Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Birds and Home-made Ice Cream, Surgery and Softball

At dusk, I stood at the living room window. The supper dishes had been put in the dishwasher, and I had a book in hand to begin reading. A strange looking duck or goose walking down by the lake captured my attention, but then it suddenly raised its head and extended its long neck, and I realized it was a gray heron. We see white and blue ones frequently, but I had never seen one this close to the house. The big bird quit walking and stood very still almost up to the martin house. The martins were swooping and swirling with their usual early evening intensity, and the hummingbirds were darting merrily around their feeder on the deck. The heron stood stock still so long that I finally became bored and sat down to read my book only occasionally looking out the window. I stood up later to move to a different chair with a lamp beside it after it had darkened inside although there was still some daylight outside. The heron was gone now and not a martin was in sight evidently already settled down for the night.

Gerald’s native grasses have greatly increased our quail population. I never go out on the deck but I hear “Bob White!” repeatedly although I usually don’t see the birds. We have observed wild turkeys this summer, and one hen flew to the island where she evidently had her nest. We probably won’t see any babies, however, since varmints usually break up nests before they are hatched. Gerald did see a baby coyote run into the corn field up at the other farm when he came upon its mother.

We were able to take Katherine to evening services at her church on Sunday to hear our friend Wendell Garrison’s final sermon there. He had only agreed to this six-month span as interim pastor as he has a deadline looming to finish his fourth devotional book which goes to the printers at the end of summer. We will miss him and Mary as it has been a treat having them in our community on the weekends. The congregation will miss them too. We stayed for the home-made ice cream fellowship in their honor and were astounded by the varieties of both ice creams and homemade cakes and goodies to go with the ice cream. Before we left the sanctuary, Wendell had teasingly quoted Willard Scott’s favorite Baptist benediction: Let’s eat! We were able to visit with friends, and it was especially good that Katherine had the opportunity to visit with so many during this social hour. Because of the steady stream at the Garrisons’ table for hugs and goodbyes, I only said my goodbye to Mary, so I have just emailed Wendell. Katherine and Gerald did get to talk a bit with both of them. Finally it was time to go home. David had not been able to go with us, so Katherine took home some of the delicious frothy summer treat for him. (Sam is at camp this week.)

It was good this evening to hear Erin’s voice—strong and lively after she was finally back home after a very delayed surgery this afternoon for her torn ACL. I thought she would sound groggy, but I told her she sounded sassy instead, Her cousin Sarah is bringing Erin’s dog Sadie over to the farm in the morning for Gerald to take care of for a few days. The surgeon said she did not need to wear the heavy brace some have to after surgery because her legs are so strong after years of catching, She was supposed to be in Colorado scouting this week, but she had to miss this tournament where all her family are and where she had planned to see many of her college friends. But our Illinois contingent of the family rejoiced with Southern Force at the news they had beaten the California Cruisers today.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Varying Sleeping Patterns

Hearing raindrops on our bedroom window, it was lovely to turn over and continue sleeping. It had been a busy week requiring me to go to bed earlier and get up earlier than usual, so I really appreciated returning to my usual late uprising. (This is the reason I have not blogged this week because I write at night.) Gerald had long before left to drive to Jonesboro to have breakfast with his brother Garry and wife Ginger and to pick up a boat motor he had repaired down there.

Although we have many commonalities, Gerald and I have completely different body rhythms. By 9 p.m., he is ready to go to sleep (unless he is at a granddaughter’s softball game), and he is likely to wake up any time between 3 and 6 a.m. even if he did go to a ball game. Sleeping to 7 a.m. is extremely unusual for him.

When we were dating, I’d go in to the dorm at the required hour and then stay up late studying. Gerald would go to bed at his place and get up at an early morning hour to study. So we knew we had this difference, but figured we could manage it. Actually children managed it for us. Getting four kids on the school bus made an early riser out of me whether I wanted to be or not—no matter how many times I might have gotten up with a waking child during the night.

