Monday, January 31, 2011

Ready or Not, January Is Over and February Is Here

The lake is green-tinted blackish now and completely thawed after the previous few days of melting swirls of silver ice still lingering there. A flock of wild ducks came in on Sunday and a few were still swimming there when I looked out our bedroom window this morning. There are no longer any small spots of snow left over in shady places; all is brown. We had an absolutely beautiful warm final January weekend here in Southern Illinois.

But like much of the nation, we are threatened with the possibility of blizzard-like conditions tomorrow. So the landscape may turn white again. Gerald has an appointment with his truck early in the morning. I’m supposed to take Sam to the orthodontist before lunch, and Katherine has an appointment for a Tysabri infusion in the afternoon. We’ll see whether the weather permits us to keep our appointments.

Although we had seen several cardinals, a blue jay, and a woodpecker back when the snow was on, I was again seeing only the small birds at the feeder that Gerald keeps on the deck. Today, however, I saw one bright red cardinal, the blue jay, and another big black and brown bird I did not recognize. I had to wonder if they knew they better fill up in case the blizzard comes. When they left, the six little sparrows, who had been waiting, had their breakfast. The prettiest sight was when I went downstairs to the computer and saw a pair of doves on the lawn enjoying the grain that had dropped down from the deck above them.

On Saturday mid-morning, Gerald came in from his shop that he has been busy reorganizing. He had worked too many hours on the concrete the day before, and was ready to let that project go for awhile. I had started several things—bed stripped, laundry going, meat thawing for lunch, but I was still relaxing at the breakfast table in my pajamas slowly reading the morning’s paper. He needed to go to Carbondale to an office supply store and to Lowe’s to get some dowel rods he can only get there and asked if I’d want to go, and if so, how soon could I be ready?

With that challenge, I quickly stuck the thawing meat in the fridge for Sunday, jumped into some clothes, and collected the Christmas gift card for the J.C. Penney card that I needed to spend and I was ready in record time. Never mind that I’d have to finish the bed with clean sheets and fold the laundry when I got back. I had left my purse at Katherine’s accidently on Thursday, so we met up there, and I climbed into the truck.

We took the long way to Carbondale so he could show me where Erin is living in Cambria even though we thought she would already be at softball practice. In my rush to the truck, I forgot my coat in the car, but was glad I did since I really did not need it. We saw children playing outside in shirt sleeves as we drove through Cambria. We took some unfamiliar back roads to reach Carbondale where we stopped for lunch before Gerald dropped me off to shop while he did his errands.

I couldn’t resist the sale racks, but I can’t stand anything with a high neckline and so all the turtle neck stuff was passed over, some colors were wrong for me, and some of the other garments had much too low necklines when I tried them on after I finally was able to find a dressing room. It has been years since I had been to that particular store, and I was totally surprised at how I kept finding new rooms with these sales going on. I think I was going in a circle. I felt confused and disoriented and even though I was not buying jewelry, I tried to keep aware of where the jewelry department was just so I felt a little less lost.

I had my arms full of a second batch of clothes to try on if I could only find a dressing room again, when Gerald phoned to say he was done and how was I doing. I was relieved when he said he would come on inside and visit the men’s department. So I finished before he did and sat resting in the mall lounge outside the store. By then I really needed that rest.

Gerald came out a few minutes later with two new pair of trousers that were on sale. I had bought three items during all his errand completion at other stores. Obviously he is a more efficient shopper than I am. I really had intended to go to the household/kitchen department but hadn’t found it until I wandered there by mistake with the last load of clothes over my arm looking for that dressing room. All three garments that I bought were on sale for $4.98, so I still have most of my gift card left to spend later! That was fun. Next time maybe I will find the right department to begin with.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Grown Grandchildren and Life's Changes

Yesterday was Elijah’s 18th birthday. His mother’s comment on Facebook that she now had another adult child made me wake up to how old I am! Soon Trent will also be 18. It all seems kinda amazing this passing of time! We were so excited when these two grandsons were expected. Trent was supposed to be born first, and Elijah about two weeks later. I kept worrying that Trent would be a week late and Elijah early and they’d be born on the same day states away from each other, and I would be torn wanting to be with both new babies and their mothers.

