Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Letter 2012

I meant to post our annual Christmas letter earlier.  But then I haven't finished sending Christmas cards either.   (Well, almost all but local cards were in the mail before Christmas, which I felt was a noble accomplishment with the little free time I had.)  I love cards and letters so much during the holiday season that I really did not want to fail to send our cards.   If you don't enjoy end-of-the-year summaries, just skip this.  

                                                                      Woodsong Christmas 2012
Dear Friends and Relatives,
Here are some of the many happy happenings have brightened our lives this past year:  
Family gatherings at Easter and Thanksgiving,
Thanks to Tara and Bryan Archibald, three great grandsons to ride the tractor with Gerald and to charm Gma Sue,
Gerald’s breakfasts with his brothers and trips to softball games with nephew DuWayne,  
Gerald taking grandson Sam to  Knoxville to see University of Tennessee play basketball,
Celebrating Gerald’s birthday by going to Oxford, MS, and seeing the University of Georgia softball team sweep the three games there and seeing the three great grandsons there,
Sue’s traveling to Nashville with  Jeannie to Leslie’s senior recital and later to her bridal shower with the Eiler family, 
A wonderful May visit from Gerald’s sister Ernestine and her daughter Leah and little Emmy, 
Leslie and Mike’s college graduation from Belmont and Geri Ann’s graduation from Oconee High,
Having Geri Ann surprised with the National Softball Player of the Year trophy in an interview by Jessica Mendoza, and then watching the ESPN awards week which she and her parents were sent to in California,
Leslie and Mike’s wedding at our church in Crab Orchard with a party afterward in the barn on Brian and Mary Ellen’s new place-- the former Harold and Novella Rix home, 
Jeannie’s successful trip riding her bicycle from the Wisconsin border down to the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, 
Five grandkids here to help in Vacation Bible School at Center -- Cecelie (8th grade and violin player) Sam (sophomore and trombone player), Brianna (senior and clarinet player), and our two college sophomores--Elijah at Illinois State and Trent at Lincolnland,
Erin’s becoming assistant softball coach at North Texas State College in Denton, 
Seeing the fall colors and eating fish on the floating restaurant on the Ohio River,
Beautiful Brianna being in the Homecoming court at Lincolnwood High this month,
Other blessings too numerous to mention.
Nevertheless, our lives are drenched with sadness as we have had to witness the devastation that multiple sclerosis has produced for our daughter Katherine. Her suffering is difficult to watch, and yet she has to endure it--not just watch it.  Please pray that researchers might find a cure for this disease. 
We struggle to remember that Apostle John tells us he heard a loud voice saying, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will  be no more death or mourning or crying for pain…” Revelation 21: 4.  That verse is my scripture present to you. 
Love and Merry Christmas,

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Katherine's Home from the Hospital

People are asking, so I better post to let you know that Katherine came home finally on Thursday.  We were originally told that she could come home Tuesday, which made me very nervous because I thought it seemed too soon although she was out of ICU on Monday even though they had no new room to move her to until Tuesday.  But we made all the arrangements to bring her home as we had been told.  In fact, they had even checked with the doctor to see if she could be out by noon to keep her 2 p.m. dental appointment. He said that was possible. When I got to the hospital early Tuesday, I learned that her newest INR reading showed her blood was too thin, so she would not get out after all.

I arrived at the hospital as early as possible Wednesday morning assuming she would be able to come home that day.  Someone unofficially told us her blood level was ok.  (Wrong. Actually it was still a wee bit high.) Her hospitalist doctor was off that day, and we waited for the substitute.  And waited. We were told he was on our floor before noon—but we never saw him if he was. Gerald was at home poised to drop everything and  go get her van as soon as we phoned him—the same as he had waited on Tuesday.  Finally late in afternoon, we gave up on being allowed to take Katherine home.  Actually I was not in any hurry, but she was. I felt she was safer in the hospital, but I felt sorry for her wanting to go home so would have welcomed that too.  At 6:15 that evening, I decided my day had been as long as I needed; and if the doctor came, Katherine could talk to him alone, which of course she did.

Again I arrived early on Thursday.  She was given the ok to go home, and we started gathering stuff and planning. It was amazing how much staff she had accumulated in a week’s time. Her dental appointment had been postponed until Thursday afternoon when we thought she was getting out on Wednesday.   Jeannie had texted that she would be down to help, and that took a big worry off my mind.  Gerald brought her home and drove her to the dentist in time for her appointment. I went to the drug store and filled two prescriptions, and called her aide that we were home.  The aide  came to help, and a friend brought a casserole.  I eventually went home to rest so I could come back with Gerald and Jeannie to help them get her in bed.  Jeannie spent the night.

The aide came Friday morning to get her out of the bed with the Hoyer, and when the aide went home, I came in.  Jeannie again came to help Gerald with the Hoyer and to spend the night again making the necessary adjustment that Katherine's pain requires.  Jeannie had spent some of her daytime sleeping time shopping for what she hoped might be more comfortable night wear for Kathy. I have been home both nights by 11, and I can sleep late again in the morning as I have the last two days.  Jeannie will have to return to the northern part of the state tomorrow as soon as she rests up for the drive. I will miss her.

Tonight’s blog should let everyone know that as far as the blood clots are concerned, Katherine is doing well. The multiple sclerosis  really does not seem any worse because of them. Since the MS and the constant pain was bad enough before the clots, we are grateful symptoms have not increased. That is a good thing.

We try to get daily texts to Katherine’s siblings, but I really do not have time to do more than that.  So just know if I do not blog or do not phone, things are going as well as we can hope, but there is just not time for much communication.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Getting Acquainted with the Modern ICU

 Since Thanksgiving, I have been away from home many days or nights at Katherine’s house. I have always dropped in to help some, but lately aides have had doctor appointments or other problems causing them to need to be off and we haven’t been able to get subs.  The night aide, who was coming at 12:30 a.m. after she got off of a full time job has had to quit, which I certainly understand. She would go home to take care of four adorable children after her two jobs were over, and I worried how in the world she was able to stand that schedule very long.

On Thursday, Katherine had what she thought was an asthma attack. She continued to have trouble breathing and was wearing her oxygen supply.  During that night she was aching all over and I finally decided she must have the flu.  Although I had heard a home health worker weeks ago say she would give Katherine a flu shot, I just found out that day that had not happened.  I don’t know why. That was a difficult night.

