Monday, February 28, 2011

After the Weekend

Southern Illinois University Carbondale softball Salukis did it again. They won all five games in the Fort Myers tournament down in Florida. They have won their last l0 games We are so proud of them. Fun finding out on Facebook that granddaughter Erin went swimming and had dinner on the beach down there this chilly weekend. They will play at home against Kentucky at noon Saturday and Wright State at 4. On Sunday they will face Purdue at 3 and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville at 5.

University of Georgia softball lost their first game to Oklahoma State and our son Gerry is having a hard time getting over that loss. They are now 14-1, so obviously I did not manage to teach this assistant coach that it is not whether you win or lose but how you play the game. Although in all honesty, he is very concerned about how they play the game. Like the head coach, he wants excellence, and they are getting it from their players. Megan Wiggins, whom some think is the best collegiate softball player in the United States, was named this morning at Southeastern Conference Player of the Week. She is definitely fun to watch.

Georgia’s last game at the Cathedral City Classic was Saturday evening against ESPN’s number one ranked Arizona and was much anticipated as the two first-ranked teams faced each other. We were getting bored and frustrated watching a very slow Game Tracker Saturday evening when a phone call from Katherine alerted us to a website with a radio announcer. Since the announcer kept talking to someone in the box and telling us he could not see because his vision was blocked by the umpire, this proved a cure for boredom. By the time he had answered someone’s question with “I don’t know,” multiple times, I was hysterical laughing. Of course the fact that the Georgia Dawgs shut Arizona down 8-0 in the fifth inning also worked against boredom.

Sunday morning I fixed chicken breasts ready to be popped into the over when I returned from church and experimented with orange zest and other additions for flavor. After lunch and a quick clean-up of the kitchen, I went to Katherine’s for the afternoon. I was hoping Gerald, who had trouble sleeping the night before, would catch up on his rest in his recliner. (He is awaiting a new sleep mask because he seems to have developed an allergy to his old one, which sets his face to itching. That is not inductive to good sleep.) We both ended up at Marion Second Baptist that evening, where our friend Wendell Garrison is serving and then were home for a bowl of soup at the kitchen table together.

I went to bed at 11:30 last night after first falling asleep in my chair reading. I heard some hard winds along with the rain before I fell back asleep, but didn’t think much about it. We are grateful for the rains we’ve been receiving that have filled our lake to its overflow limit. This morning on Facebook, I learned people in our village were scared and hoping the Methodist Church would open the storm shelter there. The village was spared but evidently some of our neighbors between our farm and the village had some roof damage.

So did my sister and husband in Amarillo, Texas. My brother-in-law, his son-in-law, and his grandson were repairing that roof on their next door rental house when my sister called to see how we were since she’d heard about the high winds here. She was not complaining, however, since just north of them many people lost homes to a fire fanned by 70 mile per hour winds. Everyone had to be evacuated as the fires would jump across roadways rapidly and time for getting out was limited. People did not know until today if their homes was among the 27 that burned. For safety’s sake, residents were not given passes to return to their smoldering neighborhoods until today. The ones whose houses remain are sleeping without electricity tonight, but they recognize they are the lucky ones.

A migrating flock of little ducks with white-feathered bellies have joined our larger more colorful ones at the lake. This morning I stood at our bedroom window when I arose and watched two of the little ducks disappear under the water for what seemed a long time, and then resurface. It was a peaceful beginning to a new week before I faced the troubled world. With all this dangerous weather in so many places, the deaths of several in our community, the serious illnesses of family and friends, and the horror of what is happening in Libya, it is difficult to enjoy the peaceful surroundings here at the farm. The little visiting ducks certainly help.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We're No. 1!!

