Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas at Woodsong 2013

From the beginning of the season, I knew I might not get cards sient this Christmas.  Yet I kept thinking I would sit down at our  dining room table cluttered with wrapping paper and gifts and cards and address lists and write Christmas cards since most of the gifts are wrapped now.  But every time I plan to do so, something happens and cards do not get done.  I do have one card finished--for my daddy's cousin's daughter who is now in a nursing home. I was thrilled to get a card from her at the first of the month.I still have a day or two--and I have sent a few cards as late as July before--so who knows.  But at least I can post the annual holiday letter here altho I am not very happy with it either.

Woodsong Christmas 2013

Dear Friends and Relatives,

We have cut back on our activities and travel, but we still seem to be busy all the time.  Gerald  always has a project going:  helping someone, cutting stumps after a timber project, taking photographs, hunting with Gerry, mowing fields, mowing our yard which he makes a little larger every year, gardening, giving rides on various farm vehicles during visits from our great grandsons--Aidan, Maddux, and Payton, and helping me out quite a bit.  He, DuWayne, and grandson Sam went to one or two Georgia softball weekends last spring, and I went with DuWayne and Gerald to the first fall weekend practice games.

I am still blogging, though not as often, working in Sunday School in one capacity or another, reading when I get a chance--which is seldom--and filling in to help Katherine when an aide is ill or doesn’t show.  I don’t do much writing or participation in organization anymore.

We enjoy family visits on holidays and on long weekends.  All 25 were here Thanksgiving and local families will be here for Christmas. Having my brother Jim and wife Vivian with their daughters Beth (Jane) and Judi come by when Jim drove them down for the birthday party for Vivian’s sister, was especially wonderful for me.  Gerald’s sister Ernestine and husband Don came in their motor home, and that too was a wonderful visit but too short.  Our grandkids are a delight, and Elijah, Trent, Brianna, Sam, and Cecelie were all here to work in Vacation Bible School at Center again this summer. Brianna and Cecelie both went with their church youth groups to teach VBS in Kentucky, while Sam helped out in Marion.

Along with Cedars. we now have Brian and Mary Ellen, Trent, and Brianna living in our community.  Sam continues with a hard academic schedule and numerous band activities including drum major in addition to the trombone.  Trent has been studying welding with his dad at John A. Logan Community College, learning photography,  and is enrolled at JALC for spring.  Brianna is now an honors freshman at Murray State in Kentucky, but we get to see her when she comes home.

Gerry and Vickie, Bryan and Tara and their three sons,  still live together in Watkinsville. GA.   Geri Ann, a sophomore at UGA, is still knocking the ball out of the park. Erin lives in Dallas and teaches middle school and coaches volleyball, basketball, and softball in Corsicana.  Gma Sue is thrilled Erin loves teaching.  My teacher parents would be too.

Rick and Jeannie are still teaching in Freeport with our youngest grandchild Cecelie, who is now a freshman in high school and involved in speech, theater, and music activities, just as her siblings were.  Elijah is a junior at Illinois State, and Leslie and husband Mike make their home in Nashville, where they have just bought a house.

Jesus gave us this scripture gift: “These things I command you, that ye love one another.” John 15:17.            
Love and Merry Christmas, Sue

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Hanging the Star

As folks travel east and west on Route 13, they have long seen a large star lighting an old barn during the holiday season.  When Mary Ellen and Brian took over the emptied place for weekend living more than a year ago, they were delighted that the sons of the man who created the star left it behind for them.  And they put it up last year much to many people’s pleasure at seeing it again.  This spring Mary Ellen and Brian began the task of selling their home in Waggoner and moving down to this their now full-time home,

On Thanksgiving Eve, our families were all invited over to participate in “The Hanging of the Star.”  We gathered inside the house visiting until everyone who could come arrived.  Then we were handed cups of hot chocolate to keep our hands warm as we reassembled in front of the barn.  Biran had his tractor and front-end loader waiting to boost him high up  near the roof where Harold Rix had left behind hooks to hang this piece of his welder art.  We sang “Star of Wonder” and “Silent Night” together, and when the lights on the star came on, we oo-ed and ahh-ed  and felt some of the emotions the shepherds may have felt.

Back in the house, Mary Ellen had sloppy Joes and other home-made goodies waiting to provide us a lovely supper, which included some of Treina Hastings Basham’s lovely apple sauce made with red-hots for color and flavor. Trent was busy taking photographs, and the little boys—Aidan, Maddux, and Payton—and the Taylor dog Fifi were entertaining us.