But totally unexpected, Elijah came six weeks early in a most dramatic way. Jeannie had to persuade Leslie to quit watching her television program. Then she drove herself to the hospital with little Leslie because it took awhile for Rick’s boss to locate him and send him to the Marion Hospital just in time for Elijah’s arrival. (I bet he speeded getting there!)

Fortunately, Leslie’s Aunt Vickie was working at the hospital and was able to take charge of her when Jeannie arrived needing to be admitted immediately. I will never forget Gerald calling me on the farm radio while I was driving home from work in Benton. (No one had cell phones in those days.) By this time, Gerald had Leslie and Erin, I think, and they were headed to the Dairy Queen. I almost went into a state of shock, and it did not help when I saw Elijah with oxygen all warm in an incubator when I arrived at the hospital. Fortunately, he was fine, and they were back at their Crainville home with little delay.

Leslie has just posted some photos of those early days in Crainville on Facebook, and I have enjoyed again those two beautiful children that I said were our artist Jeannie’s masterpieces. (Of course, she outdid herself again with the birth of Cecelie up in Freeport, who was special born on her great grandmother Ada Glasco’s birthday.}

I realized it then, but even more now I realize how blessed I was that the Eilers lived in Southern Illinois during the early days of their family and that we were able to share more of those beginning times for Les and Lige. Despite the distance to Freeport, we actually saw Cecelie fairly often during her first couple of years, but that is no longer true. A couple of frightening winter trips while we watched nearby cars spin in circles on the icy highway put an end to trying to be present for Elijah’s January birthday and other winter trips.

Being between Freeport and Nashville while Leslie is in college has really been a joyous thing for us, and I am already concerned about the end of that privilege. Lige pointed out to his cousin Sam, however, that he will be three hours closer to us next year when he starts at Illinois State.

Yesterday I drove to Carbondale for a check up appointment for my new hearing aids. Although I am grateful for the improvement in my hearing, having to add those as well as glasses when I dress each morning re-enforces my age awareness. The only reason I don’t have to put on dentures is that I learned over 40 years ago that I could not tolerate the partial I obtained back then.

As much as having all these grown grandkids—five of them after Trent’s upcoming birthday--these old-age aids plus the increased nervousness about climbing on the footstools that a short person has to keep in several rooms make me take stock that times are changing. That is just the way it is supposed to be.

But I missed Cristaudo’s Café and Bakery, my favorite lunch place on the strip mall yesterday since its long-time family owners have retired. SoI treated myself to a visit to a long ago favorite gift store at that mall--The Apple Tree. I knew the ownershp had changed and the store was enlarged, but it was missing the china and crystal that brides used to register for there. A sweet dog wandered around sniffing at people’s feet, and that was a fun change. I didn’t find anything I couldn’t live without, so that was a changen from the past.

Since two or three years ago, the Neighborhood Co-op moved across town to this strip, I also treated myself to a walk-through there looking at all the fruits and vegetables and interesting items. I was rewarded by bumping into Marion Carroll that I knew from my John A, Logan teaching days. Although younger than I am, she too has retired and has returned from taking care of her mother in Australia, who died at 99 years old. It was good to see her and renew our acquaintance. I bought some cilantro and a loaf of their wheat bread and had had all the change I wanted.

Since Cristaudo’s was no longer available, I came back to Marion to eat at Honeybaker’s, my favorite lunch place there. I can get a cup of their always delicious soup with a luscious hot roll and have water served in a glass with a slice of lemon. (That thick glass filled with ice and water is a visual treat.) I can rest in the quietness there as I eat, and I’ll be refreshed in less than a half an hour and ready for the next set of errands. Yesterday, however, even though I ate after the regular lunch hour, the place was full. The quiet I expected was replaced with chatter and laughter, and for the first time I was aware of, music was playing in the background adding to the clamor. I made a conscious choice to not mind the change. I was glad for their increased business and pleased that the hurried waitress was as kind and thoughtful as always. I figure if I learn to enjoy change, maybe I can stay some of the stress of aging.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Frozen Lake, Winter Illnesses, Friday Night Fish, and Church Potlucks

The lake beside our house has been a changing collage of black and white throughout the week. The frozen places are covered with white snow; the unfrozen water is black. When the snow melts—despite the below-freezing temperatures this week--we seem to have black and silver areas throughout the lake looking like the drawings in a notebook of some bored student doodling and filling in loops and lines with a black ball-point pen.