Her morning aide phoned both her primary doctor and the home health agency, and both said Katherine should go to the emergency room, where she spent the rest of the day getting tests, and then they admitted her to the ICU upstairs when they found out she had blood clots in her legs and lungs.  She was soon wired up with cords and monitors all over her, and those wires grew in greater numbers yesterday.

Needless to say, it has been a scary two days as they did a procedure with medicines to blast the clots and also put in filters to prevent any more clots going from her legs to her heart.  The plan today was to do a scan to see how successful they had been dissolving  or lessening the clots and to repeat this procedure if necessary. We received good news this afternoon when the scan showed much progress. The second “blasting” would not be given...At that point Gerald came on back to the farm.  

So then the nurses were to take out something they called slips from yesterday’s procedure and they gave her a pain pills to prepare her as they were to press hard for 30 minutes to stop  bleeding after the removal—and Katherine was to rest for three hours afterwards.  I started to go to the ICU waiting room when that started, but Katherine said she would rest better knowing I was going home to rest.  Since it was already getting dark and pouring rain, I was glad to do so.

Often when it rains at funerals, I comfort myself that nature is grieving.  As I drove home through the downpour today, a heavy rain which is so welcome to the farms and rivers here, I felt nature was joining in the celebration that we had received good news.
I was amazed at the freedom and liberality of visitation in the modern ICU.  I thought in ICU that family was restricted to 10 or 15 minute visits every two or three hours. (Maybe they still are for some conditions.) From the first, they allowed two visitors throughout the entire day with us leaving when asked because nurses had to give meds or other care.

Her three high school girl friends were there Friday when they moved her in and they let them all three stay!  After being up the previous night, I had gone to the farm to take a nap as I planned to spend the night since the hospital allowed people to stay during the night when she had been admitted there before. 

However, that was the one thing ICU did not allow, but very nearby was a quite comfortable ICU waiting room with rest rooms and lockers, coffee, and coin machines. The chairs pulled into beds and were being well used.  I did not sleep there, but I had to spend enough time there to get acquainted and feel comfortable. When her girl friends brought a beautiful bouquet matching the lovely lavender gift bag, the flowers could not be taken into her room.  Leah told me to take the arrangement home, but I suggested we leave it there so all of us and the others in the room could enjoy that beauty. (The gift was a sweet singing angel with three blue birds on her shoulders.  Leah laughed that the three birds represented her three bird-brained friends.)

I could not have disagreed more that those three young women were bird-brained.  They were my three angels throughout this weekend—making Katherine laugh and helping to adjust her arms and feet and comforting me in the ICU waiting room.   (We had told our daughters not to make the long trip down yet as we might need them more later.)

Anyhow that is why I have not been on the Internet.  So I decided I better blog tonight while I could. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My 29th Birthday Celebration and Other Events

Gerald. Jake, and I are getting back to normal after the influx of family over the holiday weekend.  Jake had six visiting “cousins” or “nephews” as one of our kids figured out to call these visiting canines. “Cousins” is what we had always called the kids’ dogs when they visited at the same time. Then we got Jake. I like him just fine and appreciate  his welcoming greeting every time I arrive home, but I have a little trouble thinking of him as equal to my four children.  (One daughter said her dog would be Jake’s nephew.)  Nevertheless, while Gerald pets and sweet talks to him, I have heard Gerald calling him, “Son.”  However the dogs are related (or not), it is always fun to watch them interact, and I was glad they all got along.

Gerry arrived on Tuesday so he could hunt with his dad, and Jeannie came that evening with Elijah and Cecelie to be available to help me on Wednesday.  While Brian was in the field, Mary Ellen was over at her house on Wednesday cooking up a storm both for our Thanksgiving feast and the second one for her brother-in-law’s family on Friday, but she managed a visit with us each day anyhow.

Brianna and Trent had classes in Central Illinois on Wednesday, so they came later that day.  They slept at Woodsong, so they could be with their cousins. So did Sam.  Our newlyweds Leslie and Mike arrived from Nashville late that evening. Vickie, Erin, and Geri Ann were over at Gma Shirley’s but dropping in and out over here.  By Thursday noon, David had brought Katherine out in the van, and Vickie and daughters arrived with food for the buffet and flowers for my birthday to brighten the dining room.

Except for the five Archibalds who were entertaining Bryan’s family down at Athens, Georgia, all seventeen of us were  here.  I keep the two extra leaves in the dining room table all the time, so that it can seat ten if necessary and it frequently is. Gerald put the extra leaf in the kitchen table, and then eight can sit there.  It is noisy and chaotic when the family is here at once, but it means a great deal to me to be surrounded by these loved ones.

The last few years, our children have started carrying in extra food as a means of helping me, and we end up with more than we need. But that was very helpful this year because grandkids are now driving and, thus, coming and going to town at undetermined times, and Jeannie and I were alternating at Katherine’s house while aides were off.  So there was plenty of food on hand for people to help themselves with plates for the microwave or snacks off the dessert table.  I fixed left-overs  for sit-down meals a couple of times. Jeannie and Mary Ellen kept dishes washed up.

Gerry and Vickie and daughters and dogs took off Thanksgiving night after their second family dinner at Gma Shirley’s. Gerry needed to be at work the next morning.  They drove through the night with the women shopping as they went along.  At one point, Vickie joined Gerry in the truck and gave him a long driving break. On the way up, they had picked Erin up at the Atlanta airport, and I don’t know if she was able to enjoy a weekend in Athens with them or not before she flew back to Texas.  I forgot to ask, but it sure was good to see her as I have missed her terribly since she can no longer drop in like she had for the previous two years.

On Friday, my birthday, Gerald picked me up from Katherine’s. Stopping at the mailbox as we pulled into our lane, I was gratified with cards and letters as well as a present from my sister. As I walked into the house, the phone rang and it was my sister’s birthday call from Amarillo before their weekly Friday night dinner for their large extended family of kids and grandkids. I hadn’t hung up yet when the seven grandkids still at our house came into the room smiling and laughing before they disappeared into Leslie and Mike’s bedroom.  Since they always have some project going, I didn’t think anything about it. A few minutes later they came out singing “Happy birthday” with a beautiful cake from Larry’s saying:  “Happy 29ths birthday, Grandma!”  Gerry phoned to say happy birthday, and Mary Ellen dropped in and we all had a great birthday party with cake and ice cream and lots of laughter.