As soon as I retired in 1998 after my very brief out-of-home career, I started learning to use the Internet. This was before Facebook, but I became hooked immediately because of unexpected contact with some distant relatives who had all the answers I had wanted to know about my Martin family roots.

At this time, Gerald who had just retired from farming, decided to become a truck driver—a childhood ambition that had been whetted by owning trucks to haul hogs or crops from the field. Not full-time truck driver in retirement but almost a hobby one because he enjoyed the entire activity so much. He spent hours on the phone with his buddy Richard Hays talking trucks and how to somehow convert a 14-wheeler to carry the same load as a 16-wheeler or something like that which I never fully understood but knew gave Gerald great pleasure and satisfaction. He loved his new truck with all the embellishments he created, and to this day when we take a trip, he reminisces about hauling something back in the mountains there or to such and such a business in some city.

He continued trucking until we built our retirement home here at the farm, where he did all the dirt work. (He also loves to move dirt.) Watching his Peterbilt go down our lane when he sold it was a sad event for him, and meeting up with it on the highway brought him joy.

But I digress. Trucking required his getting up very early to be at the proper place at the designated time, so he might arise at 2 or 2:30 a.m. which was not difficult for him to do. (I think he liked this confirmation that these were proper wake-up times.) Tracing down my family roots after a day of homemaking required me to stay up late—maybe till 2 or 3 a.m. The time he got up to go trucking and came into the office to tell me goodbye as I was just preparing to sign off the Internet and go to bed illustrated our different body rhythms perfectly. Somehow we tolerate our differences and try not to be smug about our ability to stay up late or to wake up early.

Our neighbors Winnie and Jay were back fishing at the lake on Thursday, and yesterday morning, Winnie called to tell me they were bringing over all the fish they caught—all cleaned and dressed ready for frying or the freezer. I tell them that is not at all necessary, but I would be dishonest if I did not say it is a lovely gift.

When granddaughter Erin showed up to do some laundry in the late afternoon, I was especially glad I had not frozen the fish yet and was able to fry some for our supper. We were very glad to see Erin since she tore her ACL muscle at her first slow pitch softball game—her recreation of choice for this summer. The next day she was working on crutches, but she was walking without them now. She’d had an MRI, saw the surgeon, and her surgery is set for Tuesday. We were eager to see her in person and hear all the doctor had told her. And, of course, Gerald and I both were able to get in a few questions about her new boyfriend.

When I did get up today, I did my Saturday morning routine and read a bit in the book I had to close last night and decided I really should blog since I have neglected that this week. Gerald phoned that he and Garry are over in Cape or Sikeston, and that they’d be eating there. So I don’t have a meal prep until this evening. Now maybe I can finish that book. I have another one to stay up reading tonight.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mid June Under a Full Moon

We woke up on our 55th wedding anniversary on Wednesday with the Eilers in the house as they had stopped by the farm the night before on their way home from their vacation in Tennessee with Leslie. David had also brought Sam out at Elijah and Cecelie’s request, and the kids stayed up late and slept in Wednesday morning. But at least they had their late night visit and their routine giggling session at the kitchen table snacking, (I understood that Jeannie shushed them, but I was sound asleep and did not hear a thing.) I did enjoy the full moon making a million stars on the lake when I got up during the night.

Gerald and I had breakfast alone first although I don’t usually get up that early. I am not very good company early in the morning, but it was a special day. People got up at various times, and as often happens at Woodsong, everyone had to help themselves to coffee, cereal and fruit if they wanted breakfast. (All were able to sleep as late as they wanted except Elijah in the brown room who had to be waked up for lunch, but then he was disappointed he had not had a morning visit with Sam.) It was good to have a fine visit with Jeannie and Rick before lunch since they had to return to Freeport and their many duties that afternoon. Jeannie worked in a bike ride, and, of course, the kids were out on the Gator riding around the lake.