After winning five more games in their second at-home tourney, the University of Georgia Bulldogs softball team ranked No. 1 in the Top 25 Poll by the USA Today/National Fast Pitch Coaches Association Divisoon 1. This high ranking is the first in school history. Georgia switched places with the UCLA Bruins who were first. With a l0-0 record, Georgia received 16 first place votes over the UCLA’s 10 first place votes. The Dawgs travel to California this weekend for a tourney, and we are wishing them the best.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale Salukis also did well last weekend when they won the Bulldog Round-Robin at Starksville, MS. Michelle Bradley was named MVP of the tournament there, and Haley Gorman, Jayna Spivey, and Taylor Orsburn were also named to the all-tournament team. The Salukis will be at Fort Meyers, FL, this weekend.

Gerald and I will be kept busy trying to catch games on Game Tracker.

After visiting with Katherine Sunday afternoon, David assigned me to go to evening church service to pick up Sam. Sam took me up on going out to eat after the service, and I had the privilege of eating supper at Bob Evans with my tall 8th grade grandson.

Sunday morning Gerald and I took our assigned time with the older preschoolers during the morning worship service. With help from Cody Barger and Tyler Diefenbach, we had adequate hands to keep the kids occupied and safe. Tracy Diefenbach brought in our one toddler present after Boone finished his nap, and he enjoyed watching the older kids play. I remember when Cody was one of the preschoolers, and then as he grew up, he became one of helpers with the preschoolers. Now it is satisfying to see our college kids still helping with the preschoolers. I grew up with no interaction with little ones and was so ignorant and inexperienced when I had children of my own. I think these older youth learn a great deal about child care as they participate in programs for the preschoolers.

I cannot seem to stick with my Sunday/Wednesday blog writing schedule anymore for some reason. Maybe I need to revise my schedule to Monday and Thursday. However, yesterday I spent the morning with some imaging tests over at Carterville that turned out to give me good news, but I was so sleepy when I got home and lunch was over that I just wanted to nap during the rainy overcast afternoon and I did. I also had as one goal yesterday to finish reading the 576 page Volume 1 of The Moravian Springplace Mission to the Cherokees. Despite just having a few pages to read, I took the afternoon nap falling asleep while watching Book Notes in Gerald’s recliner.

I did not attempt to finish the book until this morning. Dr. Rowena McClinton from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville translated, edited and wrote the introduction to these two volumes of the journal primarily written by Anna Gambold. John and Anna Gambold served the mission from 1805 until Anna’s death in 1821. Dr. McClinton had to translate Anna’s account of the daily life there in Springplace, Georgia, from the archaic German script Her introduction and many footnotes were as interesting as the daily account of the missionaries’ triumphs and troubles as they served the Cherokees whom they loved. Hmmm. Now I get to start Volume II. Maybe I will start it this weekend between games on Game Tracker. I can bounce back and forth between the communication of the early 19th century and that of the 21st Century.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Finally SIWG Meets Again

A week before I did not go to our village church business meeting because of the icy roads. Since the meeting was postponed, I attended this week in spring-like weather. I was glad I did. because we were able to vote to give $500 to our homeless shelter in nearby Marion that feeds many families, vote for Jo Barger to begin making plans for a free monthly fellowship meal and social time for local senior citizens, and renew our commitment to our church food pantry for families in need. (Oddly despite increased unemployment, we had ended up with donated food in our pantry growing old. So we had to empty it and quickly give items to the homeless shelter to avoid waste.) Now we will have a volunteer to take charge of the pantry and a plan to insure the pantry is emptied at the end of each month by taking it to some family, who can use it. There were other good ideas and good deeds discussed, and it was a worthwhile evening.

Then last night--again in warm weather but with March-like winds whipping car doors closed and making steering difficult—we finally had a Southern Illinois Writers Guild meeting at our community college. Years ago we quit meeting in December because of members’ busy schedules, and then this year bad weather caused our January meeting to be cancelled. So it was truly good to see everyone again.