However, there is often something to make us uneasy. The Eiler dogs, little Lucky and Leah, had run off and not come back to the farm, which everyone assumed they would since they have visited here since babies.  It was growing colder all the time, and they had fresh haircuts. Jeannie and Gerry kept repeating that surely someone had seen them and worried about their being in the cold and put them up in their garage. Jeannie and Rick went looking for them again after the Taylor party.  They have chips, but they are for Freeport, not down here.  We have had trouble getting online recently, so it was late before we were able to post their disappearance on Facebook. I tried to call neighbors to get the word out, but was not successful in finding them at the few neighbors I reached. (For some odd reason, we now get multiple phone books, but they don’t do you much good since so many people have dropped their land line and just have unlisted cell phones.) We went to bed hoping some neighbor had taken  the dogs in.

I had had lots of help all week as people arrived, and most of the families at our house were using their time here to meet up with friends and other family members, so that Gerald and I were mostly eating with few if any guests. And good fairies were cleaning the kitchen for me when I was away at Katherine’s house. As well as running up and down our lane for exercise,  people were making trips to gyms to work out or in Geri Ann’s case to pitch or in Jeannie’s case to take a bike ride..

With no evening dishes to think about cleaning up and only the dogs to worry about, I went to bed early Wednesday night and had the turkey ready and waiting in the pan to move from the fridge to the 325 degree oven  at 6 am.  After the turkey was started, no one was stirring except Jeannie who was helping and getting ready to go with Rick on another dog hunt.  I went back to bed to sleep till 8:00.  When I woke up, I found out someone saw their van at a house and pulled up and asked them if they were looking for two little dogs!!  Sure enough, this kind woman had them safe and warm in her garage and soon they were back to the farm again. 

Because everyone was pitching in to help with the meal, I did not do much except for making the dressing and fixing the veggies from Gerald’s garden—fried okra, buttered  corn, and the last of the tomatoes, which had been wrapped in newspaper right before the first frost.  (That is a little tradition I have of trying to have the green tomatoes ripened and red for the Thanksgiving meal.) 

Four granddaughters—Erin, Geri Ann, Cecelie, and Brianna—met up at Katherine’s house to help David get her ready to travel to the farm.  I knew she would enjoy this opportunity to visit with those four young ladies, and they could have a special visit with their Aunt Kate.  Erin could use her hair-fixing talent.  By the time they arrived at Woodsong, Mike and Leslie had come up from Nashville even though they would have to go back yet that evening.

Vickie, Jeannie and Mary Ellen had carried in all kinds of food including the dinner rolls and an apple and a strawberry-rhubarb pie from a nunnery Jeannie and Rick had discovered on her bike trip last summer through Wisconsin. I was planning on letting people pick up their own plate and utencils since we were serving buffet style, but our talented grandson-n-law Bryan came in and asked if he could help and offered to set the tables, which of course was much nicer.  Soon three-year-old Payton was helping his father, and I loved hearing Bryan explaining the process to his son. By the time all 25 of us gathered around the dining room table, I was feeling very thankful.  Gerald called on Katherine to lead us as we prayed, and her beautiful prayer made me even more thankful.

Then the Glascos and Archibald families went on to Gma Shirley’s feast for their Johnson clan.  Erin had to leave yet that night for her long drive back to Dallas. The others came back to sleep at Woodsong but left before I even got up the next morning heading back to Georgia.  Rick and Jeannie also left early for Jeannie to cross the Paducah bridge at a time of low traffic and to ride on down a way as part of her plan to someday have completed the mileage down to Memphis and beyond. (Summer before last she had gone from Wisconsin down to the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi.) But after the biking part of their journey, they were actually heading to visit Mike and Leslie and Mike’s parents at the house this young couple has just acquired.  As I understand it, the two fathers-in-law worked together on a kitchen counter while they were there. 

Cecelie and Elijah had stayed behind to do their cousin-thing with Sam, Trent, and Brianna,  so they were all in and out of the house for the weekend although they had a Saturday night slumber party in Trent and Bri’s living room over at the Taylor farm. Jeannie and Rick were already back in their bed at the farm when I got in  Saturday night from Katherine’s, but I was able to see them the next morning before they met up with their kids and everyone went to church with Sam.  I had my first cold in many months and had to call Kim Barger and tell her I had better not be there to help with the little ones nor disrupt services with my cough.  It had been a typical chaotic, stressful, joyful holiday week.  And now Gerald and I are alone again.

Photograph by Trenton Taylor

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why Am I Confused?