Feeling in a romantic mood, I thought I still had a couple of large pink roses beside the front porch that would go well with the pink roses on a set of china that I once bought at a second-hand store many years ago. (All my china has come from thrift stores. I’d used those dishes when Rick’s parents came to meet us over in the other farm house after our children were engaged.) Unfortunately, the roses were past their prime when I looked, and so I used a small vase of pink petunias in the center of the table instead. We had a leisurely lunch together. Elijah has always liked the canned puddings I try to keep on hand from the local warehouse store, so I made a quickie banana pudding for our dessert and another one that I took into the Cedars when Cecelie and I took Sam home in time for his afternoon basketball camp.

Soon after lunch someone knocked, and the small petunia vase had to be placed elsewhere. Gerry and Vickie had sent us a beautiful bouquet, and they went into the center of the table which Jeannie had already cleared. Two gorgeous coral-colored roses were in the midst of the variety of flowers, and I have enjoyed watching them get larger and larger each day since.

By three o’clock, Rick and Jeannie had loaded up the bicycles and their luggage, and I’d told Lucky and Leah goodbye. And with hugs and kisses, they were gone with Elijah at the wheel. Gerald and I had a date to have supper in town, and he let me choose my favorite sit-down restaurant. We watched the full moon behind dark clouds peeking out through their opening with a shadowed golden glow on our way home. It made the world seem smaller to read on Facebook how much my niece Cyndi was enjoying it in Oklahoma City with her daughter’s family and her sister Gloria in Amarillo.

Thursday is always a busy day for me with errands to run and the weekend looming. A fresh haircut from my favorite cosmetologist that afternoon perked me up to enjoy driving to Carbondale with my retired journalist friend Jari Jackson to attend our monthly Writers Guild. We’d both had to miss the last two meetings and so were eager to meet up with some of the members coming early to have supper at a favorite place across from the Arts Center where we were having our meeting instead of at the college.

A few years ago, Varsity Theater, a long standing institution in Carbondale where Southern Illinois University students collected many memories, had closed. The theater stood empty for years, and the owners rifled seats for parts to repair seats in other theaters in other towns. Finally the stage company needed a new home, and the group ambitiously took on the project of resuscitating the vacant movie theater.

Poet Jim Lambert, our former Writers Guild president, has been active with this group, and we were invited to meet there in their large attractive meeting room and tour their facility after a program by the two women who have put together a 400 plus page hard back book about Carterville, Crainville, and Cambria. We were able to see a bit of the rehearsal of Charlotte’s Web in the small intimate theater the group has created. Then we continued the tour backstage and through their dressing rooms, but for some of us the highlight of the evening came when we visited the usually off-limits old theatre now dark and dusty waiting for dreams yet to come true but redolent with reminiscences of past shows and our youth.

Friday Gerald was mowing grass despite a spill in the creek the day before. But he had landed in soft mud, and he claimed by wearing a sling holding his arm close to his body, his shoulder that he landed on did not hurt enough to warrant a trip to a clinic since his own doctor was out of town. By evening, he was convinced that he was in good shape to get up early the next morning to go with his nephew DuWayne and wife Vickie to Chattanooga to see Southern Force play. So they drove through the early morning rains while I slept through then here at home.

I was able to do some work going through my mother’s photos and writing the final essay of four on Martin family history for the new book that Johnson County Genealogical and Historical Society are creating. I had failed to write an entry in their last book, and I was determined to be more diligent this time. I am finding this last story about my parents is the hardest to write. It will be hard to cut out so many things I’d like to include.

I stopped to drive over to our village church to be one of 60 women gathered there to shower our pastor’s daughter Krista, who is being married in July. It was a beautiful party for a beautiful girl, who managed to open a mountain of gifts but still made sure each of us heard her genuine appreciation. Then a good visit at Katherine’s house completed the afternoon before I came back to looking at old photographs.

This third Sunday is usually Gerald’s and my day with the preschoolers during the morning worship service, but one college guy and one younger boy are always faithful to take their turn with us. We only had four children this morning, so with Cody and Tyler’s help, I made it fine and did not even have to get a substitute.