The laughter got louder a little later when the grandkids started cooking up their late night plans. They had planned even before they came to see Lincoln  together at the Marion theater.  Suddenly they were plotting again, and Sam was cutting out beards and top hats there at the dining room table. They carried up black construction paper they had found in their den downstairs—the junk room we called the “art room” when they were little.  One by one, the middle four of the seven found suit jackets from the dress-up closet and added their beards and tall hats, while adults respectfully (nervously) declined accompanying them to the theater.  We were glad Leslie and Mike were going along to keep them in line, and Cecelie looked so cute with the hair-do some cousin had given her that I was happy she did not spoil it with a top hat.

With the commotion of a big family, it is usual to run late, and they barely made it before the movie began. Leslie had to laugh when Trent put down his credit card, and the girl at the box office handed him the seven tickets without even asking which movie they were attending.  By then most seats were taken, so they were escorted to the very front accompanied by the laughter of those seeing four Lincolns arrive for the movie.  Knowing President Lincoln was well mannered, they remembered to take the hats off so they would not block anyone’s vision.  Phones were used by some in the audience to take their pictures, and Leslie loved telling that one mother warned her child to stay away from those weird kids.  We were all sound asleep when they came back late that night, but were relieved to learn the next day that they wern’t refused admission. By Saturday they had posted a photo of the Lincoln Four on Facebook and were already on to other plans. Aunt Mary had cleaned up the black construction paper scraps.  

I spent Saturday night at Katherine’s and only came home Sunday morning to get ready for Sunday School and church.  I was delighted to have Leslie and Mike and another young couple, A.J. and Jessie, in our Young Adult Class.  Since Jessie is very close to producing their second child any time now, there was some interesting visiting in addition to studying the final chapter of Peter’s second letter reminding us that the Lord is long suffering, not wanting anyone to perish but to come to repentance.  And I could again marvel that to the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.  Afterwards during worship, we loved hearing Leslie sing before concentrating on the pastor’s chosen text from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.

Jeannie took us all out for Sunday dinner at Cracker Barrel, so they could head on home immediately to northern Illinois and Leslie and Mike could go the opposite direction to Tennessee.  We dropped Sam off, and Gerald and I came home to rest. 

A huge white moon hung in the early eastern sky at 4:45 this afternoon as I left Katherine’s house and started toward the farm. I enjoyed it along with early Christmas lights as I drove through the darkening daylight. By the time I reached Woodsong, the moon was light golden in color. The beauty is always very welcome.  With life so busy, the time between one full moon and the next seems to be on express these days.  For me a month is like a day.  I do look forward to a new heaven and a new earth, and I suppose a life outside of time just as the Lord enjoys.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Most of the Gang Is Here!

Gerry arrived in a rented pickup yesterday at noon with four squirrel dogs for him and his dad to give Jake some hunting practice.  They have been at it off and on ever since being in the woods together and enjoying male camaraderie.  Gerry had gotten up at 3 to drive to Birmingham to pick up three new dogs there. Katherine asked in front of her aide, “Well, is he still bigger than life?”  I assured her that was still true, and we explained that to the aide.  Things are always exciting when Gerry is around.

Later in the evening when I came home from Katherine’s, Jeannie had arrived with Elijah and Cecelie. (Rick is going to Florida to be with his mother and two brothers for a family wedding down there.) 

Erin ran over this morning from her Gma Shirley’s in order to get her three-miles of running in. After a good but short visit, her dad took her back to Gma Shirley’s and brought Geri Ann over, who has now gone hunting with the men.  Jeannie is on her bike enjoying the beautiful summer weather we have today.  She was at Katherine’s until after midnight last night and will be helping there later today.  Brian and Mary Ellen are on the way down and have probably reached their Marion house by now.  Brianna had school today, so she and Trent will be arriving later today.  With all the coming and going,  I have trouble keeping up with who is here and who is where.

I had five pork chops thawed for lunch; and although I rarely fry anything, I decided an easy lunch would be pork chops with biscuits and gravy to go with the four-bean salad that I know Gerry likes. (The chops were good if caloric.) I opened a gallon-size can of peaches and made slice-off cookies for dessert.  Then I realized there were seven in the house at lunch time, so I left two pork chops whole for Gerry and Gerald, who had hunted all morning,  and cut the other three in half.  I knew the kids—all light eaters--would probably not eat an entire chop anyhow.  I was somewhat shocked at the end of the meal to see the two chops and one half chop left on the platter—but two had not eaten meat.   So before I put things away, I phoned Mary Ellen and Brian to say come over and finish up lunch here—but they had stopped to eat on the way down.  So there are two and a half chops left for supper to go with the ham I baked yesterday morning for the men to eat when Gerry arrived.

I just went up stairs and turned off the big pot of sweet potatoes boiling, so I can make the mashed sweet potato casserole tomorrow that Aunt Clela used to make—brown sugar and cinnamon with marshmallows on top.  When Gerry is here for a holiday, I always make that rather than candied ones. (When Gerald and I are alone, I only serve baked sweet potatoes, baked meat, and desserts made with a non-sugar product.)  Vickie will  bring the deviled eggs that Erin loves—me too. Ingredients are laid out for the green bean casserole that Mary Ellen usually makes for us, although she usually brings the ingredients; and if she did, I am ready for Christmas—the only two meals I serve green beans that way.

Facebook has been full of so many people posting a daily thank you for good things in their lives.  I did not participate, but I have enjoyed reading their posts and then thinking of my own gratitude for so much.  Right now I am enjoying laughter and beautiful music by grandchildren in the house.  Two of our three college grandchildren are studying special education. I cannot express the gratitude and thrill I felt as I listened to the two of them talking to each other about their participation in classrooms with special needs children.
To top today off, I turned on the news and found there was a peace fire between Israel and Gaza.  What wonderful news.

