Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July Sliding By

I am not sure what has happened to the last week. We have had a couple of good rains butless just the few miles away where the crops are. We are grateful, nevertheless, for every drop we get. There have been lots of family transitions going on. I have had lots of rest, which unfortunately I am finding I require as I age. I have always resisted sleep and disliked wasting time on it, but now I welcome it. While I do not do much myself anymore, I get tired just hearing what others in the family are doing!

Not long ago, I resolved to start reading more fiction since I seriously have neglected that. I have not done too well with that resolution, but for some reason I read Sweet Caroline by Rachel Hauck—can’t even remember why I had that on a list to order but it was laying around. I re-read Benilde Little’s Acting Out, which I had picked up at Country Inn Suites with their good plan to let you borrow and carry out books. I re-read it because I could not remember what it was about. I need to return it and also Karen Hughes’ Ten Minutes From Normal the next time we visit Freeport.

Because Jane Eyre figured in Leslie’s engagement story and then her wedding invitation called Mary Ellen and Brian’s barn Thornfield Barn, I wanted to re-read that because I could not remember the story. I envy people who can remember and discuss their reading while I sit dumb, and I am always comforted when others confess that like me they too can’t remember what they read. I did enjoy reading it again. And now I have started Shirley, which has a book mark in early pages from long ago, so maybe I will finish it this time.

I have many more nonfiction books stacked around waiting for me to read and/or re-read. Sam is reading Elie Wiesel’s Night for his summer honors class reading, so I just finished reading it again. This is not a book that is pleasant, but I definitely think it is valuable for everyone to read. We need to recognize just how evil we humans are capable of becoming. Oddly, the love and humanity that Wiesel shares makes the book beautiful despite the ugly horror it shares.

I have also been reading in Judges reviewing the stories of Deborah and Barak, Gideon, Samson, and Jephthah and am horrified at the violence and ugliness depicted. I have to smile, however, at some men’s shame to be killed by a woman. I cannot imagine why one cares about the sex of the one who kills them, but obviously once upon a time, some people cared.

I seem to keep busy with watering the flowers, feeding the hummingbirds, reading the daily newspaper, and the two meals a day I prepare. The kitchen clean up surprises me at how long that takes with only two of us eating here. I don’t have nearly the time to read that I thought I would in retirement. But I am grateful to have so much waiting for me to enjoy reading, and maybe one of these days I will get organized to do some writing.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Whew! Watta a Week!

The house is quiet. After a week of much activity and fun, a quiet week will probably be needed for me to rest up. Having five teenage grandkids here all week has been a treat, and the energy in the air was delightful to observe. Now they have all gone their many separate ways. And all we have are memories.

These five kids and four other teens worked hard helping the children enjoy themselves at Vacation Bible School in our village, and they took a load of work off us adults. The neatest thing about their help is that the children enjoy interacting with those just a few years older than themselves. The little ones look up to these teen leaders and see kids they can emulate. I do not doubt that many of today’s VBS students will be working as leaders in the future.

Just as I have watched our grandkids grow up and I have fond memories of their early VBS, these kids too have watched younger children develop and mature. Brianna, once a shy little girl herself, was especially effective with a tiny little preschooler named Kayla, who was the essence of shy sweetness. Three years ago, I think it was, Brianna was assigned to walk with Kayla to various stations. They looked so sweet together holding hands, and even though they only see each other once a year for this week of VBS, the two of them have a strong bond of affection for one another.

Elijah and Trent have just completed their first year of college work, and so they have worked in our VBS for several years now. Sam and Cecelie are both bright enough to keep up with the older three, and they all five feed off each other’s presence. It is exciting to see them having a conference in the living room planning the next day’s skit for the closing assembly. (Or plotting their cousin afternoon or night-time recreation.)

Elijah has sung and acted all this life, and he is able to lead out with the large group as naturally as he breathes. But they all five help write the script for the skits, which has always included Brianna’s stuffed flamingo named Fred. Fred is a regular at most of their visits to the farm. This year Trent brought the huge koala bear he once won as a preschooler, and Eugene the Koala was prominent in this year’s skits with Trent supplying the voice from behind stage. Sam showed his acting ability playing Neville, who interacted with Grandpa Eiler (Elijah).

These grandkids play as hard as they work, and I could not keep up with all their stunts and made-up games that took them all over the farm with lots of water balloons and other accessories that they foraged in house, garage, and shop. The best I could figure out the object of one day’s game must have been to see who get the most dirt on themselves. (You can see the results on Brianna Taylor’s Facebook timeline.)

