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: http://www.shawneedistrict84.com/

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.