Since her coughing and congestion were not better, Gerald took Katherine to the doctor on Monday for fear she might have caught the viral pneumonia of an aide who had to be off-work with it. The doctor called Katherine’s problem bronchitis, and this stopped our worry about the pneumonia. The doctor gave her a stronger antibiotic to stop the one remaining infection. Oddly after her first dose, she completely lost her voice the very next day, but it was back on Wednesday although she was hoarse. But she is improving and is much stronger than she was a week ago. Sam has been hoarse all week, but he wasn’t about to go to the doctor and he is better also by today. Most schools in our area had two snow days this week, but Sam’s school only had one on Friday.

With all the snowy roads—mostly cleared off by Friday—Gerald surprised me by asking if I could go to Fox’s Holler for fish if he could arrange it with his brothers and our friends Bill and Mickey Tweedy. Gerald’s brothers and wives have a regular date to do this, but Garry was probably wise not to go this week so soon after his shoulder surgery. But Keith and Barbara and the Tweedys were up for Foxy’s fish. We met the Tweedys in the Wal-Mark parking lot at Anna to ride down together. The men let us out as close as possible to the door and went on to park in the crowded lot. Mickey laughingly said we could hold hands over the icy part of the walk inside so that if one of us fell, we could both fall. I wasn’t sure of her logic, but the safety precaution worked and we did not fall.

Flu, pneumonia, and the like are rampant in the community, and lots of folks did not get to go to church today. Nevertheless, we had a full house in our village church, and most stayed for the annual January potluck after the morning service. Our friend Eddy from Orient was there despite being in pain from a strained back.

When I saw he was there, I realized I had not thought to make the baked beans he always brags on and that I often send home with him. So I sent home some of my left-over German chocolate cake for him and Angie, who was at home or maybe with her daughter who is out of the hospital but on bed rest until her baby is born. I knew that was a favorite kind of cake for Eddy, and I felt bad I hadn’t made him baked beans.

I still had some cake to take to Katherine’s house when I visited this afternoon along with some of the fried chicken the church had furnished for the potluck. Our friend Charlene suggested I take some of her delicious chicken and dumplings to Katherine’s house. Charlene had made two crock pots full of them for all of us, and they were almost all gone. Although he and his dad had eaten lunch at the town’s most bountiful buffet after morning church, Sam sure did enjoy the chicken and dumplings
When he was just a teen, Eddy asked me how I made my baked beans. Since I never make them the same way twice, I stumbled around trying to remember what nearly empty catsup and bottled dressings I had rinsed out and added that particular day—and did I use molasses or brown sugar? Sweet pickle juice? Real onion or onion flakes?

Shortly after that, Eddy took off for Michigan and was away a few years. When he came back, he repeated to me how I made my baked beans and bragged on them again. Loving the flattery, I tried to take baked beans to potlucks that I thought he might be attending. And often German chocolate cake to send some home with him.

Quite frankly, my beans are not that good , which I make the easy way from canned pork and beans.. However, thanks to Eddy, that is probably my only signature dish that I have ever developed a reputation for. (And that reputation is only with Eddy.) I did fix a big skillet full of friend okra that I used to make especially for Pam White, and I noticed Dean Newbold was happy to see okra on the bountiful buffet. Maybe I’ll get a reputation at church for my okra, which my grandchildren are always generous to praise.

Since Katherine was so much stronger, I helped David get her ready for Sunday evening services at their church in Marion. We got to hear our friend Wendell Garrison again, and we were happy to worship with her, David, and Sam. It was a nice ending to a good day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter Time

Walking towards the grocery store after finally finding a parking place in the very full lot, I met a young woman coming towards me from the store laughing and shaking her head. “Is it bad in there?” I asked knowingly. “Bad!” was her reply. Everyone was stocking up before the predicted snow tomorrow. The kids are all hoping for another snow day.