They sometimes piled in Brianna’s car and headed to town for refreshments or some project, and they spent one night by themselves up at the Taylors’ new house. From an agenda they left laying around, I see that the visit up there included telling stories out in The Barn.

Since the wonderful kitchen crew at VBS served lunch each day for the workers and any of their children, feeding the grandkids this week was easy. Our youngsters are used to helping themselves to cereal and juice on their own at breakfast, although mostly they didn’t because they stayed up late every night and snacked on peanut butter and jelly among other things—so they were not too hungry at breakfast time. I did fry bacon a few days—partly because Cecelie, who does not eat the bacon, likes the aroma when she wakes up.

Last evening their end-of-the-week plan was to eat out and go to a movie. (They had chosen to see Spiderman rather than Bat Man, but I did not know which until they returned home. But I was not worried about them.) Thursday evening we had invited the other teen workers to the farm for pizza and hanging out. (I cut a watermelon at the end of the evening—the first one I had bought this year—and it was really not ripe nor tasty, so I was disappointed at that.) But the other days, we had our evening meal together in the dining room, and the kids ate heartily and gratefully.

Before her wedding, Leslie had made two very large cakes just in case more was needed in addition to their large beautiful wedding cake. Neither was needed, so they ended up in my freezer. The kids were excited when they arrived and saw I had one of them out on the table in the teenage den—the junky basement room that started out as the little kids’ art room when we first moved into this house over a decade ago. When I found out we were having lunch at church after VBS, I took over the other cake Leslie made, so I got those out of the freezer to make room for the okra I am hoping to freeze from Gerald’s garden.

Jeannie and Rick arrived from Freeport last night to pick up Elijah and Cecelie, and we had to put Sam onto a couch to let them have that bedroom. Mary Ellen and Brian had come down to their house also, and they came over this morning to get their kids. They were taking Brianna down for a visit with her special cousin Savannah on Brian’s side of the family meeting up in Georgia and hoping to let the girls tour the University of Georgia campus. (And, of course, Brian would have a visit with his special cousin Randy.)

The last thing Trent wanted was an eight-hour ride to Georgia and back tomorrow with his parents while Bri stayed down. After Jeannie’s morning bike ride and a morning of visiting at the breakfast table, it was decided that Trent had the options of going to Georgia, staying here at the farm and/or at their new house on Route 13, or taking Uncle Rick up on his kind offer to go back by way of Springfield and dropping Trent off at his real home. Not surprisingly that is what Trent chose. So Brian (on his birthday today), Mary Ellen, Brianna, and Fifi left first for their long trip south.

Later after lunch, three kids, their suitcases, and the dogs Lucky and Leah, all piled into the Eiler van along with the last of the big pots of petunias from Leslie’s wedding. Jeannie’s bike went on the back of the van last, and after hugs and waves, the Eilers and Trent took off for their long trip north.

Then Sam and I started preparing for his return home locally. Gerald had kindly put a couple gallons of gas in my car because our warning light had come on yesterday since I’d failed to fill up in town Thursday afternoon. (Yeah, there was a little bit of finger wagging.) We stopped in town and filled the tank and went to Wal-Mart to get a couple of items for Sam’s trip this week with his church youth group to help in a VBS in Belleville.

The Taylors would have liked to have seen Gerry and Vickie and Geri Ann while in Georgia, but they are traveling too. As soon as they got back from California for all the Gatorade award and ESPY excitement and ceremonies, they went to New York City for Geri Ann to play ball there with the Wichita Mustangs at the Triple Crown tournament. This was a first visit to that city, and they really enjoyed it. They flew back to Atlanta for her to play with the Georgia Southern Force at Dahlonega today, and tomorrow they fly to Oklahoma City for a tournament and then on to a tourney in California. I am sure they will be glad to be home when all this fun is over.

After I returned from taking Sam home, I finally had time to get on Facebook and see the latest wedding photos that Leslie had put on yesterday and the family was talking about. If you want to see them, I think you can by searching for Leslie Eiler Thompson on Facebook and looking at her new album under the heading “Photos.” Someday I may learn how to put photos on here and/or Facebook, but so far, I have to depend on others to share pictures.

It has been a busy week, but I have made a point to get plenty of sleep every night but did not waste energy trying to get the teenagers to do so (and they didn’t). So I am ready for rest but not too tired. I am just grateful for one more special VBS week with grandkids.