Gerald got the turkey from the freezer for me Saturday, and it should be thawed for me to put it in the pan this evening to be ready to place in the oven at 6 in the morning.  I made pies Saturday, but they are in the freezer except one I had kept out for Gerry’s arrival yesterday.  I may make some more tonight with store-bought roll-out dough, and just leave the frozen ones for Christmas.  I will see how this evening goes now that I have taken a break to rest and blog.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Droughts and Flooding--Always Something It Seems

Last Sunday night late when I drove home from Katherine’s, it was raining heavily.   I enjoyed driving through it because I remembered son-in-law Brian at lunch expressing the wish that we’d soon get more rain to insure the water supply for next year’s crops.  I knew how happy this rain was making him. And how it was increasing our future income.
Despite that knowledge of our need for rain to break the summer’s drought, I was somewhat surprised this week to see the newspapers full of concern that the mighty Mississippi River might soon be too low for river traffic unless some plans were changed over in Missouri to block the flow into the big river.

All my life from childhood on, the worries I have heard about this river were the floods. I remember with personal pleasure that our neighbors across the street had their relatives move in when the river overflowed.  The pleasure to me was that one of the older cousins there providing me with a new chum that summer.   Repeated floods for two or three years brought refugees into our small town. Stories abounded of the hardships families faced when they moved back to mud-filled hosues. After those years, visits to the Mississippi bottoms reminded us of the floods because there we saw some residents built their homes five or six feet above the ground.  Gerald lived at the edge of those bottoms and has stories to tell about the high school kids released from school to sandbag levies.

The first farm we lived on after we married was protected from the river by a levy that we drove down to get to our home.  The first night there I had a nightmare about driving on that levy, which was scary to me when the water rose up on the river side.  When the river was down, we were able to go over in a pickup to picnic in the woods on the river side.
After we moved away, we still were concerned when floods threatened because we had friends and family whose lives would be affected.  When our granddaughter Tara was a little girl, we would sometimes take her on Sunday afternoon outings while her daddy was away at his lodge in Mexico.  Once when the news about the flood told of the river up in the park at Grand Tower, like many other people. we drove over there to gawk in awe at the enlarged river.  Unable to get to the swings, children were playing in the knee high water over the driveway at the edge of the park, and we let Tara join them.  That night on television, I heard the warnings about how dangerous flood water was with all its contaminants.  I shuddered at my ignorance, and was always grateful that my prayer for her protection was answered.

In recent years, we have been made aware of the dangerous deterioration of the levies protecting that part of the state.  One of the teachers, Jamie Nash-Mayberry at Shawnee High School near Wolf Lake not only made the students realize the danger, but for two or three years, she has engaged them to try to correct the serious situation there.  Those kids are the reason I know about the deterioration—they made sure all the media outlets became involved. They wrote Oprah. They wrote their representatives and everyone else they could think of. The Corps of Engineers and legislators met with the kids in a public meeting.
We held our breath when floods were so serious that citizens of Cairo and others on the southern tip of Illinois had to be evacuated. Cairo was only saved at all because a levy was opened and flooded acres of farm land.  I felt sad for fellow farmers, but they farmed there with the understanding that this was what was to be done if the river got too high. No one wanted to breach the levy, but I was glad that the people of Cairo were not sacrificed anymore than nature had already done.

I was very impressed with this activist teacher and all she has accomplished with public awareness, but the danger remains and the levies are still in poor shape because of lack of money. I hope to meet Jaime Nash-Mayberry someday.  Most of all, I hope funds become available to do what needs to be done to save land, crops, homes, and families from floods. 
Now suddenly this week I learn that the danger to the river now is not flooding but drying up. As the saying goes, if it is not one thing, it’s another.

Just found this on Internet but haven’t time yet to read through it:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sad Times in Many Lives

Much to our relief, the gnats are no longer a huge problem at our house although a few can still be seen.  The orange and yellow leaves have mostly fallen, and the remaining leaves are mostly dull and brown.  But infrequently a bright red maple will still show up in someone’s yard.  There are two in Ken and Barbara Davis’ yard over on Sarahville Road, and I look forward to seeing these beautiful trees on the way to church in the morning.  Beauty is so necessary right now with so much sadness in our land.

Katherine seems somewhat stronger now and is gradually getting a fine fall staff in place.  I have spent more time there at her house during the transition from the college girls who cared for her last summer followed by her hospitalization. I will still be on call for subbing even though I cannot really do the needed work lifting her. One thing I have learned is that I am a very poor nurse.

In the third and fourth grade (when we were not fighting), my best friend Bobbie Jo and I used to talk about wanting to be a doctor.  I loved the play doctor’s kit I received for Christmas. Bobbie Jo and I were not sure women were doctors, so we said we wanted to do a doctor’s work but be called a nurse like her mother. Later after she moved away, I learned women could be doctors, and that was my ambition through grade school. My father was very encouraging, and I do not remember anyone being discouraging. 

By high school, however, I changed my mind because I was not sure I could be a doctor and also have the family I wanted. (I was always captivated by dolls and played with them way past my girl friends’ tolerance.)  Today I do not doubt that women can be very good doctors and good mothers at the same time.

Yet now I also recognize that I would not have been able to survive the difficult science and math curriculum that medicine would have required.  So I think it all worked out well that I became a homemaker and a sometime teacher and writer.  Yet I still hold those with medical knowledge in great respect—actually in awe--that they could know so much about the human body and the multitude of illnesses and problems that can damage it. 

Now I have also learned to admire and respect those nurses and caregivers who are able to empathize and understand patients on a even more personal level than the patients’ doctors can in the brief time most get to see a patient.  I know of some instances where nurses risked their jobs to step in and help a patient (sometimes behind the doctor’s back) when the nurse knew the doctor was making a mistake. 

I especially appreciate the caregivers that lift and care for our daughter, who can no longer walk. An excellent new aide had to miss one day this week when her cousin, 36, unexpectedly died following a routine surgery. The cousin left behind four children, ages 7 through 21. And she was the one everyone else in their extended family received help and support from.   Without insurance, her family is having a benefit tomorrow, so Katherine’s aide will again be needed by her family in her hometown.

In the meantime, Gerald and I have just returned from a benefit for a young couple who grew up in our community.  The benefit was planned before this outstanding man, who was in our youngest daughter’s class, passed away after months of battling bladder cancer—during which time he lost his mother also to cancer.

