obvious in a couple of days. During the day, things weren’t so unpleasant. There was little runny nose with this cold. No fever. Then the coughing became extreme at night, and I had no left-over cough medicine from last year.

I figured the whole thing would be over by now—aren’t colds supposed to run their main course in a week? Or did I make that up? But, man, by the weekend, I felt bad. I would wake in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep because of coughing. I had not replenished my cough drop supply yet this fall either, and I was getting nervous I might run out of those. My sides would be sore from the coughing.

The next day things would seem better, and I figured I was on my way to recovery—only that night to go to bed needing sleep but coughing would make that impossible. I’d leave our bedroom lest I kept Gerald awake. (Going to bed at l0 p.m. was a definite sign of how bad I felt. I usually blog or play on the Internet until midnight and then go to bed.) I’d grab a blanket from the closet and transfer to the living room couch where I could sit up when I needed to cough. By this time, Gerald had taken me to the drug store and I was taking cough medicine as well as sucking on a new supply of cough drops.

During the days, my thoughts have been hazy, my energy level very low, and my ambition to do more than absolutely necessary non-existent. I’ve made the bed, put simple unappetizing meals on the table, tried to keep up with the laundry, finished re-reading The Tipping Point, and not much else. I had forgotten most of what I had read in that book and wanted to refresh its content in my mind. It would be valuable to think you could know how to start a social epidemic to effect good changes. The book is fascinating, but I have not been able to figure how I could apply Maxwell Gladwell’s ideas. So I guess I will just have to rely on stating my opinions on matters I consider important and hope my opinion influences anyone it is supposed to influence.

Because of my low energy level, I have sat in front of the kitchen television more than usual as I took long lazy breaks from the small amount of kitchen work I have done. (I still have some groceries from last Wednesday’s monthly shopping trip to finish putting away.)

Hearing the Penn State horrors and all the accusations against Herman Cain have made that TV listening unpleasant and mind-boggling. Because I do not want a nine percent national sales tax, I did not have to make up my mind on Cain’s innocence to decide if I would support him. Yet probably like most women, I would not want him even to be a major-party candidate if the four women’s accusations are true. So if she is telling the truth, I greatly admire Sharon Bialek’s courage in coming out publicly to defend and support the other three accusers. She came forth knowing she would be attacked, and any past mistakes will be made public. Most women cannot afford to live through the attacks that come if they publicly announce sexual misconduct.

And other than a desire for notoriety, I don’t see any reason for Bialek to be lying. Yet for many people, a few days of fame is very seductive. I suppose some rich person opposed to Cain might be paying her to make up this story, but I think that while that is not impossible, it is unlikely. Nevertheless, many many people lie for reasons we cannot understand. And I think I know enough of human behavior to know that four women could be lying. Or four men. For a woman to lie about this sort of thing strikes me as a serious offence as what she is accusing Cain of having done. (He did stop and take her back to her hotel as she requested.) To destroy a good man’s reputation is a terrible deed.

Someone has suggested that it would be possible to check with the hotel in question to see if Cain did pay for an upgrade to Bialek’s room. I wonder if hotels do have access to that ancient a record. Or if the restaurant association has such a record that their CEO used funds to do this. A reporter might dig for those facts.

Anyhow I will definitely be listening to Cain’s 5 p.m. news conrference. I hope he tells us he is willing to take a polygraph to help clarify that these four women have lied about his behavior. If he fails the polygraph, I hope he steps out of the political race and resigns as associate pastor of his Atlanta church.

I hate it that the youth of America have to hear about such scandals on the news. They deserve so much better from the nation’s adults.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Super Man, Super Wins, and a Super Vacation

Gerald and I left Woodsong on Wednesday as soon as we finished the lunch I’d carried in from town. Bags had been packed early in the morning, and the trunk was loaded with folding chairs and bags. I’d laid out the sun screen, and our straw hats were in the car’s back window ledge.

We met our nephew DuWayne at Vienna and spoke briefly to his daughter Andrea who’d brought him there. Then the three of us were off towards Columbus, Georgia, in Muscogee County and just north of Fort Benning. We were headed to the South Commons Softball Complex, where our granddaughter Geri Ann would be playing with the Oconee High School team, which was one of the Elite Eight teams striving for the Georgia High School Association AAA state championship.

Oconee had won this championship for the seventh time in 2008 when Geri Ann, fellow pitcher Courtney Poole, and catcher Caitlyn Glenn were freshmen. After not getting to Columbus the next two years, these seniors were determined to win the championship again and were excited to say with the rest of the school: We’re back!

The roadside kudzu and the Winn Dixie, Publix, and Piggly Wiggly groceries let us know we were in the South. The fall leaves were lovely all the way down to Athens, Alabama, where we spent Wednesday night. Like everyone but the bravest independent souls in Southern Illinois, our family members are all St. Louis Cardinal fans, and were having fun arguing with Texas kin folk supporting the Rangers. We searched the motel TV for Game 6 but found out rain had cancelled it, so we went to bed early. After a fine breakfast at the motel Thursday morning, we only had a short drive until we crossed over the Chattahoochee River to arrive in Columbus in plenty of time to meet up with family after we stopped for a hearty lunch at Shoney’s knowing we’d be in the ball park the rest of the day.