A Sad Night in America

The paragraph about the nation’s grief over the events at Aurora, Colorado, somehow just got erased and I can’t retrieve it. And I am too tired to try and write it over if I could. One thing I said was that right now while we wait for the investigators and reporters to dig up the information we so desperately want, it may be better not to say anything. So maybe it is best that my paragraph was lost. It is natural for us to seek answers for something so terrible and unusual. Despite the horrible evil that took place, there was even more bravery and goodness shown. We are grateful for all the heroes among us and for all the officials who have done their work so well. In many places on the globe, people have to live daily with carnage, and I hope this event in our homeland makes me more compassionate and prayerful for those who deal with tragedy every day.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Celebration Time

Jeannie finished her 600 plus mile bicycle ride at 2:30 Friday afternoon and stuck her toes in the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers at the southern tip of Illinois in Cairo. Then they loaded the bike on the back of the van, and she crawled into the van with her coach to drive to nearby Metropolis. There her coach (husband Rick) took her photo in front of the huge Superman statue. Her goal and plans had been completed. They next arrived at our house, and we had thawed leftovers from their daughter Lesley’s wedding for our supper. (It may take me awhile to empty the freezer of those.)

Actually we celebrated Jeannie’s achievement the night before. Gerald and I drove to Murphysboro and then up and down the steep hills there over to the Big River—the Mighty Miss. We met up with Jeannie and Rick at Grand Tower, where they were taking a break in the mid afternoon. They were running late after a late start because of some camping problems the night before. They also explained it had been rough riding because not only was the wind against Jeannie, but part of the Mississippi River Bike Trail had been on a graveled levy road. When it started lightning and they were traveling under electrical lines, Rick was ready for her to leave the levy and get back on Route 3.

We enjoyed driving through Grand Tower and seeing the Devil’s Backbone Park there by the river. We had a little circling to do before we found each other in this little town because our cell phones suddenly did not have service in one part of the town. But finally we got a connection, and they told us they were parked by the First Baptist Church there.

That was easy for Gerald to find because he knew exactly where it was. When he was eleven, his family had brought him there from their little country church, which met in a tiny country school building, to be baptized in the baptistry there. Their family friends, Johnny and Suzie Dickson, belonged there, and so it was a familiar building to Gerald’s family. We were there a few years ago for Suzie’s funeral. So we took photos of Jeannie and us in front of the outside sign and finally went back to Route 3 heading to Gerald’s brother Garry and wife Ginger’s farm. We were delighted to see rain puddles beside the road in Wolf Lake before we turned off on the road to the forest preserve. Garry and his son Kerry have had considerable more rain this year than we have, and their crops were looking good.

The Mississippi River Bike Trail actually goes through the Trail of Tears Forest Preserve near Gerald’s home place, where Garry and Ginger live now. They said they knew they frequently saw bicycle riders going on that road, and now they understood why. For some reason, the bike trail leaves Route 3 and goes into Jonesboro and heads down Route 127 for the final lap to Cairo.

While we waited for Jeannie and Rick, we called Gerald’s brother Keith and wife Barbara and Garry and Ginger’s daughter Vicki, who was in Carbondale when we reached her, and we let them know that Jeannie was finally in the area for supper rather than lunch as we had thought might be the case. We all met and celebrated and took more photos at a restaurant in Anna before Jeannie and Rick rode back home with Garry and Ginger and spent the night with them. This brought back a lot of childhood memories for Jeannie from the days when she visited grandparents there.

After Jeannie and Rick arrived to sleep their final night at our house, she rose early the next morning to ride her bike here, but it was raining. This was the first time they had been stopped by rain the entire trip. (I thought maybe nature was telling Jeannie she had ridden enough!) We got a nice rain, but unfortunately just a few miles up the road on the farm with our crops, we only got a wee shower. Nevertheless, we had a wonderfully lazy relaxing breakfast with the Eilers before they took off to meet their kids—Elijah and Cecelie--coming down from Freeport to Bloomington.

There Rick went on towards home, and Jeannie took the kids back down to the south Springfield area to Brian and Mary Ellen’s house. Later that night the two Eiler grandkids and the Taylor grandkids--Trent and Brianna--all arrived at Woodsong for the week. Of course, they stopped in town at Sam’s house to bring him out too. These teens have gone from coming to our house to attend Vacation Bible School to coming to help with it. They love being together. I did not think Elijah would be able to come since he was working, but come to find out, he had taken the job with permission to take off this week.

This morning Sam’s dad picked him up to go to his church in town, but the other four went to Sunday School and worship with us, and I was pleasantly surprised to see all four sitting up in the choir. (We have a very informal village church, and anyone is welcome to sing in the choir.) Behind us, our friends Don and Pat Boyd had sitting with them their youngest son Rod and wife Theresa and three of their four kids who had flown in from Florida. It was good to see this collection of so many grandkids sitting in the pews where it seems only yesterday their parents were sitting.