Last year on my 79th birthday, my grandkids surprised me with a 29th birthday party. With the Thanksgiving break on the dates it is this year, our families were not able to be here last Saturday, but I had an abundance of cards, calls, and Facebook good wishes from them and others.  I could tell from the size of  Jeannie’s card that she had likely purchased the card especially for me, so I opened it expectantly. What to my wondering eyes should appear but a big happy wish for my 90th birthday.  Inside she explained that she chose that one because the verse on the 80th card was too boring.  What with the deteriorating strength and weakened mind that comes naturally with the aging process, no wonder I live confused.  But my age is somewhere between 29 and 90 if I have it figured correctly.  Mary Ellen invited us over for a birthday supper, but we had already made plans, so we took a rain check on that. 

Gerald and I took early leave of the farm so I could go by Katherine’s and process her meds for the coming week and he did some errands  before he picked me up for our evening together to celebrate. We ran by to see what was on at the theater since there are no longer ads in the area newspaper, but we did not see anything that looked interesting to us, so we marked that off our list and relaxed knowing we had plenty of time to shop for a toy apiece to wrap for the three great grandsons for Christmas.

After our shopping expedition, we went to Red Lobster for a very nice dinner and relaxed in those quiet surroundings.  I judge restaurants partly on the noise level, and this one is pleasant enough to carry on conversation.  I also judge a restaurant on how sparkly their water glasses are and how pretty they looked with ice.  And our water was served just right.

 Gerald  had asked me what I wanted as a gift, and the truth is I need very little these days. I could not think of a thing bought at a store. (I have some books that I would like from used book places, but that is too complicated to explain to someone else.) Already too many gifts take up storage space at our house, and my closet needs decluttered, not added to. (This is because if I like a garment, the fact that it is 20 years old does not make me dislike it.  Maybe some items have gone out of fashion, but since I do not follow fashion, I don’t know nor worry about it.)

 However, when I was at the shop for a haircut, Stefeny was expressing satisfaction with a new hair straightener, and I realized my ancient curling tool had died this week.  So I had her order me a new one, and told Gerald he had given me my birthday gift.  So I was not expecting another gift, but when we arrived back home,  he surprised me with a gorgeous flower arrangement in fall colors that looks so good on the brown cloth on the dining room table. 
Gerry and Vickie and Geri Ann came in  from Georgia around midnight that night after we were already in bed.  Gerry had instructed us to leave the door unlocked and the light on and we did.  The next day when I came home from church,   I started to make a big pot of chili    for whoever might be showing up.  But Vickie said she’d make the chili later and that we were invited to go to lunch with them as they were taking Vickie’s mother Shirley to lunch. No lunch clean-up sounded good to me. Then after leaving Texas at 4 am, Erin met up with us in town.  Gerald rode back to the farm with someone,  and I  went on to Katherine’s house. Bryan and Tara with their three little guys—Aidan, Maddux, and Payton—arrived  from Georgia that evening, and I hope they enjoyed that yummy chili as much as I did went I got home after midnight.

Not knowing about the huge pot of chili, Mary Ellen had brought over one of her delicious meat loafs when she dropped in to visit the Gerogia bunch, so Gerald and I enjoyed that today at lunch. Everyone else had gone to town to meet friends and Gma Shirley, so along with the meat loaf, I tried to use up small bowls of veggies to get the kitchen fridge ready for the next influx of company before Thursday’s feast.   I am not sure who will be sleeping where.  Erin is at Gma Shirley’s or else her cousin Sarah’s, but if the couches run out here, we may have to use an air mattress or two.  We have done that before.

My pumpkin and pecan pies are in the freezer since I made them last week, and the frozen turkey is thawing in the little fridge in the garage.  I still have some last minute grocery shopping to do, however. And I must ask someone to expand the kitchen table  and get the little folding tables from the front closet set  up. Thanks to Gerald,  I do not have to think about a Thanksgiving arrangement.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Attending Two Out of Three Weddings

 Early in the summer we received a wedding invitation for a couple of whom I am fond. This was a second wedding for both, and they hadn’t registered for gifts.  Knowing they already had the usual household needs, I purchased a gift card figuring they could find something they could use. 