Soon we were hugging our son Gerry and wife Vickie, Geri Ann, her sister Tara, and our great grandsons—almost three Maddux (AKA Super Man) and beautiful Peyton who is no longer a baby but a little boy. I wanted to also hug Aidan, the great grandson who is now in kindergarten, but he ran away and looked back grinning. (This brings memories of Gerry who shyly ran from his Gpa Ern the first time we came home after moving away.)

Unlike Gpa Ern who chased Gerry down much to Gerry’s delight, I did not dare chase Aidan. The wide sidewalks at this complex are bordered with steep little custom-made hills that hold welcome shade trees beside the playing fields. The hills provide good viewing for those with lawn chairs but are covered with slick pine needles that everyone warned me about. This softball complex was where the practice games for Women’s Fast-pitch Softball took place prior to the medal games at the Columbus Golden Park when Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympics.

After the greetings and salutations and admiring Maddux’s Super Man uniform and his Spider Man backpack which he found necessary to bring, we soon headed to the nearby stadium for the opening ceremony. GHSA has five divisions for its softball tournaments—A, AA, AAA, AAAA, and AAAAA. All eight teams in each division marched in proudly at the stadium and we heard a beautiful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” After the pomp and ceremony provided for parents’ photo taking, we were free to start watching Georgia’s best softball teams. With Gerry’s guidance, we knew where to spend our time until our 3:30 game with Veterans High School from Warner Robins. By then, Tara had changed Super Man’s shirt to an Oconee fan T shirt.

Courtney pitched the first game. The southern sun beat down intensely, and since I’d stayed inside most of the summer because of our extreme heat, I got my first slight sunburn on my face and remained red-faced throughout the tourney. Oconee ended the 8-0 game in five innings, and I saw Geri Ann make her 23rd home run for the season.

We grabbed a ball park hot dog to eat as we watched Geri Ann start as pitcher in the 7:30 game against Heritage-Caboosa High School. After a slow start, Courtney was brought in, and we won 6-5 and knew the pleasure of seeing Caitlyn hit a three-run homer. In one of these first day’s games, Courtney hit two home runs, so all three seniors had hitting moments to remember when the first day ended.

Feeling good about our two wins, we went to our motel rooms for the night and planned to watch Game 6 of the World Series. We were emotionally prepared for Game 6 to be the end of the St. Louis Cardinals. We were not prepared to see the game go to an 11th inning victory 10-9 over the Rangers thanks to the David Freese homer. We fell asleep tired but happy over the day’s super wins.

I told Gerald that I’d sleep in Friday and he could come back from the ball park and get me in the afternoon. I knew he and DuWayne would want to see all the best players that Gerry would be following throughout Friday, but I didn’t want additional sun damage and also needed to save my energy for Oconee’s 5 p.m. game against Ringgold.

In fact, I barely got up in time before the breakfast room closed, but I was glad since I saw Tara and my three great grandsons there. They and Vickie went onto the games also, but I went back to the room to take a leisurely bath and then to read one of the books I’d carried with me. That turned out to be more difficult than I’d hoped. Leaving the room for the maid to do her magic, I moved to the couch in the cove above the downstairs lobby. Everyone down there seemed to be talking with their outdoor voices. Soon the housekeeper showed up with a very noisy vacuum.

I moved to the downstairs lounge area and soon another housekeeper and her vacuum joined me. By this time, Vickie had brought the three boys back to their room for an unsuccessful attempt at a nap, so she was taking them out for a drive to put them to sleep. (She said it worked.) So I enjoyed seeing those little guys again.
When Gerald came back, he confessed he had not slept well the night before and needed a nap, so I continued reading in the lobby. After his nap, he needed to do a couple errands and he figured we ought to find a restaurant rather than plan on another ball field hot dog for our supper.

We returned to the park just in time to greet our granddaughter Erin who had arrived after driving all the way from Southern Illinois with her Gma Shirley. They were delighted with being with family again just as we had been the night before. Aiden was soon in Auntie E’s lap and they were making plans for a doughnut date the next morning. Shirley was still high from the beautiful time they had together driving down through smoke-filled mountains glistening with sunlight through the rain. It was so good to observe Erin walking without crutches and most of the time without even a limp.

I claimed Geri Ann’s home run on Thursday night was for me, so I let her 24th home run in this game be especially for Gma Shirley. Geri Ann did a great job pitching, and we beat Ringgold 8-1. Having these two top-notch pitchers alternate pitching and playing first base has been one of Oconee’s great strengths. Courtney and Geri Ann began alternating as pitchers as freshmen when Oconee won that 2008 state championship. Although most of this evening game was played in pleasant weather, the last two innings were played in a light rain. I kept hoping they would call the game but there was no lightning and the game continued. Our hair was stuck to our heads, our clothes and shoes were wet, and the three little boys were not only wet but muddy.

We all met up in Gerry and Vickie’s rooms to watch the Cardinals and Rangers in Game 7 and enjoy the pizza and cola party provided by DuWayne. By this time, Tara had bathed the boys and dressed then for bed. Maddux now had on his Buzz Lightwood pajamas. All three boys were in great spirits with the kind of wild kinetic activity that comes as children wind down expending their last remaining bit of energy.