After lunch, the kids collected Sam again, and soon they were at the dining room table playing one of their favorite games that someone brings to the farm. We all went over the church house tonight to join others there decorating and setting up for tomorrow morning. Back home after a quick help-yourself supper, the house is now filled with giggles and voices as the cousins work on a skit they plan to do. Somewhere in the house Sam’s ukulele is sounding. This is all good and worth celebrating. Certainly we have problems and more than one grief going on in our lives also, but this part is good and we are glad.

By the way, Jeannie wrote on Facebook that it was a beautiful day for a bike ride up in Freeport.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cooled Off But No Rain for Our Crops

Thunder was rumbling awhile ago, and so I shot up yet another prayer for rain. Someone said we couldn’t or shouldn’t pray for weather control, but I figure God knows what we need and He can take my prayer of what I think we need and translate it and transform it however He wills. He knows how much I want rain for our family, and I figure He is always glad to hear from His children just as I am to hear from mine. I have a friend, whom I respect, who says we do not need to add, “If it be Thy will…” to our prayers, but I am uncomfortable without adding that phrase, which I feel is important to qualify what I ask for.

We have had some rains in our area, and it has cooled off this week. But the rain has been spotty. Some places had six inches and a friend’s basement was flooded. Other places had good rains but winds knocked down trees. Despite our small rains here at Woodsong, when we drive the short distance up to where our son-in-law Brian has our crops growing, to what I call Wayside Farm on the Pittsburg road, there are no puddles by the roadside and the fields are dry. We think, however, Brian received some rain over on his rented land near Harrisburg. The extreme heat last week was making all the potted plants from the wedding dry out and burn up on our unshaded deck, so I moved them all to the downstairs walk-out patio. I only need to water them every other day now.

Jeannie exalted last night in a terse message on Facebook that yesterday she had done more than 100 miles on her bicycle—a personal goal of hers. The night before Rick had secured them a hotel room in Hannibal, Missouri, so a good night’s rest must have energized her. She mentioned Alton, so she is coming close to this end of the state.

Gerry and Vickie are with Geri Ann in Los Angeles, where they were flown because of Geri Ann’s winning the Gatorade High School National Softball Player of the Year. The program planned for these top male and female athletes in six different sports has been elaborate and I suspect life changing. I thought it was tremendous that the parents were also awarded these special days in Los Angeles.
After supper prep, then eating with Gerald, and my starting kitchen clean-up, I am finally back to finish this blog. Gerald and I just finished watching the award dinner for the 12 student athletes on ESPN3 on my computer here in the office. Breanna Stewart and Johnathan Gray were named Male and Female Student Athletes of the Year. She was Basketball Player of the Year and Jonathan was Football Player of the Year. It was great fun seeing Geri Ann looking so pretty and having her softball career reviewed along with the other 11 student athletes. And, of course, I also loved it when there was an occasional glimpse of Gerry and Vickie in the audience.

While we were watching Geri Ann’s banquet, Jeannie phoned. She and Rick will be camping tonight in a park near Dupo. Tomorrow she rides to Chester, and on Thursday, she expects to be in Wolf Lake and probably on to Jonesboro to change from Route 3 to Route 127 for the final lap to Cairo. We plan to meet up with her and Rick on Thursday.

Our Young Adult Class that Gerald and I teach at our village church is studying the book of Judges right now. So my extra time today, when I have not been socializing on the computer or involved with housewifery, has been trying to understand Judges and also trying to prepare games and songs for Vacation Bible School next week.

A special friend from that village church was the late Rhoda Mae Cline. In my memory, I can see and hear her saying as she often did, “It’s a busy world.” I must agree with her. I better go finish the kitchen clean up and make tomorrow morning’s coffee. Not even heard any thunder recently.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Traveling Down Illinois by Bicycle--600 Miles

With their daughter Leslie’s wedding behind them, Jeannie and Rick are now trekking from the Wisconsin border of Northern Illinois on down the Mississippi River Trail with the goal of reaching Cairo at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Jeannie is riding her bike, and Rick is in their van as her support team.

Rick is to go ahead of her and set up camp in their van, which has a mattress prepared for them. However, today she wrote on Facebook that he was pouring cold water over her to keep her cool, and then a swim was planned at wherever they had stopped before taking off to ride in the cool of the evening.

They left Wisconsin to ride to Savanna and on to Rock Island, and are heading to Keithsburg if I understood her last FB post. So far she is sounding enthusiastic, and she had to phone her daddy to say the scenery has been beautiful. I try not to think of her riding on the same highway as the big semi-trucks since much of the Mississippi River Trail uses the highways that follow the Mississippi River corridor. Of course, watching the outside temperature at 109 as we traveled in an air conditioned car today did not relieve my concern either.