However, before that wedding at our village church, I received an invitation to a bridal shower for Vanessa, a great niece in the middle of the state—my brother Jim’s granddaughter.  Because of the distance between us, I have known her mostly through photos and Christmas cards—and her grandfather’s stories. And because of those stories, I have always had a special place for her in my heart.  An excellent student, she has had to deal with health problems throughout her teen years that the medical profession was not able to properly diagnose or cure. One of Jim’s stories also caused me to admire her older brother whom I’ve rarely seen: When Sean went to pick up Vanessa at her high school when she became ill once again, the secretary, with no medical license, made a cutting remark implying this was just an excuse for missing school.  Sean made an even more cutting remark and put the secretary in her place.  I cheered from the bottom of the state. 

Anyhow, Vanessa has always been someone I have cared about from afar, and I was pleased to be invited and wanted to attend her bridal shower. I am nervous these days about driving that far, but I thought I could do it and surely I could manage one day off from other duties and go.  When the week came, I knew I shouldn’t. Then I realized I did not have time to shop for a gift, get it wrapped, and mail it by the shower date. But I had that gift card in the house for the other wedding, so after calling my regrets to the shower hostess, I put the gift card inside a greeting card and enclosed it in a letter to my sister-in-law Vivian so she could take the gift to the shower for me.  

Then the day for the local wedding came, and again time was so scarce that I could not shop again—even to pick up a gift card on the far side of town.  But I went to the wedding and even arrived early. Ken and Natalie, looked so happy and sounded so sincere with their tributes and vows to each other that the wedding was heart warming as well as visually lovely. I had watched the bride’s young adult son and daughter grow up since their babyhood as they came in and out of our village visiting grandparents and their aunt’s family.  At the wedding, they served as attendants and were so handsome and beautiful.  Far-away cousins and relatives had come home to their starting place in our village for this celebration, and it was good to see friends from long ago including the former pastor who married them. I so enjoyed visiting at the reception afterwards in the adorned fellowship hall, where the bride’s brother, Marshall, a professional chef, served us a delightful dinner.     (I had to wonder if the grandparents and great grandparents who had meant so much to the church and our community were looking down on this ceremony and rejoicing with us at this gathering of their descendants.)

In the meantime, both Vanessa’s thank you note and later a wedding invitation arrived.   On a non-hurried day, I replaced the gift card for Ken and Natalie to mail to them in a nearby town, and I shopped for Vanessa’s gift.  I thought I had found a small gift I could afford that would be helpful but could be returned to the chain store if not needed.  By this time, we had also received an invitation to the wedding of Gerald’s cousin’s grandson, and I debated buying two of the gifts.  Unfortunately, I hesitated and didn’t. 

Since I had missed the bridal shower, I was determined to go to Vanessa and Brandon’s Friday afternoon wedding.  We were having our son’s family that weekend for a wedding in his wife’s family and for multiple other activities they were involved in.  I knew they would not want me skip Vanessa’s wedding, so I kept planning to go. However, Katherine’s aides were calling in sick or not showing up, and I became increasingly wary of the wisdom of leaving town.  Fortunately, I decided to stay home. The first of Gerry’s family arrived early that day for our great grandsons to have a play day at the farm, and so I put a roast in the oven and ran to town to buy the needed extra milk supply and other groceries.

At the grocery store, my cell phone rang, which is often an ominous event.  I answered and found Katherine’s aide did not show.  I had two possibilities for a worker, and the first one I called was already working that day.  Then I called Katie, who I had recently been told might be available. She could hear me and understand my request, but her voice was breaking up and with all the loud static noises, I could hear few of her words.  I thought she said yes, but was not sure.  I was panicking in the far corner of the store trying to figure out how to communicate with her when I discerned the word “text.”  Ah, the younger generation is so smart!  I am not adept at texting, but I was able find out Katie would come and then text her the complicated directions to Katherine’s house.  I finished buying groceries and got home before the roast burned just in time to serve lunch.

Despite knowing I had done the right thing, I felt sorry for myself about missing this special wedding and the opportunity to see all of Jim and Vivian’s children, grandchildren, and their two great grandchildren I had never met.   However, when I talked to my brother on the phone later, I found out he had been expected to give the bride away and rehearsed the night before only to wake up on Friday too ill to go to the wedding.  Their daughter picked up Vivian, and Jim stayed home and groaned, he said.  I quit feeling sorry for myself. 

Katie is my reward for making the right decision to stay home. A well trained CNA, she has turned out to be one of the best aides Katherine has ever had.  Despite her 90 pounds, this tiny young woman can move Katherine in the Hoyer lift and is strong enough to make the constant necessary adjustments for someone who cannot move her own limbs. She can get Katherine in the van and buckle her wheelchair down, gas the van, and drive her to doctor appointments, which is quite a challenge. Best of all, Katie has the sweetest cheerful demeanor and is so empathetic.  With her youthful enthusiasm, she also does little things that make Katherine’s day just a mite brighter, such as getting Sam’s latest photo framed and on the mantle, bringing her a Hershey’s kiss, or managing a quick visit to Facebook.