We enjoyed watching the little guys jump, roll, and wrestle around the room and across the beds as much as the game on TV. Tara refereed to make sure no one got hurt in all the bouncing and tackling. The noise level became pretty bad since they screamed in their rough and tumble play and we screamed at the game. Although it was early, we became a little nervous we might be kicked out of the motel, so we tried to quiet down. As the evening progressed, one by one, Tara took the boys off in the other room to sleep. Then we could only blame ourselves for any noise.

Gerry, Tara, and Erin have all played, coached, and given lessons, so being with them at any tournament means seeing lots of past players or their families re-connecting, catching up, and discussing old times with them. Their phones are filled with text messages, and Tara excitedly shared one: Alicia DeShasier, a Southern Force alum, had just won the gold medal at the Pam American games javelin event. We watched Game 7 with held breath until the end and again went to bed quite happily after a 6-2 score in favor of our Cards and the third win for Oconee.

I didn’t want to be late for the Saturday morning championship game at 11:30, so I was not much behind Gerald and DuWayne in the breakfast room. Ringgold and West Laurens were playing at 9:30 to see who from the losers’ bracket would play Oconee. The weather had turned quite cold over night, so we all layered on all the warm clothes possible and went to watch who won that game. It was West Laurens.

Tara’s husband Bryan arrived back from his headquarters in the Chicago area, and Oconee fans had made the three-hour drive down for this important game. Maddux was as socially involved with a gathering of little ones on blankets on the grass as Aidan has been for years now. By our game time, the weather was actually very pleasant despite strong winds.

If we lost for the first time, we would have to immediately play West Laurens a second time since this was a double elimination tourney. Fortunately, that was not necessary. Courtney was pitching. The crowd caught their breath expectantly thinking Geri Ann had made that 25th homerun, but the wind blew it foul. After no scores in the first three and a half innings, Brianna Dickens had a two-out single and then stole second base and scored when Savannah Stoker singled. In the seventh, Caitlyn got on base with a double and scored when Dickens made a one-out double. Molly White and Mattie Daughtery also made very important defensive plays; all these underclassmen contributing as they did is an indication Oconee County may be ready to begin another seven-year run as state champs.

Gerry could not have had a better 53rd birthday present than seeing Geri Ann’s team win Oconee’s 8th state championship. Without the need to play the 1:30 game, we were able to get on the road back to Illinois sooner than expected. We would have liked to take Gerry and family out for birthday dinner, but Oconee’s plans were still fluid for the champs’ dinner celebration, which was likely going to be on their way back to Athens, Georgia.

DuWayne assured us he was up to helping Gerald make our nine-hour trip in one lap, so we left at 1:00 and crossed back across the Chattahoochee into Alabama retracing our way on Route 280 through Athens, Huntsville, and Birmingham, and finally stopping for a leisurely lunch to celebrate victory at Ruby Tuesdays before we drove on through Tennessee, Kentucky, and met DuWayne’s wife Vickie at Vienna. We were in bed at Woodsong by midnight, and we rested up Sunday morning.

That afternoon I went in to visit Katherine expecting her to be planning on evening church as she had done the previous Sunday. But her cough had gotten much worse while we were gone despite the antibiotic she was on for another infection. I helped her get a light afternoon lunch. Her stomach has been torn up by meds, so she hasn’t wanted to eat. She jokingly said she had found out you can live on bread alone. Our sweet neighbor and her fellow church member Janet White had sent her a loaf of home-made bread and a jar of home-made grape jam. She found she could heat and eat that bread without it crumbling and causing her to cough as bad as her usual flax bread. So that bread and jam were a welcome dietary help. Sometimes she added cheese or an egg for protein.

Later after David and Sam went to evening church, I’d found and heated up a can of cream of chicken soup. Just then David brought in a huge baked potato for Katherine from an after-service pastor appreciation event. He smashed it with the sour cream she likes. She said the soup and potato turned out to be the perfect combination for her upset stomach. While the men watched a sports event in the family room, we watched TV in Katherine’s pleasant bedroom as she ate her late supper. I was able to spend the day with her again yesterday as Gerald took her in their van for an appointment, which he is also doing this afternoon.

Today I have been unpacking, washing clothes from the trip, catching up on the vacation packet of newspapers, and seeing who said what on Facebook while we were gone. Unless I am remembering wrong, it had been over two years since I was able to see Geri Ann play softball. To see her in this final high school tournament and have it turn out so well while we also celebrated Gerry’s birthday has made this a vacation to cherish.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Starting a Second Decade of Woodsong Autumns

Fall change is in the crisp air. As I drove home from Katherine’s on Saturday night down our lane, two deer were munching a late night supper in neighbor Scott’s fields. Their alert raised eyes reflected the car lights briefly, but they quickly went back to eating. Soon those crops will be harvested and the deer will have to find another soup kitchen. Last night as I drove down the lane, I saw that Brian, Mary Ellen, and Brianna had been there during the afternoon to move their parked farm equipment on down to their Harrisburg fields.

Hearing a wild goose call this morning made me look out the window hoping to see an overhead feathered friend flying south, but I only saw our two remaining ducks swimming together on the lake. We have gone from having an over abundance of wild fowl at the lake to a much diminished population since Gerald stopped feeding them. We have finally accepted the fact that baby fowl will not live long here with all the predators waiting to ponse sometimes even before they hatch.