I’ve not blogged because it seemed to me that all I had to tell about was the same repeated activities I wrote about last week. Only this week it was Gerald’s brother Garry that had surgery on his shoulder, but he didn’t have to stay at the hospital over night. That was good since Ginger gets very anxious when evening comes if Garry is not home as soon as she hopes. Their daughter Vicki took him to Cape Girardeau for the surgery while Ginger’s aide Alice stayed with her. We were relieved to find by a phone call to Vicki that he had done well while she was waiting for him to be out of recovery.

Tonight I found out that Vicki had been reporting the day’s events on Facebook—but I didn’t know it as I did not have time to get on the computer. I was busy with numerous details of life that seemed to pile up over the holidays. I have finally faced going over my medical bills, Medicare reports, and insurance papers saying, “This is not a bill”—a huge stack of papers and unopened envelopes. I know I should be very grateful that Gerald and I are relatively healthy and our bills our tiny. I really am grateful and ashamed that I gripe.

But I get in a foul mood trying to figure out all those papers and what they mean. I am not smart enough to understand them. It is not enough to pay a deductible when I leave the doctors’ offices. Little bills seem to dribble in—maybe for $7 or $3.02 or $13. And these come from so many sources—doctors’ group practices, medical centers, anesthetist, labortories. The medical organizations are like the banks—using names that I cannot keep track of, so I have to look at dates to figure out what the bills and papers are about. From far-away cities, the bills come in months after the actual health care.

I look back with fondness for my uninsured days when I wrote a small check using the name of the doctor at the end of an appointment and that was that. Although I could not afford medical care now without insurance, I dislike having insurance corporations involved with my health care. I do not like their making money from my trying to stay healthy. As I sit at the dining room table writing checks, I grow more and more frustrated trying to figure out what all my bills mean, and I envision their executives riding around in private jets, eating expensive meals, and not caring that I have to spend 44 cents on a stamp to pay $7 for something I thought was already paid for. As I said, I am ashamed I am griping, but I know the complexity of today’s medical care is not cost efficient nor well thought out.

Brightening my mood this week, however, was the discovery of my mother’s scrapbooks that I had forgotten all about. I was trying to clean up a far bottom shelf in my office and found them, and that was the end of my straightening. Now they are all out of place instead of stored away where I had forgotten them. I stayed up way past my bedtime two nights in a row feasting on the information and memories in her scrapbooks and marveling at the diversity of her interests. I thought I might write more about them, but again it is way past my bedtime, and I better hush.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Busy and Sad Week

Most people agree that time goes faster as one ages, so I guess time will never drag for me. However, I would really choose for January to be a long slow month without much going on—a time to hibernate, to rest up and absorb all the good things that happened over the holidays, to stay inside from the cold and to read lots of books. As delightful as that fantasy is, reality is much different. It seems that one week tumbles into another with not much time between Sundays. January is now half over, and I wish it were not.

I have continued making phone calls to community people who have told me about Cherokee ancestors. I’ve written notes in response to some Christmas mail, and sadly I’ve also had to write three sympathy notes. Katherine has been fighting infections this week, which made her multiple scleroses exacerbate, so Gerald and I have visited there more than usual. My brother had to have cardiac catherization followed by two stints and two days in the hospital, but I did not even consider driving to Springfield because of the slick roads up there. Because I wanted to help pack the “Angel Bags” that the churches in our rural community send home with kids on the weekend if they are likely to go hungry, I made the effort to go to midweek prayer and Bible study even though I was late for the 6 p.m. service. This is our church’s month. With many hands participating assembly-line style, it did not take long to fill the 29 bags the school said were needed.

Like the rest of the nation, I have grieved as I listened to the newscasts about the Tucson tragedy. My heart has broken thinking of the fiancée of Gabe Zimmerman and the parents of Christina—two beautiful people cut down so early in life, but I have also grieved for the parents of the assassin. None of us can even imagine what they may have gone through long before this terrible tragedy as they watched their son change and deteriorate. While most people with a mental illness are not harmless to others, a few are. The Tucson massacre should stir us for more research and more efforts to prevent such tragedies.