Before I knew it, October 19 arrived, and we were still without a wedding gift for the cousin’s grandson Cody and his fiancée Kelsey.  I scolded myself.  Why didn’t I buy two when I shopped for Vanessa?  However, because I do not like to wrap and send packages,  Vanessa and Brandon’s gift was still at our house.  So I hurriedly wrapped it, and Gerald and I were off to Lick Creek for the 4 p.m. wedding at the church where relatives attend.  Even the outside parking lot was boldly decorated with the wedding colors, and the entry through the fellowship hall was filled with visiting guests and more decorations celebrating this important day.  When we entered the hallway to the sanctuary, there was a large photo of a handsome young man and a sweet little girl and a sign explaining:  the father of the bride.  His name was with the mother’s on the program, but the mother and I think a brother gave the bride away. Someone explained to me that her father had died years before in an accident.  Despite this tragedy in their lives, the wedding participants were joyous on this day and eager to express their devotion to Christ and to each other. Some cute planned humor brought laughs and took away any stiffness that solemnity sometimes produces.

We had barely been seated when someone came to sit next to me and said, “Hello, neighbor.”  It was Jay and Winnie Payne’s daughter Sheila and her husband Chris Edmonds, who it turns out is a first cousin to the groom, Cody, who is Gerald’s first cousin twice removed.  I don’t think I had ever met Cody, but long ago I had met his sister Cora, named after Cora Ellen whom my daughter Mary Ellen is also named after.  Cora was barely into her teens—if even that—when I met her, and I was so impressed with her poise as she put out her hand and introduced herself to me.  So down through the years, I have inquired and cared about her.  Now I was able to see her again all grown up and lovely in her maid-of-honor gown.  We heard her sing and then greeted her at the reception and later heard her explain that she had introduced her friend, the bride, to her brother. 

Getting to the reception was an adventure although like everything else, this too was well planned as the way there was pleasantly marked for guests.  This beautiful hilly region of Southern Illinois is one of my favorite areas, and the narrow country road enhanced by its name Buffalo Gap Road always delights me just as the nearby Rocky Comfort Road does.   

At the home of the groom’s grandparents, Dan and Geneita Edmonds, an enormous wedding tent had been set up beside the lake to accommodate the large crowd.  Family members were meeting guests in the parking field and offering rides in four-wheelers up to the reception site.  The setting was so beautiful that I wanted to walk up the grassy hill, and I actually managed well until I reached the lake area where Gerald was able to cross over a rough spot onto the lake path. I did not mind walking on a bit so I could go to the end of the lake and walk back on the lakeside path to where the crowd was gathering for hors d’oeuves as we awaited the fantastic dinner the family had provided.  I think one aunt was a professional caterer, but others had pitched in that morning peeling potatoes and enjoying the camaraderie of preparing this feast for the crowd. 

As the evening darkened, the multitude of lawn lights had come on as well as lights outlining the other side of the lake.  The romantic magic of flickering lights and candles was present outside and inside the tent.  After visiting and connecting with various friends and family members, we finally found ourselves going through the outdoor buffet line and taking our plates to the lovely comfortable tables inside the tent.
We joined Gerald’s cousin Betty’s daughter Mary Ellen Gilbert Graddick and husband Wayne at their table. (Yes, the Ellen in her name is after the same Cora Ellen, a favorite aunt of Gerald, who was named after her aunt, the first Cora Ellen Glasco..)  They and their daughter Becky and her new husband Joseph Henderson had come up from Tallahassee to peel potatoes and enjoy this special gathering of her late mother’s family. As we looked up at the beautiful chandelier overhead, Mary said they must shop for one for their camping tent. We were happy to see the Graddicks again and meet Becky’s husband, and Mary kept us entertained as she does on Facebook. On the other side of me was Gerald's cousin Barbara and husband Fred Pitts.  Barb has always been a favorite of  mine because we both have a love of reading. 

Again family volunteers were coming to our table serving and spoiling us as we enjoyed the band and watching the younger folks dance and listened to the laughter and joking toasts of the wedding party.  The night air now chilled, but we drove home through the hills with warm hearts under a full moon as we reflected on our enchanted evening.