Just as the family thought things were going better after surgeries and treatment, he had a seizure, and it was discovered there was yet another inoperable tumor on or near his skull.   They had insurance, but months and months of travel and treatment are beyond most families’ ability to endure financially. This man and his young wife, who cared for him through this ordeal, were also the kind of community-minded people that many depended upon. Their work with scouts and servicemen and in their church at Woodlawn will never be forgotten.   Their cousins, neighbors, and classmates here in Crab Orchard worked hard preparing the barbecue meal, auction, cake walks, and raffles to exhibit their love and concern for Ron and Beth and their two children.

When I turn on the television, I see the horror that nature has done to millions in the Northeast.  One announcer started his report the other day by saying to us viewers across the nation:  If you have electricity, you are lucky.  He was so right. When I see the destroyed homes and realize the hunger and cold that many families there are suffering, I wish I were both rich and young and strong, so that I could go help. 

We will write a check to the Red Cross as so many others already have, and I will feel enormous gratefulness for the ones who go in to clean up and help just as people did and still do at New Orleans, Joplin, and Harrisburg.  Somehow someway all these devastated people throughout our land will survive despite their great grief for the loved ones they have lost and the homes they mistakenly thought their hard work had provided for their future.  When I turn on the lights, I will be grateful and say a prayer for those not so fortunate. And I’ll  put that check in the mail to add to the others that have already donated.  I will be especially grateful in the morning for those two bright red maple trees for the beauty they provide during these sad times in America

Monday, November 05, 2012

Glad to be Back Online

With no young grandchildren of our own in the community anymore and living far back on a lane, we have not have trick-or-treaters visit us for a few years now.  So last Wednesday in the late afternoon when I took my broken computer over to Megabytes, I really enjoyed seeing Herrin’s main street sidewalks filled with parents and children all dressed for the holiday and strolling together with buckets in hand. 

Then stopping at Katherine’s, I shared seeing  the costumed little ones coming to their house for candy.  I even enjoyed the two awkward non-costumed very young teenagers, who were obviously somewhat embarrassed at their own audacity at begging for candy—they only took one tiny piece from the bowl and one for a friend outside who evidently was less nervy.  (I could just imagine them cooking this up and daring one another to knock on the door. I smile just thinking about it.  I bet they had fun on this early evening outing—perhaps the first time without their parents along.)

As I drove back to the farm, I passed crowded church yards and parking lots, which seemed united in offering treats from car trunks as well as other activities and good times for the youngsters and their parents.  We’ve come a long way from the days of putting buggies on barn roofs, pushing over outhouses, or throwing corn on front porches.

I had taken my computer to the shop because I had sleepily clicked on something one late night and realized immediately I did not want to do that.  I thought I had cancelled the download, but a day or two later, trouble began.  The computer worked slower and slower.  I clicked on some sort of help site and saw in red the listing of the silly “who unfriended you” that evidently did download, but it seemed to disappear when I deleted it.

Nevertheless, the computer stayed slow and then would not let me open emails or do much of anything.  Thinking I had a virus or spy-ware, I took it to the shop.  They cleaned it up in a day although there was no virus, and I went over Friday and retrieved it. That night I had time to plug it back in, and excitedly I tried to open my emails. Nothing happened.  Oh dear.  Tried it again the next morning to be sure, but same results.  The shop was closed over the weekend, but I got a return call immediately early yesterday morning.  

Miraculously, the technician took over my machine and fixed it from his computer. The trouble was with the browser and not my computer after all.  So it is nice to be able to open emails and blog again. (And I like thinking my machine is all cleaned up.)

Brian and Mary Ellen were down over the weekend for him to do more harvesting and her to work on all the projects she has going in decorating their recently bought home over on Route 13.  We were spur-of-the-moment invited to stop in for a pulled pork sandwich with them for Sunday lunch, and I loved seeing all the latest improvements she has made as well as hearing about Brianna and Trent’s  Halloween party with an original  murder mystery they wrote for the guests to solve. 

As I pondered what to share in this blog, I realized you haven’t missed much as things have  been pretty slow at Woodsong.  In fact, sadly the most exciting event in our lives right now-- and I am embarrassed to admit this-- is our fight against the gnat invasion we have suffered.  The first couple of weeks, I just shrugged and assumed it was a seasonal thing, and this too would pass. We were having to be careful to keep fruit in the fridge and get banana peels out of the house as soon as possible. It only helped a little bit.
I have had gnats before, but they did not stay this long past their welcome.  Finally I googled and found they are actually flies, but nothing was said about a season for them. We were growing more and more agitated at those tiny ugly things. Gerald sprayed carefully once, but I am nervous about any kind of spray in a kitchen. 

When he called the other day from a hardware store in town to see if I needed anything from there, I suggested they might have some sort of gnat traps or something.  Sure enough, he brought home a box of the old-fashioned fly hangey-down things that are so distasteful to look at.  The first one was unsuccessful until he positioned a banana peel near it to attract the creatures. Now  we have added a second one with another banana peel in that part of the kitchen.  We have scores of dead gnats to look at on those sticky traps, and I am sorry to be responsible for their deaths.  But I sure am glad that maybe we are getting the little varmints out of our lives. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Visiting Yoknapatwpha County

Contrary to my usual reading habits, I have been reading quite a few novels lately—old ones so far. I have wanted to read William Faulkner ever since we visited his home in Oxford, Mississippi, last spring. The only thing by him I had  read other than perhaps a short story or two was A Light in August.  It is on our book shelves, and I cannot remember where I got it—probably from a yard sale on thrift shop.  Nor can I remember anything about it. That was a bad indicator because I often use remembrance to evaluate.  I still mean to read it again, however, while I am thinking of Yoknapatawpha County.

The only book our village library had by Faulkner was a large tome containing The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), Sanctuary (1931), and Intruder in the Dust (1948).   I liked it that there were no comment on them—760 pages was enough.