When I changed our sheets Saturday morning, I went ahead and put the extra blanket on the bed that I had just been tentatively laying at the foot of the bed just n case we needed it. Fearing front, Gerald picked a bucket of ripe tomatoes and a bucket of green tomatoes from the garden for fear of frost. I have tried to share the ripe ones; and last night as I watched Book Notes, I wrapped the green ones in newspaper to continue ripening and carried them into the garage. I know many people like fried green tomatoes, but somehow I have never tried to make that dish. I feel guilty enough when I fry okra, which our family loves, so I don’t feel inclined to experiment frying tomatoes. But we will enjoy having home-grown tomatoes probably into the beginning of winter as these green ones ripen.

The sweet gum tree out by the garden is now gone all red, and I so enjoy looking at it out the kitchen window. Gerald planted that tree as a tiny plant no bigger than an onion slip over ten years ago before we moved here. Gerald found the baby tree in a flower bed at the north of our other house, where evidently a bird had dropped the seed since we did not have any gum trees in our yard there. Now it is such a lovely shaped tree and taller than the martin house on the other end of the garden. It is beginning to shade the north part of the garden, so I suggest that is another reason to make the garden a little smaller next summer. The tree must definitely stay.

Another tree I look at almost daily when I awake is outside our bedroom window-- the pin oak that Gerald planted after we moved here ten years ago. Its branches usually have a bird or two lighted in them. It has been such a pleasure to see that tiny slow-growing tree reach its present adolescent height.

Many years ago when we would drive home from the University of Illinois where Gerald was in grad school, we would pass a beautiful new farm house beside the road. One of Gerald’s professors had told the class that the farmer who lived there built that new house towards the end of his career and almost immediately he had died leaving his widow alone there. I could never look at the house without a lump in my throat. When Gerald started getting very serious about building this house, that story was one reason I was reluctant. (Besides the sadness of leaving behind the house that held all the memories of rearing our children.)

Finally, Gerald asked me if we’d likely both live five more years, and I knew we likely would. And then the question was: would it be worth it to build and move if that were so? We both decided it would be worth it. In the memory-ridden house, we recalled that Gerald had knocked out walls, put up walls, enclosed porches, made the bathroom work when we first moved in, remodeled that bathroom at least twice while adding two more in a major remodel for the entire house, and on and on. No wonder Gerald was sick and tired of working on that house. Well, we moved into this house on October 14, 2001, when it was not yet completely finished in order to accommodate the family who had bought our old farm house.

So we have now lived here ten years, and I am realizing that referring to this as our “new” house is no longer accurate. It has definitely been worth it. Twice, we have had families living with us—part of a family one summer while Jeannie took classes in three different colleges to get the art classes she needed and Katherine’s family for six months while a slow and incompetent contractor did a major remodel to make their house more accessible. One summer while the Taylor camper was not available, Mary Ellen’s family spent a lot of weekends with us. And with Gerry and Jeannie’s family members divided between north and south of here, we have been able to provide bed and breakfast when needed. We could have done all these things in the old farm house, but certainly with a great more difficulty and not much comfort for those involved. I don’t think much of that would have happened. People asked us why we wanted four bedrooms, and I suggested they come sleep on our floor with our holiday overflow, which would be much worse if not for the Taylor camper. There really isn’t any room that has not had considerable use.

I knew one of the things I would miss most when we moved was the beautiful old maple trees at the other house. Yet it seemed like every time I finally got the limbs picked up after a wind storm, that very night we’d have a rain and branches would be blown out to be picked up again. We felt bad for the new owners who have twice had devastating disasters from those wonderful old trees, and they have had to remodel and repair resulting damage to the house. At our age, those problems would have been even more difficult for us. We have thoroughly enjoyed watching all the trees Gerald planted grow, but he put them all away from the house. We no longer have to pick up limbs or rake leaves each fall as we did over at Pondside Farm.

Has there been upkeep on this house? Definitely. If you are not renting from a landlord who does repairs, you have to expect that. From the beginning, things had to occasionally be finished up, repaired, or changed. Yet I think it was more pleasant for Gerald to do those tasks in a new house than one he was bored with working on. For the past two years, I kept telling myself I’d repaint the ledge of the window over the kitchen sink, but I dallied enough about doing it, that by this summer I was afraid of crawling on top of the counter to do it. Of course, Gerald did it along with getting the garage door and front entrance doors changed. I am wondering what our second decade here will bring.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rainy, Chilly Fall Weather

Cloudy, drizzly, rainy weather makes me want to stay home and inside. Gerald switched us over from AC to heat in the house last night because of this pre-taste of the climate to come. Down in Georgia, Gerry said there was rain and chill there too, and so Geri Ann’s tourney game was cancelled today until tomorrow.

I am grateful Brian has our crop in and grateful that Gerald finished up some of the “junking” he has been doing to clean up excess metal stuff that had been cluttering back fence rows. I think he paid for it with a sore back and so declared yesterday he was through working. He took off for lunch with his brother Garry down at Dixie Barbecue—our famous eatery in my hometown of Jonesboro. But this morning he was busy tightening up both our front and back doors to work better at keeping the house warm this winter. I didn’t expect his “not going to work” resolution would last long.

Everyone seems to be making chili or soup for supper these days. I made soup Sunday night, but I still haven’t stocked up on chili ingredients. The local food writer gave us an interesting article today with anecdotes and recipes for chowder made from Big Muddy River buffalo fish—like her daddy used to catch with his handmade net.