It was inspiring to hear Heather Stewart Harris, a young middle-school teacher, tell openly of her bi-polar illness, which caused her to feel a need to share her story so that more people can understand that mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. The title of her book The Love That Will Not Let Me Go was based on the hymn her pastor shared with her during her hospitalization. She expressed her awe that the lyrics published by George Mattheson in 1882 were exactly what she needed during the 21st Century to help her heal. She expressed appreciation for the right doctor and proper meds as she learned to overcome her extreme perfectionism that had haunted her throughout life.

A highlight for me was seeing Charlotte Hartley back after several years’ absence while she focused on her career as a speech language pathologist in the public schools. She reported that after being immersed by her career, she now in retirement has time to read and write again. Her presence was especially meaningful to me because she presented me with a chapter book Cherokee Boy by Alexander Key published in 1957. I did not know of this book, and I started reading it today.

Erin is in Starksville, Mississippi, with the Salukis this weekend, and University of Georgia is hosting its second at-home tourney. Gerald and I are listening to the audio on his computer. He is coughing and try to recover from the winter cold he probably caught last weekend. DuWayne, a softball enthusiast, had so much fun last weekend that he is back at Athens at the Jack Turner Stadium again this weekend with his wife Vickie.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Play ball!

Our lake was bright green this morning with gentle waves heading south. Yesterday took care of the last of the ice patches. At mid-morning, the south end of the lake with the sun beating down, the surface was a mass of glistening dancing silver. Except the many with the flu, people were out and about yesterday to enjoy the warm sunshine. With Erin in Houston this past weekend for Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s first softball tournament, and Gerald and our nephew DuWayne attending the tournament at University of Georgia’s stadium, spring seemed to have arrived.

Tara and her three boys had not been able to resist going down for this special weekend to take part in celebrating her sister Geri Ann’s 17th birthday. In fact, Aidan told her, “Mom, we have to go. I’ll help you.” I am not sure if he felt that way because of the opening of softball season, Aunt G’s birthday, or because he was lonesome for Grandma Vickie and Grandpa Gerry. Probably all three. Since the Georgia Dawgs won their five games, it was a successful weekend down there. (SIUC won two out of three.)

The two Illinois cars traveled back here in tandem until Gerald and DuWayne turned to drop off DuWayne. So Tara beat Gerald to Woodsong shortly after midnight and carried in three sleeping boys one at a time. I had gone downstairs to greet them when they arrived, and I took Payton from his car seat and held him briefly after he started crying when his mother left him to bring in sleeping Maddux from his car seat. It did not help since I was not the one Payton was crying for.

By then, Maddux was slightly awake and also crying, but Tara soon had him soothed and back to sleep in the portable crib waiting for him. (He needs to sleep in a room away from the others, so Payton gets the baby bed that we borrowed from Mary Ellen many years ago.) Last Tara carried in Aidan, who quickly kicked off his shoes and put himself to bed. Only when Tara took Payton again, did he stop crying, and she soon had all three children asleep in a very brief time.

I was in my pajamas and went back upstairs and crawled in our bed and was already asleep before Gerald arrived shortly later. We both were hoping to get a glimpse of Tara and the little ones this morning, but we knew it would be best if we did not because they had to leave at six to get Aidan home for his preschool Valentine party that was very important to him. Maddux had a hard time understanding why Gerald could not take him for a ride on the little tractor smoothing out the ball field at the stadium, and since he did not have a valentine party awaiting him, he would have probably never understood why Gerald couldn’t give him a ride here at the farm. As it turned out, even though Gerald went down at 6:15, they were already gone and on their way north. When he connected with them by cell phone later, they had gone through the drive-in for breakfast several towns above us. I bet Aidan made his party.

I enjoyed the weekend and especially seeing Sam play on his church league basketball team Saturday afternoon. I’d heard how good he had gotten and had not been in to see him in his night games. Dave, Katherine, and I went out to eat afterwards, but Sam had been invited to his buddy Josh’s house to partake of some special cookies awaiting there. He felt a little deprived when he learned we’d gone out to eat, but we took him home some chicken and dumplings that he especially likes from Cracker Barrel.