After lunch, I went in to help Katherine. She was outside in her chair getting Vitamin D, and together we watched Sam shooting baskets in their driveway hoop. David had grilled chicken and other meat, and they had a nice Father’s Day dinner together. He had made special phone calls to his dad and Gerald.

This evening, I phoned to see where the Southern Force fans were on their return trip and heard from Gerald how sweet those two great grandsons were during this weekend outing. Tara and those two boys were already ahead of them in Nashville, and he wasn’t sure if she would stop at the farm for a few hours’ rest or not if the boys are sleeping good. I have unlocked the downstairs door and turned on the porch light just in case. DuWayne and Vickie will let Gerald off at his brother’s to get back in his pickup for the final lap home.

The moon is no longer full but nearly so and quite beautiful here above the farm. I’ll go out on the patio and take one last look at the moon and head on to bed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Life's Small Pleasures

Driving down our lane and seeing Jay and Winnie fishing at the lake and their daughter with them. (Winnie had told me their kids don’t want them out by themselves because of health issues.)

Planting red petunias in the planter Phyllis and Patty gave us a dozen years ago or so over at Pondside Farm when they were visiting from Florida for an Anna-Jonesboro High class reunion.

Picking out a huge container of pink petunias for the front porch. (Petunias make me think of my mother who always had a planter of them on her front steps at their Goreville home.)

Listening to grandson Elijah play the piano when the family was here coming home from Leslie’s in Nashville.

Pondering how our youngest grandchild Cecelie suddenly became so tall and beautiful. (She has always been adorable, but suddenly she is grown-up beautiful.)

Lige and Cecelie wanting Sam to come out for the night while they were here.

Having our friend Wendell out for dinner and reminincing.

Buying a couple books I’ve wanted for years for 20% discount from Bookworm at Illinois Centre Mall. (The pain is greater than the pleasure, however, since local writers and readers wanted Carl and Kelley to be there forever, but they must close this store. They too had certainly wanted it here for the future. They were wonderful to tout local authors. Thankfully they still have a great book store in Carbondale we can go to for new and used books.)

Seeing Jon Musgrave’s photo and story about an upcoming reading and then bumping into him at Bookworm for a brief visit and hearing about some interesting research he is doing.

Watching the hummingbirds enjoying supper on our deck while we enjoy ours inside.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Spring Winding Up

We only watched the Women’s College Softball World Series two nights since Arizona State won both games, so the third game was not needed. Brian and Mary Ellen with Brianna’s help finished up the planting of their newly leased farm.

Now we will wait and hope for rain for them. It sprinkled for awhile at Katherine’s house yesterday while I was there, and she was excited thinking about Brian and Mary Ellen’s seeds in the ground. She was remembering how she delighted over rain back in her gardening days. (I enjoyed her lilies from those days as I walked into her house.)

Gerald has a small vegetable garden in good shape, and the huge lawn, which he spends a great deal of time mowing, is looking absolutely fantastic. My golden day lilies are blooming profusely beside the kitchen wall, and there are roses begging me to pick them for an inside bouquet. With all the rest of the nation, we are experiencing very hot weather that reinforces the calendar telling us that spring is almost over.

Summer activities have started. Sam and Josh came in, hot and sweaty from open gym at the high school yesterday afternoon, and joined us in their family room. Katherine handed them the remote control since we could watch reruns of Oprah anytime. It took me awhile to realize that those were not real basketball players on the screen as Sam and Josh played a virtual game complete with cheering crowd and some kind of costumed mascot parading around.

Sam had his bag packed and waiting in the living room since Brian and Brianna were going to pick him up to visit them in Waggoner and attend the Irish Days festivities up there.

Our downstairs door is unlocked tonight; and when I go to bed, I’ll turn on the outside lights for Tara. She, Maddux, and Payton are on the way down and will stop briefly before going to the first Southern Force tourney down south. Aidan,5, could not come because he has his first baseball game this weekend. That sounds young, but he is physically and mentally ready.