We had delicious fish from a vendor at a lake in Kentucky on Sunday when our church had its annual fall fish fry after morning services. Everyone was saying the fish and hush puppies were the best ever. (That may be like every year we think our Christmas tree is the prettiest we ever had.) Regardless, the fish and all the side dishes and desserts carried in to go with it were delicious. Again I was so grateful that those with servant hearts cooked up this feast for us. The weather was wonderful, and I was glad to have a out-of-town daughter and granddaughter able to be present to enjoy it with us before they began their long drives home in opposite directions. Katherine also enjoyed some of that fish for her lunch yesterday.

I took a couple small bags of tomatoes into Katherine’s aides yesterday. Until recently, the dry spell we had reduced our over abundance of tomatoes to just enough for our own table. When production started up again, the bottoms of the fruit were broken with ugly black cracks that had to be cut off. Gradually the newer tomatoes are in better shape. The vines are loaded, and I even made a bit of juice and stuck it in the freezer for that upcoming chili. We will have more than enough tomatoes now until frost, which may come sooner than we'd like.

Tomatoes and melons were all that Gerald planted this summer—but plenty of both. We had cantaloupe to share as well as tomatoes and really enjoyed indulging in them until the vines quit producing. I was very grateful when I heard about the cantaloupe deaths that we had not had to buy any from the store. I am not sure I want to know how those melons became contaminated.

Phone calls are not as frequent in today’s world, but we have had two from long-ago friends that pleased us. The first on the answering machine on Sunday afternoon was from our dear long-ago neighbor Joyce Combes, who was back in town for a high school reunion. We were sorry we missed our opportunity to have her visit us before she flew out back to Virginia. Gerald was here but did not hear the phone ring. I was visiting Katherine as I do each Sunday afternoon.

Our nephew Bryce, our great nephew his son Lex, and our great great niece Bryce’s little granddaughter Josie were here visiting that afternoon, and Gerald was perhaps too enthralled with Josie to hear the phone. As usually happens as families keep expanding with new generations, it is impossible to see one another as we did back in the day when we were the only older generation.

It is hard to realize that all those nieces and nephews have grown up and many are grandparents themselves. Although she lives in a nearby town, I have only seen Josie a few times during her lifetime—the last time at her Gma Opal’s house--but she thought when she came here that she was going to get to play with “Gma Sue.” Since I know Bryce and Lex would have called me Aunt Sue, I don’t know why she was calling me that—but I was honored. And a little jealous that Gerald had the pleasure of her companionship as she explored our great grandchildren’s basket of toys in the family room.

Today Gerald was lying on the floor fixing that kitchen door when his cell rang. Brad Jowers, who grew up in the Crab Orchard community before his parents Bobby and Katherine Sanders moved the family to Texas, was in Portland, Oregon, getting ready to fly to California and from there to New York. He wanted to know who Gerald was going to be yelling for tonight when the St. Louis Cardinals play those Texas Rangers. I bet Brad’s days as a Cardinal fan when he lived in Southern Illinois makes him feel a tad torn. At least it inspired his phone call to Gerald, and we were glad to hear from him.

Not so pleasant was a call yesterday and another today wanting me to change my credit card interest rate. I had finally got on a do-not-call list for those bothersome calls, but evidently that only lasts so long. Both times I clicked the number to talk to an operator and asked for the calls to stop. Unlike the last time I went through this routine, there was no courteous response—just a quick click when I expressed my desire to not have my life needlessly interrupted.

Well, I think I better go fix another quick bowl of soup for go with our supper sandwich again tonight. That game will be starting soon.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Autumnal Tumbling

Red and orange are gradually being added to the green, brown, and yellow leaves in Southern Illinois. Only a few leaves are falling so far. Yet autumnal tumbling describes our recent life at Woodsong. We seldom finish one activity or thought until another tumbles in to interrupt or change our direction.

Harvest on our farm is finished thanks to the great efforts and management skills by our son-in-law Brian. He also has winter wheat sown already. He must wait awhile to harvest the rest of his acreage—rented fields over near Harrisburg-- which were sown later. I hope he has been able to get some rest before then to make up for those nights he was still working at 3 a.m. the next morning.

Granddaughter Brianna was down to help her dad over the weekend as well as to enjoy her cousin Sam Cedar’s first Homecoming parade on Friday afternoon, the football game that night, and the coronation the next night with her mom, who had also shown up on Saturday to help with the harvest.

Despite heavy traffic, I made part of the parade, which Bri was watching with Katherine and David, but I hurried off to attend (late) the Women’s Club meeting at the library since I had missed the previous month and I especially wanted to hear Jon Musgrave’s program and his latest research for his next book.

Gerald and I went to our first football game in years in order to see Sam march in the pre-game show and at half time. We left early since we had to park so far away and would be walking near the edge of the street on rough ground. We didn’t want to do that in heavy traffic. Although we walked a long way, many more people were parked further up that road than we were, and I am sure it was the same on the other side of the school. We heard the end of the game just as our car arrived in the garage—and Marion won by one point. It was Centralia's first defeat this season.

