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.