I found Faulkner’s use of stream-of-consciousness writing fascinating, irritating, confusing, and sometimes able to communicate despite its rambling style.  Here is an example of a sentence actually introduced from the previous paragraph with a colon.  Hold your hats. Here goes:

“’Now we’re going hone and put you to bed before your mother has a doctor in to give us both a squirt with a needle:’ then finding the handle and out of the car, stumbling a little but only once, then his heels although he was not running at all pounding too hard on the concrete, his leg-muscles cramped from the car or perhaps even charley-horsed from thrashing up and down branch bottoms not to mention a night spending digging and undigging graves but at least the jarring was clearing his head somewhat or maybe it was the wind of motion doing it; anyway if he was going to have delusions at least he would have a clear brain to look at them with: up the walkway between the undertaker’s and the building next to it though already too late of course, the Face in one last rush and surge long since by now already across the Square and the pavement, in one last crash against then right on through the plate glass window trampling to flinders the little bronze-and-ebony membership plaque in the national funeraleers association and the single shabby stunted palm in its maroon earthenware pot and exploding to tatters the unfaded purple curtain which was the last frail barrier shielding what was left of Jake Montgomery had of what was left of his share of human dignity.”

Oddly I felt I could usually figure out what Faulkner was saying when each novel was over, but I did not like having to read paragraphs (sentences) like the one above more than once to try to continue with understanding the story line.  I did love going back in time to horses and wagons and social customs, which were still widely used after my birth in 1933.  I assumed Faulkner was giving a somewhat accurate account of life in Mississippi at the time he was writing about.   (I  know that in any village or city, there are many versions of life going on.  Often one group of people has no idea what the other group is enjoying or disdaining.  But Faulkner probably wrote realistically about life there as he had observed and experienced it.  I liked that.)  We have all heard about people foolishly trying to ban Tom Sawyer or even worse change Mark Twain’s wording.  I had never heard complaints about Faulkner’s use of the common vernacular of his day.  In today’s world, that was jarring—but still informative, and I would not change what he wrote because then it would be less accurate and not his account.

Having grown up in one of Illinois’ many Sundown Towns, I did not know a single black person until I attended college.  So I had never heard that races have different smells.  But my first quarter at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, my speech professor was Dr. Paul Hunsinger, who was also a minister if I remember rightly.  He had worked in inner city, in Chicago I think, and he enlightened me, at least, that many white people believe Negroes (not yet called black at that time) smell bad, so that was the excuse white folks used to not want black folks sitting beside them on city buses or in theaters. He told of an experiment of two vials of air—one labeled black and one labeled white—and white people were asked to smell both and describe what they smelled. He said they would attribute unpleasant odor to the one labeled black even though the vials were identical. 

I remembered Dr. Hunsaker’s story when Faulkner talked about the smell in Lucas’s home.  It is common sense that poor folks without running water or little soap for much laundry or many baths would not likely smell as nice as someone who could afford such pleasantries.  (Gerald loves telling about little Erin sniffing him appreciatively when he came all freshened up in clean clothes after a shower one hot day.  So he asked her what he smelled like, and she said, “Soap!”)  I digress, but not every one even today has soap and water, and many more homes in Faulkner’s time lacked a generous supply.  I also am well aware that many poor people work very hard to be cleaner than many of us. (Again I digress:  a story comes to mind that I heard many decades ago about a very prominent wealthy white family being especially dirty at a ski resort.) Anyhow, I found Faulkner’s long discussion of this subject unpleasant but quite telling about the attitudes of his time and place.

I read all four novels, and the book  is overdue.  So tomorrow, I must return it in the outside slot and go in later to pay my fine.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall Beauty

Fearing the winds would soon whip away the spectacular display of leaves, Gerald wanted to take a road trip Saturday through our beautiful country side.  Sometimes we traveled down roads bordered on both sides with trees sporting crowns of waving yellow and red leaves. Other times, we were separated from the multicolored forests massed on the hillsides beyond the fields. Either way was often breathtaking.

We left before lunch and drove down rural roads towards Tunnel Hill, where so many bicyclists--including our Jeannie--ride down the trail built on the old railroad bed. We didn’t want to spend time that day walking through the tunnel, but I still hope to do that someday.

We drove around a bit there and onto Dixon Springs and Golconda, one of my favorite towns in the whole world—what little bit of the world I have had access to in my lifetime.  I love the many beautiful old homes there, the court house, the wonderful museum the Pope County Historical Society has created, Buel House, and perhaps best of all the lovely Ohio River flowing by.

Once again, I was saddened that the town is letting the mural on the concrete flood wall continue to deteriorate. Golconda served as an entrance to Illinois for the Cherokee on their forced march on the Trail of Tears through our region, and the mural depicts that.  I keep hoping some artist will make it their project to renew that mural.

But we were out to see the leaves that day, and so we didn’t linger in Golconda.  We drove on to Elizabethtown, where we were again on the river.  We ate lunch at one of our favorite area places—the floating E-Town River Restaurant, where we always choose the river fish over the pond raised fish just because it seems more appropriate—not because we really have a preference.  The servings are so generous that you don’t need the extra fish the waitresses keep offering, but they really do mean it when they claim to offer all you can eat.

It must have been quite a while since we had been to Elizabethtown because the restaurant now has a built-on outdoor patio that we did not know about.  I would like to go back next summer and eat there, but it was much too windy to choose to sit there that day. But out there you’d be one with the waves and the passing barges. 

Part of the charm of this small town eatery is the crowded situation with tables so close together that people just naturally talk to folks at nearby tables.  Waitresses crowd through and people bump into one another getting to and from their seats.  Jeans and T shirts are the appropriate attire.  Everyone seems to be laughing and smiling enjoying their families and friends. At a table for six nearest our corner, one young woman was sitting between her young son and her father. I guessed her husband was on the other side of the table.  She looked and listened to these men in her life and seemed so happy to be with the ones she loved.

We walked back over the swaying walk to the shore and drove up the hill and parked again to run into the Rose Hotel for a brief and cheerful visit with Sandy Vinyard, who manages that beautiful place built in 1812.  She had to turn down the couple who stopped in for a room as all her rooms were full, but she helped them get a room at the nearby San Damiano, the Catholic retreat open to the public. While that was happening, we were outside admiring the beautiful tandem bright red motorcycle they were riding.

We traveled on through Garden of the Gods, where we had never seen it so crowded with horse folk and back packers, campers, and just gawkers like us wanting to savor the glory of this season.