Before we left for the game, we had a message on our answering machine from my sister that their daughter Candy was in the hospital and might not live through the night. We found out she had made it, but she was still unconscious; we were still worrying about that on Saturday afternoon when my brother Jim and wife Vivian came by for a visit after being in Union County celebrating with the Class of 1946 the 65th anniversary of their high school graduation. It was a two-day affair and they also added the third day so they could visit friends, Vivian’s sister Ruby, and us.

On Sunday we were enjoying all the photos posted on Facebook of Sam and his beautiful date for the Homecoming dance. We came home from church to find that Mary Ellen, Brian, and Brianna had carried in dinner for all of us from Kentucky Fried Chicken. So we had a good visit over lunch with no effort on my part before I drove in for an afternoon visit with Katherine to hear all about Homecoming from her perspective and their anniversary celebration the night before. Before David got home from his friend’s farm, where they are making preparations for hunting season, I got to take Sam to his youth meeting—that was after he came home from a friend’s house. My sister phoned that afternoon on my cell to give me an update on Candy while I was still at Katherine’s.

Katherine herself was still receiving intravenous antibiotic every twelve hours by home health aides and David. On the previous Monday, various complications at the Cedar home kept happening so that we helped out by taking Katherine to the ER at the Carbondale hospital for tests and to be given the right antibiotic with the insert of a receptacle left in her arm so that she was given the antibiotic every twelve hours at home. Since the extreme busyness at ER that night kept us there seven hours until 2 a.m., we were thankful we had taken her and that David was home with Sam. Katherine had been told that they were dealing with three heart attacks and the arrival of four ambulances.

It was a strange experience because the waiting room was filled with weeping people, and the crowd kept growing as the night progressed. The grief was so raw and intense that I wondered if a child was dying, but it was such a diverse crowd that I could not figure it out. We were shocked and very saddened ourselves when we learned that a kindergarten teacher in a local school had hung herself in a classroom after school and was found by another teacher. As the word spread, her fellow teachers were coming in praying she might live and trying to comfort one another. She did live until the next morning when organs were donated. The school, as shown on the news the next day, was in mourning and tried to help with counseling for the students, but who can explain suicide, let alone to children.

We were so pleased with the very sharp ER doctor that night. Katherine knew from previous infections what was needed and he listened carefully and was not threatened by questions by an intelligent patient. Instead he called her urologist and found out she was right, and consequently everything was done correctly. It is difficult for patients to advocate for themselves, but a good physician appreciates it. There was the sweetest and most understanding nurse taking care of Katherine in the ER that night, and it made the long tiring experience much less difficult.
On Tuesday afternoon this week, a visiting nurse came to remove the receptacle for the antibiotic and to write the final report. And this home nurse was so intelligent, informative, and supportive that I find myself really high on the medical profession right now. We have had some bad experiences with doctors and ER people in the past, and so has Katherine, so that makes you really appreciate the good people.

Some people are scared of any kind of government employees and, thus, are scared of government involvement in medicine. I am convinced that competent and caring people work in the government bureaus just as they do in private situations. And unfortunately incompetent, arrogant, ignorant, lazy, and cruel people also work both in private businesses and in government bureaus. All of us, whether we want to be or not, are at the mercy of other people. Most of us are not unfortunate enough to be in a beauty shop, on an air plane, in a church house, or at a political rally in a supermarket parking lot when a crazed individual shows up and starts shooting. All we can do is try to encourage one another to be one of the giving people and do what we can to prevent incompetents and crazies from hurting others.

Meanwhile down in Amarillo, Candy is better though still in the hospital, and her daughter is up from Florida to visit her. Her Oklahoma sister is coming this weekend. Her local sisters are hosting their niece, and when Katherine talked to Rosemary this week, Rosie and Phil were fixing another family dinner in addition to their regular Friday night supper for their clan.

While all this family unhappy happenings have been going on, we are also carefully following and celebrating granddaughter Geri Ann’s high school softball career down in Georgia. She and her fellow pitcher Courtney Poole, both seniors, are continuing their winning ways on the mound and with their bats. Geri Ann has just broken both the all-time season record and career record for homeruns among Georgia high schools. The playoffs with several more games will continue for the next two weeks. Someone may catch up with her, especially since no one will pitch to her now, but her grandparents in Illinois believe she will finish on top.

We are also excited about our granddaughter Leslie down at Belmont University at Nashville. Her Facebook page is filled with congratulations on her stunning performance with the Rock Ensemble there on campus Wednesday night. We find it hard to believe that our little blonde is a senior in college, but we aren’t at all surprised she is winning praise for her powerful voice. Hearing her called a rock star by her band friends and Belmont audience is somewhat unexpected. Anyone who has heard Leslie sing in her high school musicals, with her guitar at coffee shop concerts, or leading worship at church would not think of her as a rock star. Yet this was the campus ensemble she was asked to perform with, and obviously her virtuosity includes rock. Here is a link to one of their concert performances now on You Tube:

Panic Attack by Dream Theater-Belmont University Rock Ensemble
From the Rock Ensemble's 2011 Show Written by Dream Theater

Tonight our computer is moving so very very slow. A slow computer in addition to all the busyness contributes to my not blogging in a timely fashion lately.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Harvest Time Thoughts

Our son-in-law Brian is down and working very hard at harvest. Gerald has helped him all day today by hauling grain. (It is usually too damp to start before l0; but Gerald did things here at this farm and then joined Brian, and he was ready for rest in his easy chair in front of the TV when the day was over.)