I was comforted by the enormous gathering of mourners and President Obama’s address at the memorial service for Judge John Roll, Christina-Taylor Green, Dorothy Morris, Gabe Zimmerman, Dorwin Stoddard, and Phyllis Schneck. I was cheered by his news that Representative Gabrielle Giffords had opened her eyes that afternoon. I was inspired by his urging that we make Christina’s death cause us to work for a better nation.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tara's Blog--"OH BOYS"

Want to see our beautiful great grandsons? Check out Tara’s new blog:

•OH BOYS...: Lunch with Daddy....

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Check Out New Blog About Haiti

I have trouble with modern stuff, but I am trying to see if I can post Tori Danae Huftalin's new blog. She is my son-in-law Brian and wife Mary Ellen's neice. She will soon be going to Haiti as a nurse. You can follow her work on this blog called For the Passion of Survival:

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Productive Week

Although I learned long ago that I will never get “caught up”--whatever that means--this week has been a productive beginning to January.

The Christmas trees and decorations are down and put away. (I do not doubt that just like in other years, I will be surprised someday to find a stray candle or some other seasonal item still waiting and wondering why it was left behind. It is not unusual long after Easter to find a egg—hopefully plastic-- or stray bits of purple or green grass peeking out from some unexpected place.) But as far as I know, all the decorations are stored for another year, and January visual plainness is a restful relief after December excess.

I received my first hearing aids on Tuesday, and they are working very well. I am really surprised. Although I wanted to hear better for years, this was the first time someone had said I could be helped. I had decided maybe I just had a processing problem, and I still suspect that I do. I was tested before Christmas and made this appointment to take the aids for a trial. I almost cancelled this appointment thinking I should not waste the technician’s time nor my time. I figured hearing aides would drive me nutty.Gerald says if I wasn’t born with something, I can’t handle it.

That is the truth about dentures, necklaces, and earrings. Until my eyes really got bad, that was also the way it was with my glasses. I would evidently be bothered by them and unconsciously take them off, and later I would have no idea where they were. As long as Mary Ellen, our youngest, lived at home, that was not too big a problem. I could ask her if she had seen them, and she would have noticed their location and retrieve them for me.

After she left home, I suffered until my eyes needed the glasses to see all the time, and somehow then I adjusted to them. I still lose them when I open an oven door and they steam over and I yank them off and leave them in some weird place in the kitchen. But most of the time, they stay on my face and I don’t feel too uncomfortable wearing them. I thought maybe—just maybe—if I tried real hard I could adjust to hearing aids, so I kept the appointment. Gerald was kind enough to take me to Carbondale since this is his technician also and he had recommended him.

Nevertheless, from what I had heard others say about background noises with hearing aids, I was not very hopeful I could stand them. However, I have not been bothered at all. In the car, there are noisy turn signal beeps and windshield wiper swishes, which are now more of a loud thump than swish when the wiper hits the far left. But once I realized what the sounds were and that all was well, these are not unpleasant sounds. I do not feel the tiny aids in my ears at all, so I am not pulling them off. I think I am going to like these little modern technological gems.

Wednesday was the monthly senior citizen day at the grocery store, and it a crowded and challenging time. I appreciate the discount but am usually too tired afterward to finish putting up the groceries until the next day.

Thursday is my day to pick grandson Sam up from his trombone lesson after school, so I told my son-in-law David that I’d start seeing they had something for supper that night giving him one night a week that he doesn’t have to think about that. So I fixed a big pot of spaghetti sauce at home for our supper and had plenty to carry in for theirs to put over the whole wheat spaghetti I bought the day before.

Friday was the first Women’s Club meeting for 2011, and we enjoyed lunch at O’Charley’s to start the new year. After a few errands in town, I was back at the farm hoping that Leslie would arrive from upstate before the temp dropped and roads got slick. There was still enough spaghetti to feed the three of us, and I was grateful when I saw her car lights coming down our lane arriving to spend the night on her trip back to campus in Tennessee.

Leslie is always fun, and she is a fan of old musicals. I loved hearing about the Eiler Christmas and watching State Fair with her after Gerald went to bed. I saw that movie as a child or teen and had not seen it since. She was the only one here, so she was able to sleep in everyone’s favorite bedroom--what we call the brown room—the only underground bedroom in the house. It is like a cave in there, and I did not see her again until lunch time Saturday. I felt good she was fully rested to start the long drive on down to her dorm where she was reporting for duty as a resident fellow at 5 that evening.