Going the new road around Harrisburg, we circled back home with time for rest before we ate the last two bowls of chili from earlier in the week.  I had a funeral visitation for a relative in Goreville that evening, so I hurriedly fixed a couple of angel food cakes (from mixes of course) and fixed a bean salad to go with the garden tomatoes I was going to contribute to our annual church fish fry at Center the next day. 

We thought it might be chilly on Sunday for an outdoor meal in the shelter on the church lawn.  However, the weather turned out absolutely perfect for those working so hard cooking to feed all of us after our Bible study and worship service. So for two days in a row we ate fish and hush puppies, which is  unusual for us, but it tasted as good the second day as the first. The tables were laden with every choice imaginable including. of all things, frog legs! This was my first time to have an opportunity to eat such, and after a mental talk to myself, I did. They are as good as people say.

Best of all, of course, was visiting with friends there—seeing the new baby, watching the children on the play equipment, admiring the pretty teens sitting on a tailgate by the shelter, and watching our pleased pastor eat his special prepared bowl of banana pudding that Peggy Troxell made just for him.  (I suspect this was to gain forgiveness for the way his bowl at the dinner the previous Sunday had a way of disappearing to another table every time he sat it down to talk to someone. So maybe he deserves to be forgiven for his brags about his special private bowl of pudding.)  After we returned to the farm, there was still plenty of time left in the afternoon for rest, and I had a wonderful long visiting phone call from Mary Ellen before I went in to spend the evening with Katherine.




Monday, October 15, 2012

Blessings in the Fall

 When you look out our living room windows now or stand on the deck and look beyond the country road and beyond the green meadows, the woods on the horizon present a colorful array of orange, green, yellow, and red leaves.  I came down to write about them yesterday afternoon; but before I started, I heard Mary Ellen enter the house on the first floor above me.  Instead of writing, I joined her and Gerald in the downstairs family room, and the first remark she made was on the beauty of the trees as she had looked out coming down the stairs.

It had been too long since we had visited with her, so it was a welcome alternative to writing.  She and Brian had taken their high school senior Brianna down to Murray State in Kentucky for a football weekend at the school Bri has chosen to become  her alma mater.  They were back at their house over on Route 13 and Mary Ellen came over to visit before she and Bri had to return to Waggoner for school and work today.

Although I never taught my kids to kick their shoes off when they entered our house, they all do. (When the whole crowd is here, the rows of shoes amuse me and I had Gerald photograph that sight as one of our holiday memories.)  Mary Ellen was already wearing sox with a Murray emblem on them as we relaxed with our feet on the coffee table in front of us.

Yesterday was a special day at our church because we were honoring Dr. Ed Handkins, who was just a college student when we joined the church in our village in the early 1960s. I remember his going to Alaska that summer as a student missionary and showing slides when he returned.

A close knit family now grown large and spread in many directions, the  Handkins clan who could came to celebrate Ed’s 50 years of ministry and sat in the front left pews where Ed’s parents, Lorene and Alva, sat for so many years even after Lorene spent the last decade of her life suffering multiple sclerosis.  Ed’s sister Joan has suffered decades of multiple sclerosis but still reared four children. She recently suffered two life-threatening infections in ICU and then weeks of rehab under the watchful eye of her daughter Kim.  She is now back at her apartment and was there in a wheel chair smiling and looking great with three of four children in attendance. Ed’s brother Darrell, who was a high school teen when we came to this community, was there, and his daughters Carol and Tanya from Peoria and Chicago area  joined us in the choir. Ed’s older brother Carl Ray died several years ago, but Carl Ray’s daughters Cindy and Carla were both there to represent him.   Other relatives and their many spouses were also there so some family members would not fit into the three front rows. 

         His cousin Alan Ozment sang and reminded us that God is good, and Ed’s remininces of good and difficult times during his ministry re-enforced that message of confidence in God’s watch care over us.  Ed had us laughing often because his mother Lorene’s sense of humor was obviously passed down to him. Still a college student, he said he filled the pulpit one day at Fairview Church, one of our nearby rural churches. He was amazed to get a letter a couple days later telling him he had been voted in as their new pastor—he had no idea they were considering that and he had no confidence that he knew how to be a pastor.  As fearful and unprepared as he felt, he accepted the pastoral call and continued there while in college. He expressed relief that the church survived.

Alva and Lorene continued serving their children and grandchildren during holiday and summer vacation times for the next few decades, and the rest of us whenever they could as long as their health allowed. One of my early interactions with Alva was in a small group when we were studying vocations and the desirability of choosing a vocation one enjoyed. Most men in our church and community in those days worked in the coal mines.  I remember Alva saying that he really did not like being a miner, but that was what life allowed him to do to support his family, and he sounded content anyhow. One of the earliest events in our lives here was a wonderful man being killed and his body trapped by a mine collapse.  (Someone said his cashed pay check was in his pocket although I don’t know that.)  Alva and other men risked their lives over and over going down in hopes of bringing his body out to his family before they finally had to give us and allow the collapsed mine to be his burial site.

Some were surprised yesterday to learn Ed had been one of the original members of the Glorylanders Quartet that he and his cousin Dee Ozment started with Don Richey and Lyndell King. I remembered it because Lorene—she and Alva were always hospitable to newcomers—had me visiting their home and Lorene played a record of her son’s quartet.  After graduation and marriage, Ed taught science for three years at my high school at Anna-Jonesboro and was  pastor of a rural church there at the same time.  Then he and his family took off for seminary and eventually after pastoring in Cairo during troubling times, most of his career was in northern Illinois.  In retirement he and Donna are in North Carolina, where he continues writing and now is even pastor of a church again.

Down through the years, Ed and Donna have come back home to Center to visit loved ones, and he has occasionally preached for us, and he became one of my favorite preachers.  His compassion is as obvious as his humor, and I have never doubted that he believes everything he preaches.  His intellectualism is only revealed by the creativity and the simplicity of his messages.  I have stored some nuggets of spiritual wisdom that go directly back to his sermons.