Jeannie just asked me on Facebook if they could stay here tomorrow night. That means they are on their way to Nashville to see Leslie’s first apartment and to attend one of her gigs singing and directing preschoolers towards healthy living.

Families must hurry to plan summer trips, vacations, and camping because school no longer starts after Labor Day but in the middle of the heat of August. Over a month of summer will be spent in the classroom by today’s kids. Lazy days of summer are a thing of the past.

I must get off here and call my sister and wish her a happy anniversary. Her daughters have been touting their parents on Facebook today.

Cyndi wrote: “Today..62 years ago.. God united in marriage two very unique people…Mom and Dad. Praying an abundance of blessings on these two very special people in my life!!!"

Gloria wrote: "We have the best parents!!! Anyone who can look at a picture of 2 little girls they’ve never met, drive l000 miles to get them & love us the way they have, deserve an abundance of blessings!!! Happy Anniversary to my Mom & Pop!!!"

Those two little girls are now beautiful women with beautiful grown children of their own, and Rosemary and Phil delight in those grandchildren’s children.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Farming and Softball

Farming (in absentia) and softball games (via television) have consumed a great deal of our weekend time—or at least our thoughts. At the close of her birthday on Thursday, Mary Ellen and her daughter Brianna came downstate to help Brian farm rather than just Brianna coming that morning with Brian. They were only able to stay briefly at our house because they were on the way to the field.

I haven’t seen Mary Ellen since, but I read on Facebook that she’d been on a huge tractor with tracks, as she and Brian formed a dynamic duo to complete planting before a deadline. I am eager to get an update of their accomplishments because those two have a record of doing the impossible when they combine efforts—whether it is painting rooms or keeping a seed corn plant operating during crunch time.

Brianna, age 16, has worked like a trooper right with them. Gerald helped Mary Ellen haul anhydrous ammonia tanks once or twice although he has been very busy chopping fragmite grass off the island and around our lake and cleaning out the drainage ditch at the Pittsburg farm. Sam even got exposed to farming when he came out to visit with Brianna.

Brianna and Sam were in the house briefly on Saturday night watching softball on television with us until they went to the Taylors’ camper on the Pittsburg road to spend the night. Gerald and I had fallen asleep watching games, so they left us a note when they left.

I have always called the place on the Pittsburg road Wayside Farm starting when we lived there for a couple of years and I learned the even then long-before story of a young man fatally injured in a car wreck on that highway. He had been carried there under a large mulberry tree in the front yard to die. I knew his widow who had remarried and had a family, but the thought of his too early death by the wayside always saddened me.

The house we lived in and that tree have long been gone as has the old barn and outbuildings where our children played. There’s no longer evidence of the well in the back yard. After we moved out, we rented the house awhile to one fine family, but after they moved away, we had some unpleasant experiences with renters and it seemed wise to tear the old house and barns down. (After one renter left with unpaid for second-hand appliances still in the house, Gerald was almost accosted when the store owner cane out and thought he was the renter!)

Gerald built a machine shed there and always used it, and in recent years Brian put up a grain bin after he started farming the land. Brian and Mary Ellen parked their camper there and put up a basketball goal for their kids when they were down to farm. They entertained there with campfires for hot dogs and marshmallows. But they didn’t have time for entertaining this weekend as they concentrated on completing field work.

Our minds have been filled with television images of a different kind of field this weekend. We have watched great hitting, pitching, and fielding as the top eight teams in the national have battled it out at the NAAC Division I Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City. At this double elimination tournament, one Saturday night game ended after midnight as Missouri and Baylor went 13 innings before a Baylor homerun put them into the semifinals yesterday.

After returning from church, we hurried through lunch with the kitchen television on before we went down to the larger screen in the family room. I hoped yesterday that Baylor would make it to the finals; but not surprisingly, Arizona State--all rested and fresh from the winners’ bracket--defeated Baylor to remain unbeaten. I have to admit, I would have hated for Baylor’s tough Whitney Canion to have had to keep pitching yet another game if they had won that game. I have never quite understood why the teams in the winners’ bracket are given the strong advantage of a Saturday off to rest. If they are truly the best, why do they need the breaks?