Before she left, the three of us had a bowl of home-made vegetable beef soup and “lunch surprises” for dessert. Actually I had made them as “breakfast surprises” but with the sleeping in, we did not eat them until lunch. I had not made these for many years. They were sort of a joke when our kids lived at home. I put a little butter, brown sugar, and nuts or coconut in the bottom of a muffin pan and topped them with canned biscuits. It took awhile for our kids to catch on that “breakfast surprises” and “supper surprises” were the same thing. This time I used Apriva for the sweetener and Gerry’s gift of Georgia pecans, and they were good.

David had meetings all weekend because of a Monday deadline at his plant, so I went out to Katherine’s Saturday evening as well as making my usual Sunday afternoon visit today. Gerald stayed home and was able to visit with Erin and her cousin Sarah when they came to the farm to pick up Erin’s dog Sadie, whom Gerald had cared for while Erin was in Arizona.

Since David was at work, Gerald came out in the late afternoon to help Katherine make it to the parent meeting for Sam’s youth group at their church. Their church has just called Wendell Garrison, a dear friend of ours, to be there for interim pastor. Gerald and Wendell were college roommates the year before we were married, and they still act silly when they get together.

We have not lived close enough to see each other too often down through the years, but we have always kept up with each other as much as we could. We used to receive Wendell’s weekly sermons through the mail, and we have his devotional books. We enjoy his annual Christmas letter, which always impresses me with its brevity that includes an amazing amount of information about their blended family that was created after both Wendell and Mary lost their first spouses. (I keep trying to imitate his letter and failing.)

So tonight after we dropped Katherine and Sam off for the youth meeting, Gerald and I grabbed a bite to eat nearby and were able to return to the church to hear Wendell preach for the first time in many years. It was a fine ending to the first full week of January.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Beginning a New Year and Back to Normal

All of our families are back home now to their individual bailiwicks.

Tara, Bryan, and the boys arrived at Woodsong Saturday night quite exhausted from their drive up from Georgia. The oldest and youngest son had slept, but the middle son, two-year-old Maddux, had been awake and unhappy almost the entire trip. He had just gone to sleep when they were almost here, and they were afraid of what would happen when he got woke up so soon. Tara said they almost kept driving towards Chicago, but they had pecans in the car that her dad had sent up for his aunts, so they pulled off for the night at the farm. Although he did wake up unhappy when they carried him in and cried again for a bit, Maddux and everyone were soon asleep.

We enjoyed a good visit with them the next morning. Before daybreak, Gerald and Aidan were out riding Gerald’s new John Deere Gator that he bought after he sold the“mule.” Maddux woke up happy as a lark and soon joined them. (He was not happy about leaving the farm, however, so I am hoping their trip home was not as difficult as coming up had been.)

Payton is almost always smiling, and I got to hold him a bit although he adores being held by his mother. Erin came over to visit with them too. They wanted to get on the road again when we left for church in order to reach their home and get another good night’s sleep before their work routine began this morning.

I loved hearing Tara tell about their anniversary trip to Savannah while Gerry and Vickie cared for the boys in Athens. Bryan and she had walked all over the city seeing as many of the 21 beautiful squares as possible, and they’d had a great lunch at Paula Deen’s restaurant. Tara described the city so well that I felt as if I’d made the trip. Gerald was in and out of that city once with a truck, but I have never been. Now it is on my wish-to-do list.

As I headed out to Sunday School, I grabbed the crock pot out of the fridge, slid it into its electric container, and turned it on. I wanted to leave it reheating our New Year’s ham and beans for our lunch. I’d saved the Christmas ham bone for the beans, which had cooked all Saturday afternoon while Gerald and I ran around visiting his two brothers and wives down in Union County—our home country. We had the ham and beans with corn bread for supper Saturday night, and there was plenty still for our lunch and also a little bowl of beans to take in to the Cedars.

Gerald and I had visited with Katherine and David Sunday afternoon, and the two men worked on the wheelchair footrest again. It is still not perfect, but Gerald hopes they are getting there. Gerald also is following a more complicated wheelchair project with Larry Cheek of Ullin, who likes to experiment and invent. Larry has had surgery, so that project is temporarily on hold right now—though Larry is always thinking, thinking, thinking. Gerald and Larry have a trip planned to seek out a more comfortable seat for the chair that Larry is working on.