Our church hosted an fantastic buffet of potluck foods for a dinner after Ed’s morning sermon, and we enjoyed the food and the fellowship.  There was another gathering afterwards back in the sanctuary to allow people to express appreciation for Ed and to let this extremely talented musical family sing.  Gerald was needing a nap by now, so we missed out on that in order to go to the opening four-night revival starting last night at Creal Springs Baptist Church,  hosted by our neighboring rural churches.  I was so glad we heard that sermon, and I felt both refreshed and strengthened as I drove into Katherine’s after the service to make sure she had her evening meds since one aide had left and there was a gap before the next would arrive hours later.  Thank you, Ed and Donna, for your many years of service.







































Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Frost and Election Season

The fog rises high off the lake and off the valley beyond the country road at the end of our driveway.  The green grass between our house and the lake glistens with frost this morning.  I run to Gerald and ask if this was a killer frost.  Would our son-in-law’s soybean crop be damaged just as the corn crop was hurt by the summer drought? 

The farmer’s success depends on the weather, and the price city dwellers will pay for food is also weather dependent. The fear of an early frost is a familiar fear to me. Yeteven more than our over fifty years of farming made me aware of the weather and food supply connection, Robert J. Hastings book A Nickel’s Worth of Skim Milk impressed me with this concern.  Hastings wrote about his eight years in grade school during the Depression when he wore the same coat all eight years.  Like most people in small towns and on farms, his unemployed father made an annual garden.  During those years, however, bad weather limited his production just as the job loss limited the family income. 

It is odd how sometimes life seems to be on a bad luck roll.  Just when someone thinks they can stand no more, another blow comes to knock them down yet again. Things get worse and worse, but usually eventually things turn around.  In the meantime, people have to be tough and use unbelievable human ingenuity to survive.

One of the ways that Hastings’ family survived was through thriftiness—the kind of thrift few of us could understand today despite our bad economy. His mother deliberately bought his school coat much much too big for him.  How many children have you seen today with clothes that are too big for them?  He grew into the coat and wore it until it was too little for him, but he continued wearing it anyway.  Finally the nation’s and his family’s economy improved, and he got a new coat for high school.

I do not know how families’ whose unemployment has run out are making it. I cannot imagine how a family can survive when their home and all their belongings are destroyed by fire, flood, or tornado.  Yet across our nation right now families with those troubles are making it. (Some are not, of course.  Some have turned to alcohol or drugs or suicide.)  I have wondered if the Greatest Generation veterans were as strong as they were because they were part of a family that kept hanging tough and fighting hard for survival during the Depression.

One of the most exciting articles I ever read was a news magazine account in the 1960s of the successful California lives of the Oakies that John Steinbeck told us about.  Someday someone will be writing about today’s trials and how their family made it anyway.  Michele Obama’s story of her dad going to work everyday to support their family despite multiple sclerosis brings tears to my eyes. Would he not have been shocked to know back then that his daughter and his widow would live in the White House someday? 

In the past, the business cycle has usually brought an end to recession.  I suspect it will again unless some fundamental difference has occurred to change that usual result.  So I am hopeful that regardless of who is elected President, we will see the economy improve and more jobs become available.  And, of course, whoever is elected will get credit for that turn around whether that person is responsible for the improvement or not.

One of my greatest concerns is the lack of health care for many of our citizens.  Despite our fine hospitals and many excellent doctors, international statistical comparisons show that our health care is inferior in its results.  Our loss of infants, for example, is much greater than many other nations despite the fact that we spend more than them for health care. 

The Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) will still not be universal, as I understand it, but it seems to be a step in the right direction.  Children with serious health problems can no longer be denied insurance nor can we adults be suddenly dropped if we become expensively ill or lose our jobs.

If we have the will to do it, we can make the changes we need to make and have care as good as other developed nations.  I would like to see the for-profit insurance industry out of the health care system altogether as Britain has done but some other nations use insurance to give universal care. Personally, I don’t want to be denied a needed procedure by an insurance company.  Governor Romney wants my state to take care of the health problems in Illinois as he did in Massachusetts, but I don’t think he understands how broke our state is. With our tendency to elect governors who end up in prison, I trust the federal government more than our state government.

Last night a neighbor phoned and asked me if she could bring me a Romney sign to put on our farm.  I had listened to his foreign policy address that morning, and I told her no.  If I knew he could achieve peace, I would certainly vote for him and put up a sign encouraging other people to do so.

The murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American heroes was evidence of serious problems in that part of the world.  What I do not know is whether President Obama or Governor Romney would be more effective in healing those problems--or if anyone can. Would Romney’s tough talk, building more warships, and increasing our military budget and perhaps military presence work better than Obama’s measured thoughtfulness and emphasis on diplomacy? If there anything our nation can do to insure people in those countries will start getting along?

I like few advertisements on television, but I do like the new one showing a renown economist who is asked if something or other will take place in the future. (I don’t even know what is being advertised.)  His succinct answer to the question  if he can predict what will happen is, “No.”  That is how I feel as an ordinary citizen about knowing which candidate will more likely achieve peace or prevent our being in another war in the Middle East.  I do not want our citizens killed and I do not want innocent men, women, and children in other countries killed.  But I do not know how to vote to achieve that end.

Our phone caller warned me that our nation is in a mess and that my great grandchildren were going to suffer because of it.  This special neighbor friend has worked hard all her life, and most of the people I know do so.  Our children and grandchildren certainly do.  I am very proud of them for that. I have a great deal of confidence in our nation’s people and especially our young people.  I truly believe that they will be able to cope with whatever is thrown their way when they are in charge someday.  They will go through rough times just as every generation has.  Their rough times may be worse even than ours. But if they have the will, they will survive and our democracy will also.

I will be listening to the vice presidential debate Thursday night and to the two remaining debates between President Obama and Governor Romney.  I will try to follow the national and international news and understand it the best I can.  And then I will be deciding by election day which candidate I will vote for.  It will probably be too late to put up a sign though.

P.S.  I wrote most of this in the morning plus a report on Jeannie, Cecelie, Leslie, and Mike’s weekend visit.  Then I got a call from Katherine’s aide that she was sick and leaving. (Actually she came to work sick spreading her germs—GRRRR.) Suddenly I had to hurry to town.  Late tonight I got home, proof read my earlier effort, thought I was copying it to post, and the entire blog disappeared with only two words saved when I tried to paste.  I have re-written the first part the best I remembered it, and left off the weekend report.   Ah well.