A tentative schedule has her arriving from Chester to Wolf Lake towards the last part of next week. I imagine we might go there to wave as she goes by, and we will probably be going to Cairo to celebrate the conclusion of this dream of hers. We are all a little amazed by this venture, but we are following her FB posts with great interest.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A Quiet Fourth of July

Our flag is flying as always on the lawn of Woodsong. Gerald has never enjoyed fireworks very much although occasionally we took our kids to see them. In recent years, however, I have been content to watch Marion’s distant fireworks from our deck, but the dry weather has made all fireworks forbidden in our area, so I will not do that tonight. The day seems unusually quiet with no neighborhood sounds of popping.

Erin had talked about coming over to fish this morning, but she has been so over-busy lately with recruiting trips, moving to a new place, painting her new bedroom, giving lessons, and keeping up with her job on campus that I hope the reason she did not come was that she slept in for a change.

Her house mate Toni had finished her graduate study and her job in this area, and moved to Colorado to a new job. So Erin was ready to move on when a friend in Carbondale needed a new house mate. With the help of friends, she had done most of the moving to this lovely duplex, which is closer to campus and has a swimming pool in the back yard.

One thing remained, however. A huge very weighty sectional sofa given to her by Toni’s parents a year ago. She and Toni had covered it with wine sheets stapled over the old-fashioned pattern, and I think Erin was somewhat sentimental about this first living room furniture because Randy and Lori (her local stand-in parents) had given it to her.

Erin asked her grandfather if he could move it on his pickup’s trailer. Fortunately, he had the lights working and license up-to-date, so he was pleased to help her. I tagged along yesterday because it had been too long since we’d had a visit, and I wanted to see both Erin and her new living quarters. Erin was waiting on the steps of the little house she had rented in Cambria, but Sadie was already in the new place. It was such a peaceful neighborhood with the sound of birds all around, I wondered why she was leaving, but then later I saw that the new neighborhood was also peaceful and full of bird sounds.

I also soon understood why she needed her grandpa to help her move the humongous sectional sofa. She and Gerald tugged and pulled and lifted and rearranged the three heavy-weight sections of this sofa, but the biggest piece just would not go through the narrow door. Since she, Toni, Randy, and Lori had moved it in, Erin knew it surely could come out.

Finally Gerald removed the door, and they got the largest piece through. It was not so difficult to get it through the wider 36 inch door at the new place, but Gerald still took that door off also to avoid scratching it. I had asked if the new house mate did not already have a sofa, and Erin said yes but the living room was large. And it was—quite large enough to easily hold her sectional in addition to the other woman’s couch and her piano and small pieces.

Erin had to go on to her work place, and we had more errands to do in Marion, so we hurried off. After lunch in town, we drove home hoping that the overcast sky meant we were going to finally get some rain at the farm. We’d had a shower Sunday evening (not even measurable on the rain gauge) when some just south of us got two inches, but our farm crops just to the north on the Pittsburg road got nothing. We were thrilled when the rain came yesterday afternoon and we got almost three-tenths of an inch, but then we felt disappointment when we learned that again the crops got not a drop. So we are still hoping for yet another chance this afternoon or evening before it is too late to help much.

Since the creek bed up on the Pittsburg road farm was still bone dry, Gerald went up this morning to continue his work clearing it. Kroger was open today and the senior citizen day was in progress, so that was my day’s duty. I appreciated that once again a group of volunteers from the local Church of God wearing green T shirts were stationed to help us oldsters at the counter. After efforts to buy most of a month’s supply of groceries, having someone help to empty the cart is welcome.

I also accepted an employee taking the groceries to my car, but after I saw the beads of sweat on his brow from all that parking lot work he’d already done, I really felt ashamed I’d let him. When I apologized and thanked him, he was so sweet and said with enthusiasm, “That’s what we are here for.” All the kindness made my dreaded monthly expedition more pleasant than it could have been. (Of course, I still have to pick up needed items between these major shopping trips.)

To celebrate the Fourth, I bought some ribs for lunch from the employee smoking them on the front patio of the store. I felt sorry for him too working outside in the heat, and I wondered if Leslie were doing the same down in Nashville as she has some Saturdays this spring. At home, I quickly baked us a potato in the microwave to go with the ribs while Gerald finished carrying in groceries after I’d stashed the perishables. Together with our very first tomatoes from Gerald’s garden and the wonderful fresh cherries I had purchased, I felt we had a good Fourth of July dinner. Now if it would just rain…