After this wedding I hurriedly shopped and duplicated Vanessa and Brandon’s first wedding gift that I’d given away to Cody and Kelsey.  It is now in a gift bag waiting for me to take it up to my brother’s home, where he is recovering from several days at St. Johns Hospital in Springfield where he received four stints.  

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Into Browning November

The large artistic pumpkin that grandson Sam and his girl friend Anna created  and left on our front porch had to be turned around.  Now the rotting edges of their cut art does not show. Earlier I had enjoyed the magic I always feel when a jack-o-lantern is lit.

The field across our driveway in back of the garden, which I see through my kitchen window, is bare except for low brown stalks and debris. At the end of our lane, I have watched the soybean field turn from green to dappled yellow to all yellow to dappled brown to all brown.  Soon it too will be harvested and there will only be low tan stubs of stalks.

The little maple tree seen out the living room windows is a lovely vibrant reddish orange, but I know those leaves will soon be on the ground.   I strive to take in all the color and beauty of the changed trees as I drive to and from town because I know that autumnal beauty will  soon to be replaced with stark empty limbs, an entirely different aesthetic experience.

Nature is constantly changing in all seasons; but somehow despite all its glory, fall sometimes produces a melancholy as we consider that another growing season has passed.  New school years remind us that last year’s oh-so-important activities are fading from our memory. Last January’s brave resolutions won’t be accomplished now, and we are aware of other things that did not get done before winter comes. 

Endings have built-in sadness along with the hope and promise of new beginnings coming into view.  November is a satisfying month as we slow down from the hard hot work of summer and take time to evaluate the blessings we have received.  Crunching through the fallen leaves on sodden ground, we are winding up a year as we prepare for the approaching glad holiday season. 

Gerald and I have had our first pot of chili on a cold day. We are also often warmed both physically and emotionally as people we meet are exclaiming  over what a beautiful day it is. Catalogs are flooding our mailbox trying to tempt us to hurry and order gifts for our loved ones, and the stores are already full of holiday merchandise. I am still trying to put away summer clothes. It is a full season with both the remainders of the last season and reminders of the coming season of family and friend gatherings before the wintry blasts take over for a spell.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Elizabeth (Martin) Martin

A Memorable Visit to a Cemetery

For the latest Red Room blogging topic, I am going to share this poem, which I wrote long ago based on a true experience when I still had time to research and ponder family history.  I had searched years before for this grave and had decided Elizabeth was probably buried in an unmarked grave on a farm somewhere, but I was searching in the wrong county.  I also had been in communication with one of Elizabeth’s brother’s descendants who moved to Kansas, and I had posted in Kansas asking for information, but no one seemed to have  the records I’d heard about. 

Then Sue Wilson’s husband inherited the Kansas records, and she shared the name of the cemetery where Elizabeth was buried, and I also found out that my great grandfather, who signed his named William F. Martin in Johnson County, was called Felix in his youth.  I went to the Jefferson County historical website and found that two women had very recently walked and recorded the graves in Pleasant Grove Cemetery off Route 37 south of Mount Vernon.  Gerald and I had a difficult time finding this  cemetery because only a very small sign on Route 37 was there for the current congregation meeting in the former Pleasant Grove Methodist Church building.  

Here is a poem I wrote in response to my emotional visit to Elizabeth’s grave.:

Elizabeth (Martin) Martin
Wife of William Felix Grundy Martin
5-1-1827 to 10-6-1857

Elizabeth came from Tennessee
To marry her cousin
In Illinois country.
An only daughter
With six brothers,
Her sister Margaret had died at three.

She helped out at home down there,
Content with others’ lives.
Then Felix’s dreams became her own
Which they must realize.
Though sad to leave her parents,
William Felix was a prize.

A preacher like her daddy,
Felix filled her heart with love.
Baby Margaret came along,
A second blessing from above.

Glorious sunshiny summer
Must end as all things do.
A horse threw off its rider
And troubles began to brew.

Her uncle, Felix’s father,
Was killed by that hard fall.
She comforted her young husband
Who cried but still stood tall.

Her death not three weeks later
Brought him to the ground.
For such excess bereavement
No comfort could be found.

Baby Margaret without her mother
Could not survive here long.
A third time family gathered
And sang a sadder song.

Beloved bride.  Beloved babe.
He must ride to Tennessee
To tell her parents what they’d lost
Here in Illinois country.

Time passed and much to his surprise
William Felix loved once more
And the sun began to rise.

The Civil War called him from home,
And all three brothers too.
For it seemed right that men must fight
When things were all askew.

Elizabeth had three brothers
Who’d moved up from Tennessee
And like the other cousins, they marched
Back home with Lincoln’s grand army.