The women at our village church who always plan a Valentine party for the kids had decided the most efficient way for families was to simply stay after the morning service yesterday. The fellowship hall was beautifully decorated for the occasion and we all enjoyed barbecues along with carried-in covered dishes and desserts. While adults visited after the meal, there were special activities for the kids with the teens helping them. We were glad for many visitors since some of our kids were home sick. I had left-over chocolate cake to share with Eddy and to take in to the Cedars.

So when the festivities were over, I drove in to Katherine and David’s house and enjoyed an afternoon visit with them. Dave had to get his car serviced for a special trip he and Sam are taking tomorrow, so I got to drive Sam to his afternoon Bible study. I have been occasionally driving him and buddies to and from places since pre-K days, and I am only too aware that in two years he will definitely not want me to drive him anywhere. But if I am lucky, he may drive me occasionally. He knows I am counting on that. Katherine was not feeling well after a rough morning, so she and I watched television on the big screen while her men folks were away at their evening church service. I came home to check softball scores on the computer and finish reading the Sunday paper and other diversions until Tara arrived.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Winter Weather

As a newly wed, I complained about the weather once, and my farmer husband suggested I ought not to complain about the Lord’s weather. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. His counsel has saved me a great deal of misery down through the years. Complaining does not change the weather. It only makes one more unhappy about the weather, and it presumes you know what the weather ought to be. We do know that the rain fails falls on the just and the unjust, and usually over a long enough period of years, everyone gets a share of good and bad weather—however that can be defined.

With all the bitter cold and deep snows in many parts of the nation, I certainly know I should not complain here in Southern Illinois. And I am not.

On Saturday we had snow on the ground and slick roads, but on Sunday snow had melted, roads were clear, and I left my coat in the car because I did not even need it going into church or Katherine’s house. On Monday we woke to light snow on the ground again. Then it cleared. Yesterday there were tiny flakes coming down at various times through the day, and the many birds were very appreciative of the bird feeder on the deck, but the ground was never covered.

I looked out the bedroom window this morning and saw a lone deer walking through the brown field toward the area on either side of a ditch draining into our lake. Fresh green plants were emerging there where Gerald had planted last fall, and the deer was soon munching happily. It took me awhile to see four dark spots at the edge of that draining area, and I watched quite awhile before one moved and I realized the first deer was not alone after all. When I heard Gerald go out the garage door in that direction to his shop, all five fled to the woods beyond jumping over the fence with white tails flying. That fresh green area is white now from today’s snow.

As it snowed through the morning, the television was announcing that many area schools were dismissing early, but not ours. Gerald had a routine doctor checkup in the afternoon, and he reported that coming home in his truck the roads were slick. So I did not go to the monthly business meeting at our village church as I had planned to do. He says he will take me in the morning at 8:00 for the blood work appointment—made a year ago. I will listen before we go to see if Sam’s school is cancelled tomorrow. And I will have to find out about his band concert tomorrow night.

I know it is bitter cold in Texas where my nieces write the temp on Facebook and did not open their gift shop today urging their customers to stay home and stay warm. It was nice to read that Trevor went up to my sister and brother-in-law’s home and cleared their sidewalk while daughter, granddaughter, and two-year-old Allie provided them company.

The minor inconveniences we have had so far this winter are unimportant, but I do feel great sympathy for those wherever they are with cold houses, cars buried in snow or cars that won’t start, or water pipes frozen—we had that for so many years at the other house when Gerald had difficult days keeping waterers thawed and livestock safe. And I feel great distress for those suffering tornadoes and true calamities, such as floods that break levies and destroy homes and families.. Those are the weather events that try men’s souls and characters. Coping and rising to the challenge of survival is happening all over the nation right now, and that is proving again how tough people can be. Extreme weather certainly is not the weather most of us would choose, but complaining does no good. As Shelley said, if winter comes, spring is on its way.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