Brian works before and after time in the field in their camper analyzing crop results and keeping in touch with his home office at Stone Seed. (If he is lucky, he may even get needed sleep there.) At noon, I was fascinated that Gerald brought in a map print-out of the fields. Brian’s combine evidently records what it is harvesting, and Brian downloaded the information and took the chip into Twin County farm service to create this map. The same technology can be used for future fertilizing so that just the areas of the fields that need more fertilizer will receive it in just the right amounts. This is all over my head and my ability to understand, but I do understand that this is remarkable technology that is changing crop production in important ways.

The other Bryan in our family—granddaughter Tara’s husband--is now with his family in Georgia but continuing to work for his Illinois firm with the help of high speed technology that sends his work to his home office. I am amazed at these important advances in communication. I am so glad he able to be with his family now instead of depending on Skype to keep in touch with his wife and three little guys. A former Southern Illinois University football player, he was able to take Aidan, age 5, to a Georgia football game on Saturday afternoon, which was a dream come true for him. Of course, he will be making frequent trips to northern Illinois, but modern transportation makes that easily done also. Like most people, their family has been impacted by the recession since the house they purchased with high hopes and made improvements on has lost value and is awaiting a purchaser.

On TV tonight, I saw where a church in Oregon or somewhere in the Northwest had been given permission to create a tent city on their parking lot for homeless families since the city’s homeless shelters were full. While I am grateful to the church for providing this help, it is heartbreaking that families must go through this. Especially when many many beautiful homes all over the nation have been foreclosed on and are now standing empty marring their neighborhoods and often being vandalized by thieves stealing copper and other marketable items. I keep wondering why some innovative bankers cannot figure out a solution to these lose-lose situations. Again this is all over my head and my ability to understand, but I keep thinking there surely are some brilliant minds out there able to figure out a solution. As the world pays tribute to Steve Jobs, let us pray that some other creative geniuses and problem solvers will find ways to help us get families out of our present problems.

My contribution to complete the harvest has been to be available a couple of times to drive Brian and Gerald to new fields after they finish one field and have to move machinery on to the next. My skill sets are still back in the 20th century; and unlike many farm wives, I never even learned to drive the tractors or combines back then. I am not dumb, but I never had adequate training to overcome my fears and limited aptitude, so I spent a life time caring for children, vacuuming, mopping, cooking, and washing dishes—all of which I consider very important work. I was not only where I chose to be, but I think I was where I should have been with the particular geographic opportunities and peculiar set of circumstances and abilities that I had.

Nevertheless, as technology keeps improving and growing ever more complicated, education and training is increasingly important and must grow more available to everyone and more effective. We must believe in our people. There are millions of young men and women in inner cities, suburbs, and rural areas that are not dumb just as I am not dumb—but because of their limited education and lack of the skills needed in today’s economy somehow appear that way to themselves and others. As a nation, we have to figure out how to use human potential all around us. There is plenty of work to be done, and we need to prepare our citizens to be able to accomplish all the work needing to be done.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Fun and Fellowship at "The Nifty Fifties"--and Hope

Before I even drove home from our 19th Annual Baptist Student Union Reunion Friday afternoon, I felt I must drop by a young friend’s house to share the hope that Nate Adams had given us with his afternoon presentation. The personal story he told convinced me that five or six people praying could bring about important results.

Former Southern Illinois University classmates and other BSU alumni from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s had met Thursday evening for a bountiful supper in the fellowship hall of Lakeland Baptist Church in Carbondale to start our reunion. Hamburgers and hot dogs with all the fixings topped by banana splits as dessert were served by friendly Lakeland members. That menu and the colorful juke box decorations surrounding us made clear “The Nifty Fifties” theme.

So did being greeted by Jim Cox of midwest radio/television fame in his Rock and Roll T-shirt and our president Ginger Wells and husband Gene in their blue jeans. Another attendee had on 1950s style church-going outfit complete with cute hat atop her head. One bright red poodle skirt with multiple petticoats beneath it certainly caught my eye, and there were others brave enough or ambitious enough to rise to the challenge of dressing the way it was. Rosie Robinson registered us, and as usual George and Jerry Casey took our pictures—this year in a Route 66 automobile. We will be receiving those photos in the mail soon. Pastor Phil Nelson welcomed us, and Gerald and I were pleased to see this friend of our daughter Katherine from their 1970 BSU days together.

We moved from the fellowship hall across the driveway to Lakeland’s new worship center for an evening of fellowship, inspiration, and games led by Bob and Oleta Barrow. We liked hearing about the SIUC Campus Mission from Chase Abner again and also from two cute twins Ashley and Andrea Dimitroff, students from DuQuoin. You may want to check out the Campus Mission Facebook page to share with the young people in your church.

The former BSU quartet—Roger Deppe, Bill Eidson, Darrell and Harlan Highsmith--proved they can still sound good even after 50 years. Jo Nell Cannon was the best liar in the Liars Game, and she said the next day she had a lot of explaining to do to a fellow church member who showed up from Mt. Vernon and kept hearing people tell her what a good liar she was. The close harmony of Les Snyder and his sons Brent and Chris was beautiful and powerful. Then we finished the evening singing 1950s songs under the direction of four couples who got into the swing of things—especially Verona and Darrell Highsmith smooching behind their big hats.