Nine Martin cousins
Volunteered to join the fray.
Five came back and three died young
Their hair to never gray.

The war was finally over.
William returned to Louisa Jane.
He smiled to see son Will so big
And horse and farm again.

A three-room house they built with pride
Joys and sorrows came their way.
But he had learned when Elizabeth died,
That neither come to stay.

It was Elizabeth’s father’s turn to die,
Her mother Nancy was alone.
A younger son brought their mother up
To make an Illinois home.

Nancy saw the graves from long ago
Of the daughter still so dear
Of the babe she had yet to rock
And she shed another tear.

Nancy too returned to dust
A long way from Tennessee,
She was glad to join Elizabeth
Here in Illinois country.

I place blooms on these three graves
Where William Felix sobbed in grief,
Their early deaths gave me my life,
My great-grandmother was his second wife.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hanging with our Artsy/Theatrical Family Members

As a child, Jean Claire, our middle daughter, always seemed to have a kitten or a sketch pad in her hands.  Jeannie drew up drawing, and I loved all the pictures she created. Now that she teaches art, I love seeing her students’ work. 

(She had a terrible time learning to ride her little bicycle in the first grade, and a family scrapbook note to her daddy asking him to please help her “roed buy myself” still touches my heart.  Little did we dream that she would be riding all over the Midwest in her adult life.)
Our rural school system had little opportunities for art or speech and theater,, although Jeannie took part in chorus and Junior-Senior plays, and finally the school had an art class when she was a senior.  In addition to her art work, she had a good voice and a talent for acting.  Fortunately, her 4-Club gave her many speaking opportunities, and she was the star at a very young age in their Share-the-Fun skits. 

Fast forward a few years after her marriage to Rick Eiler, and Jeannie dropped out of grad school to became a dedicated  mother. (I declare that her three children are her artistic masterpieces.)  Her first child, Leslie Ellen, set the stage that Jeannie would be required to become a dedicated stage mother. Jeannie has explained that from a toddler on, Leslie would act out anything she wanted to communicate.

Because of her psychology degree, I think Jeannie recognized and was tuned in to her children’s individuality, and  she proceeded to encourage them to develop those strengths. I am afraid I was guilty of offering what opportunities I could to our kids but did so more as a generic thing rather than honing into their individual talents and variations. There were swimming and piano lessons for all and eventually some voice lessons for Katherine and Mary Ellen and a few art lessons for Jeannie.  Gerry and Mary Ellen both loved sports although I was not a very good sports mother.
All four kids participated and profited from school, church, and 4-H activities. I wanted them to have  varied experiences, but failed to provide encouragement for extra effort in any area. I mostly just wanted the kids to have fun, which was not altogether a bad thing.  Having fun is very important. I think I simply assumed the children would have to pick and chose and develop their own interests, and they did, which was similar to the way I was reared.

And Jeannie and Rick did this too, for their kids were all exposed to school and sports activities.  Rick is a runner and a high school tennis and track coach, so he gave them an example of an athlete who found joy in physical activity, and the kids participated. Jeannie, of course, kept them involved in art projects.  But as they excelled in music and theater, by the time they reached high school, that is where their time and energy was used.

Leslie started her acting career at age six in Music Man in Rend Lake College’s summer theater program, and she never stopped until she left home and became a voice major at Belmont in Nashville, TN. Very soon Elijah was old enough to follow in her footsteps and was breaking his leg every opportunity he had.  Both of them often got a lead in their school plays and both of them were involved with singing, piano, and constantly performing.  Just as Gerry and Vickie’s kids gave us many days of happily watching exciting basketball, volleyball, and softball games, Les and Lige brought us great entertainment in the theater.  It was never easy to go over 400 miles to the northern top of the state and we couldn’t go to every performance we wanted to go to, but it was always more than worth it when we managed to make that trip.

When little sister Cecelie came along, she protested being expected to automatically follow her siblings’ activities.  Naturally community friends assumed she would be the star her brother and sister were and were telling her so. But like her parents, I tried to hold my tongue, so she was free to choose her passions.  She chose violin in junior high and made that a priority in her life, and we were proud.  Yet when we drove up for a junior high musical and saw her perform, we knew it would be a waste if she did not continue to use her vocal and drama talents as well.  As a freshman in high school, she is still excelling with her violin, but is not averse to participating on the speech team and is now involved in her first high school musical.  I am very glad.