We ate a Sunday night sandwich, checked emails and Facebook connections, watched some television and went on to bed after Mary Ellen called that their family was just nearing Chattanooga. I made sure there were clean towels in the downstairs bathroom and left the light on for them at the downstairs walk-out door before I went to bed on the first floor. I wanted to leave the Christmas tree lights burning, but I didn’t since I don’t like to sleep with tree lights on. They came in at 3 a.m. and had collapsed in beds as soon as possible. We did not even hear them.

Although I kept sleeping, I did hear Brian before six this morning quietly leave after he gathered an accumulation of stuff to take back home in his truck. They had left brief cases and boxes and presents in the corner of their upstairs bedroom when they took off the day after Christmas for Florida to visit Brian’s mother at The Villages. He and Fifi were headed for work today in central Illinois. (Their family had driven down on Christmas Eve in two vehicles since Brian needed the truck here for some farm purposes. It has been a long slow drive down that night seeing cars in ditches all along the way and wondering if someone might slide into them at any moment. Being careful made it much later than normal when they arrived to eat supper at 11 that night.)

This morning Mary Ellen, Trent, and Brianna were able to sleep in. But I was still in my pajamas when Mary Ellen joined me in the kitchen for toast and cereal, and I was able to hear about their family visits and their anniversary celebration at Disney World. Brianna had even been able to see her special cousin/friend Savannah who happened to be enroute with her dad from Georgia to their home in deep Florida. These two girls have always done projects together and kept in constant contact by texting and Facebook despite the distance between them. (Savannah had approved Bri’s Christmas dress that way.) Trent is very good with younger kids, and he did his usual gracious hosting sharing video games with Savannah’s little brother. And they were able to see their special cousin Caleb and wife Stacy, who were also visiting Gma Dot.

Disney has played an important role down through the years with their family vacations, and they never miss a chance to check in at Orlando when they visit Gma Dot. They have been multiple times to Epcot and all the facilities and even taken the family cruise once or twice. They have had camping and traveling vacations too, but Disney has always been their special place. This year Trent and Bri were old enough to be on their own part of the time celebrating New Year’s Eve while the anniversary couple enjoyed some together time. Then they all four watched the midnight fireworks together. With Trent’s high school career almost over, they know these family vacations are likely ending.

Even though Brian had taken so much home in his truck, Mary Ellen was still hard pressed to find room in their car for in all the clothes from the closet and all the large Pyrex serving dishes she’d carried down with food for our holiday feasts. (The clothes and some of these dishes were left behind after the Thanksgiving stomach flu epidemic.) Since Trent and Brianna have to take their postponed final exams at school tomorrow, they left before noon to get home for a little study and preparation. A snow day did the same to the Marion high school kids here, and I really feel bad for all of them having to start the new year with final exams.

Jeannie and Rick and their children started back to school today in northern Illinois, and Jeannie said her students were definitely not sleepy as she had hoped they might be. They were well rested and wound up. She moves from one school to another, and kids come into the art room oft times with other agendas than creating fine art. But she has her methods of getting them down to learning.

So for right now, our children and grandchildren are settled back home. Not for long, however. Gerry will be in clinics south of Athens this week. This weekend Leslie will be heading back to campus. Gerry, Vickie, and Geri Ann will be flying to an exposure softball tournament in Arizona. Tara will fly there from northern Illinois, while Bryan will be caring for the boys. She will coach Southern Force, and Geri Ann will play for Southern Force. Erin will be there also representing Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and she and Gerry will both be scouting. I am sure Elijah will have a speech tournament somewhere, and Trent and Bri and Sam will all have some sort of special plans.

Mary Ellen told me once that she remembers when she was little that life for her was sometimes sort of a blur as she watched her three older siblings constantly running, jumping, and having adventures all around her, That also describes how I sometimes feel as I constantly send up prayers for traveling mercies and try to remember which grandchild is going where and what our adult children are involved in. In the meantime, I am trying to get back to some of my own activities and make some contacts with some of those I have heard about whose ancestors dropped off the Trail of Tears here in Southern Illinois.