An Exhilarating Day on the Trail of Tears

Snow covered the ground when I woke up this Saturday morning, and it was still snowing. I’d been reviewing my own research this week on the Trail of Tears through the western side of Union County and had so looked forward to an informal forum that our president of the Illinois Chapter of the Trail of Tears had planned for the board of directors today. Several of us were getting together with some local experts she’d invited to share maps and information and try to find the routes the Cherokees took to get from Jonesboro to the Mississippi River in the winter of 1838-39. Seeing the snow, I just knew I might get a phone call cancelling the event, and if I didn’t, I wondered if I would be wise to drive.

This group was to meet at the Trail of Tears Lodge and resort in You Be Dam Holler (never sure how to spell that or its sister holler I Be Dam Holler). If you have ever been there, you know why I might be afraid to drive there on slick roads. But our president Sandy Boaz is brave and not inclined to give up on a project as proven by her 20 plus years’ work to get Camp Ground Cemetery certified as a Trail of Tears site. Gerald said he would take me in the truck, and we saw three cars in the ditch on the way to town. He called Sandy for me to make sure we were meeting, and she was already almost to the lodge in the holler getting ready to help Deb Charles set up coffee and rolls for us.

Ron and Deb Charles are both descended from early Cherokee, who lived at Elco, and their ranch and resort is located on what some of us believe is one of the many routes the Cherokee took as the 11,000 or so spread out and sought passable roads over to the Mississippi River. The resort caters to horse people, and the restaurant is open on weekends. It is wise to get reservations since road advice is valuable. The lodge is in a converted old barn, one of my favorite places, and Ron and Charles have living quarters upstairs. Deb helped get the National Trail of Tears Association started as well as our Illinois chapter.

The drive down Interstate 57 was beautiful with snow-laden cedars lining the bluffs, and of course the road into Fair City and You Be Dam Holler and across the bridge into the lodge is always picturesque. There are two ways to get here, and fortunately Gerald chose the safer one since one of our group got into a ditch using the other way.

The day was spent pouring over old maps, listening to information by Mark Wagner, an archeologist from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and hearing information and experiences of his wife Mary McCorvie and Heather Carey, both of whom work for the Shawnee National Forrest. We spent a lot of time asking questions and pumping Joe Frick who lives on his ancestor’s farm on one of the routes to Hamburg Hill. His ancestor was given land for his service in the Revolutionary War, and the family has remained on that land since 1813. Joe knows these hills and hollows probably as well as anyone can, and his help was invaluable. Jon Musgrave has just come onto our board of directors (as I have gone off), and he was able to not only share copies of several maps from the last century showing old roads no longer there but he projected maps on a screen large enough for all to see at once and discuss together. Jon’s very broad history knowledge of our entire region is always astounding as evidenced by his many books and his extraordinary Illinois history website.

We worked well into the afternoon, stopping only to get a bowl of great chili or potato soup and other good things Deb prepared for us. We returned to the table to talk and continuing working as we ate. Gerald, who grew up in these bottoms, came to pick me up and got in on some of the summation of the day’s exploration. By the time we left, we were able to go back to Jonesboro on the Old Cape Road, which the sun and 34 degree temperature had melted off to be safe.

Driving with forests on either side of the road in some places and onto Route 127 is always pleasing to me as is entering Jonesboro going past my friend Lynn’s girlhood home with her grandparents and the memories that road stirs up. Gerald checked to make sure neither of his brothers were having coffee at the Anna McDonalds, so we kept going.

In Marion, we visited with Katherine, and she and I watched the sad ending o the SIUC basketball game while Gerald and Sam went to Menards for Gerald to buy a wood stove to take the chill off the larger open area of his shop. The electric heater in the closed portion doesn’t help out there in these temperatures. They came back with a pizza and we had supper together before returning to Woodsong to unwind and reflect on a great winter day.