Two SEC teams, Florida and Alabama, also had to play two games yesterday.Florida was victorious both games. We watched the ending of the final game after we came home from an evening church service, where we heard Gerald’s friend Wendell preach a very helpful sermon. I was for both Florida and Alabama. I hated for Pat Murphy’s Alabama team to return to tornado-torn Tuscaloosa without going into the finals, but they have plenty to be proud of making it as far as they did.

Tonight we’ll be watching and cheering Florida against Arizona State. If one team wins tonight and tomorrow night, the championship will be determined. If necessary, two out of three wins will be completed Wednesday night. Go Gators!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Cicadas, Mary Ellen's Birthday, and Biting Flies

When we step out of the kitchen into the garage, the roar of the cicadas fill our ears. It took Gerald a couple of days to figure out what he was hearing because he thought surely something mechanical was happening beyond the woods that borders our west field. After sleeping 13 years, those creatures have a need to make noise.

Sounds of farm machinery also fill the air in our region as farmers finally are able to get into their fields again. Our son-in-law Brian has been working day and night trying to complete his crop planting. He had our farm done before it began raining again, and now he is trying to get his own fields and other leased land planted. I met him at their camper and the machine shed last night at l0 where he finally brought his tractor to stop for the day. Delivering him to his parked truck on his acreage, I worried about his having to make the long trip yet to their home in the middle of the state.

Today is a special day because it is our youngest child Mary Ellen’s birthday. So maybe Brian was able to wish her a happy birthday in person before he comes back down. I already knew he was going home and would be back today because Sam was excited he’d gotten a text from Brianna that she was coming down. Mary Ellen had tickets for them to go to the softball World Series which would have been an exciting start to the summer; but since Georgia lost, that trip was called off to everyone’s disappointment.

Sam is already feeling bored with unplanned summer freedom, and his mother Katherine and I had a conversation with him about that at their house. I’d just heard the technician at the doctor’s office complain her son (same age as Sam) was driving her nuts already wanting to invite a buddy every night to break the boredom. I just laughed with her, but Sam got my usual response to my own kids when they complained about things being boring: There’s not boring places but boring people. So get busy and become interesting. Of course, Katherine remembered my other solution in boredom complaints: Here’s some work for you to do. Maybe Brian will find some work for Trent and Bri and Sam to do today.

Yesterday before I took off to town to get an INR test and to visit Katherine and then do my monthly senior citizen discount shopping , Gerald had me take him to Brian’s leased land over near Harrisburg in order to haul back empty anhydrous tanks to be refilled in Marion. Gerald guaranteed I’d see a place I’d never seen before.

There was a brief ride on Old Route 13, and that felt familiar and pleasurable like seeing an old friend. Then we turned onto the country road and went a long way north on the constantly curving road until that road ended with a long closed broken down bridge. There we turned right onto a rough narrower road—one of those tree-lined roads where the limbs make a roof above you. I enjoyed that road and those woods before we bounced into the rough fields where the truck with the anhydrous tanks was awaiting us.

I had to get out of the pickup and go to the other side to drive it home, and Gerald had to go to Brian’s truck. That allowed us to experience the buffalo flies (not sure of that bug identity) that have been swarming there every time Brian gets out of a vehicle. I’d never seen the pesky little buggers before, but I made it to the other side of the pickup with out a bite. Oddly I did not hear any cicadas in those woods surrounding those fields. I wondered why.

Temperatures are in the 90s; with Memorial Day behind us, people here are calling this summertime. Summertime and the living is easy—unless you are farming and then it is sometimes very hard. Lazy unplanned days are sometimes difficult for our over-scheduled kids to adjust to. They have to catch on that they made need to choose between being busy or bored. And they will.