For me, the best part of Thursday evening was people’s stories. Finding out that multi-talented Jim Cox had never expected to go to college and took vocational classes in high school not only surprised me but filled me with appreciation for his Johnston City pastor Bob Walker who took Jim to his mother’s home and arranged a free room for his first term to encourage Jim to try college and see how he could work his way through—which he did with a job at the Baptist Foundation.

Then there was George Casey telling us about growing up in Tunnel Hill, attending a one-room school with only three in his class. (All three of his rural classmates ended up with masters degrees, which says something good about one-room schools with the right teacher.) Turning down scholarship offers from McKendree and University of Illinois, George came to SIUC at age 15. He felt the support and fellowship of Christian students at Doyle Dorm not only helped him make the adjustment to university life but also convinced him he wanted to become a Christian, which he did during his junior year. He also gave us a quick history of student work at SIUC from Myron Dillow’s history book about Baptist life in Illinois. You can read George’s “BSU Story” on the website our president emeritus Helen Galloway created for us:

Helen too told about what BSU meant to her during 1945-49. When George earlier told about the BSU float winning in the 1948 Homecoming parade celebrating SIU’s progression from Southern Illinois Normal University, why did we figure that Helen was on the committee that used “We Ain’t Normal Anymore” for their theme? Kidding aside, however, as many wonderful laughs as Helen has provided for us these many years, her servant heart has always been in the right place and accomplished so much for our Illinois churches, her students during her guidance counselor career, and now in her home church and for our BSU reunion that grew from a garage-full of friends at a rummage sale to the large gathering we have now that inspires and blesses us, Helen already has the October newsletter up at and lots of updating already accomplished with the promise this year’s reunion pictures will be posted soon. Check it out at and drop Helen a note of appreciation.

Gerald and I had gotten up early Thursday to bid farewell to California friends who had been with us for a week and who left Carbondale when I drove them to the train station Thursday morning. So we were grateful we didn’t have to stay for the late night practice of the Reunion Choir under the direction of Barbara Eidson. However, the next day when I heard them sing, I was grateful that they had the energy and dedication to stay late and prepare the lovely songs we heard on Friday.

Coffee, fruit, and bite-size yummy pastries awaited us Friday morning in the fellowship hall and at ten o’clock we went back to the worship center for praise and worship under the direction of John Davis and Carol Smith. Darrell Highsmith led us in a thoughtful memorial service before the Reunion Choir sang, and Carol thrilled us with her piano tribute.

It was inspiring to hear Becky Searles, teacher and trainer of teachers, interview her husband Dr. Howard Searles about his years of work with Emmanuel Hospital Association in northern rural India. Becky is in her 45th year in education and now serving Trinity International University and Judson College. Howard is still recruiting for EHA and has seen seven hospitals grow to twenty-one and returns to help often even though he retired from medical practice seven years ago. For more about EHA’s work, visit

Lora Blackwell explained again the Fellowship of Baptist Educators program in which she participates and which not only provides teachers for other nations but also collects Bibles and books for overseas libraries with limited resources. See

Just back from weeks working in northern New York, Jack Shelby told us about our Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief Volunteer program and its 37 teams, who pay their own expenses and do everything from supplying hot meals and child care during disasters to having chainsaw crews ready to clear fallen trees and repair roofs. He told of cleaning up one little 90-year-old lady’s lawn covered with limbs as high as fence around the yard. When she thanked them, she explained when she looked out and saw the damage and mess outside her house, she knew she could not do anything about it. So she prayed the Lord would send angels to clean it up for her. She was delighted with the crew that came and she told them that she now knew that “Angels aren’t always pretty.” Another encouraging tidbit Jack shared was that at one table during one of the 19,000 volunteer days Illinois provided that year, they discovered that every man at the table had had open heart surgery. For more information, see

At our fantastic catered lunch, I met or should say re-met a neighbor I had not seen since her childhood. As she dipped my salad. she explained that she was Melody, the second daughter of Jay and Winnie Payne and she and her husband were the ones who had moved a mobile home to Jay and Winnie’s place. They sometimes bring Jay and Winnie fishing at our lake. Then I noticed her T-shirt and realized we were being catered by Marion’s Western Sizzling. Winnie is an outstanding cook, and so are her daughter and husband.

After lunch, Jim and Rosie Robinson led us in group singing. We listened to the men’s quartet again and heard Helen Galloway introduce special people—the missionaries in our midst. But I was most looking forward to her introduction of our Illinois Baptist State Association Executive Director, because she told me she had been working on that introduction for a week. She did not disappoint. She had us laughing, Nate blushing, and our hearts open to what he had to say.

He did not disappoint either. He is more than aware of the importance of trying to provide for our present young adults the kind of nurturing and educational opportunities that the adults in the Great Depression sacrificially created for our age group when we were young. With young adults of his own, he understands the need to tell the good news of Christ so that it will be understood by this generation and they too will enjoy community and relationships that will bless them throughout their life on this planet and beyond. The method needed? Prayer and caring people reaching out and sharing their journey and their struggles as they make the effort to follow the teachings of Jesus and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Knowing that many listening would do that filled me with hope as I left the reunion and headed home rejoicing.