The reason I am reflecting all this is that finally Leslie is back on stage.  For that too, I am very grateful. She was not able to participate in musical theater at Belmont, and although we certainly appreciated the quality music education she received that landed her a job with a music publishing company and all that she accomplished as a jazz singer, I really wanted her to be able to use her acting and comedienne abilities as well. 

And finally the opportunity came when she discovered the Larry Keeton Theater.  Located in a former school building, this non-profit Senior Center for the Arts has multiple activities going on including this dinner theater in the former gymnasium.  Deciding she needed to become acquainted with this group, Leslie auditioned for their October weekend presentations of Little Women, a new musical based on Louisa May Alcott’s  novel, and she was awarded the role of Jo.
With the Columbus Day holiday available, Jeannie made plans to attend on two weekends and to sandwich in helping her sister Katherine during the days between.  Of course, I wanted to go if at all possible to hear Leslie sing once more on stage. Rick had a conference, but Cecelie would come with her mother on Saturday, and we’d go on to Nashville. Elijah drove down Friday night, and  he could take Cecelie back with him to Bloomington, where Rick would come pick her up on Monday for Tuesday school. Unfortunately, there was van trouble coming down, and  Elijah had to go rescue them while Rick arrived to put the van in the repair shop. Thus, it was Saturday night before Jeannie and Cecelie reached Woodsong.  So seeing the Saturday performance and attending worship the next morning with Leslie and husband Mike was impossible.

In the meantime, Gerald’s only sister Ernestine and her husband Don also arrived Saturday evening in their camper from Rock Springs, WY,  along with their beautiful dog Lacy.  So as it turned out, Jeannie, Cecelie, and Elijah were able to all have supper at Woodsong with their Uncle Don and Aunt Ernie, and Jeannie could spend the evening visiting with them. Brianna and Trent soon came over with Trent’s weekend friends Tim Marten and Brock from back in Waggoner country. They picked up Lige and Cecelie to join Sam in Marion for whatever mischief they could cook up. (I never heard a report on that except I know they visited a spook house.)  Mary Ellen was over for coffee early Sunday morning to visit Don and Ernestine before the Eilers and I left for our delayed trip to Nashville.

I consider Don and Ernestine among the “artsy” relatives. Ernestine has great appreciation for native American art and culture, and as a seamstress, her mother’s artistic talent is duplicated.  A favorite sewn Christmas ornament that she created pleases me each year as it captures her and Don’s essence.  Their backyard is a work of art with rock and fossil artifacts they have collected as they have explored the mountains and wilds of Wyoming. Don, a retired English teacher, is a writer, and Ernestine, a retired librarian, is a prodigious reader. I was disappointed I was unable to be there Sunday afternoon when Gerald’s brother Keith and wife Barbara and our niece Vicki Escue came to the farm.  I also had to miss the Tuesday morning family breakfast at Jonesboro, but I enjoyed every minute I had with them until they went on down to visit the Union County relatives Monday night.  I had assumed they spend at least a week here, but they had some other places they needed to go on their way home to a cat that was missing them.

Jeannie, Lige, Cecelie, and I arrived at 108 Donelson Pike in time for the excellent Sunday dinner before the afternoon musical and enjoyed visiting with the other seatmates at our table.  I was eager for that curtain to go up, and I was not disappointed when it did.  Leslie was a perfect outspoken determined Jo, and I loved her every line and every song.  With all the musical talent available in Nashville, the cast was excellent, the multi-height set  effective, and the March sisters—Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy--and their cohorts made us laugh and cry as well as reviewing some Civil War history for us. Finally we were hugging and congratulating Jo, who joined the other cast and their directors Ginger Newman and Jamie London for an after-session with some high schoolers, who had been invited. They each told a bit about themselves and answered the students’ questions.  Afterward with her GPS to guide her, Jeannie treated us to for dinner with Leslie and Mike, who met us at the restaurant.

Like Leslie, Mike is a musician and he started to Belmont as a guitar major when the intensive use of his arm prevented him from playing for a year.  Graduating Magna Cum Laude in Biblical studies, he had also become a personal trainer and is employed full time in that now. He has written his own e-book and participates in various Strongman events with Leslie cheering him on.  If you want to read more about this grandson-in-law, check out this link:

We did not want to say goodbye to Les and Mike, but it was a long trip home ahead of us made even longer by road construction closing our entry onto 24West to one lane.  Almost an hour we crawled and stopped and started allowing cars to merge when necessary, but Jeannie handled it all with skill.  When we stopped for gas, Elijah took over and she got some deserved rest. We arrived back at Woodsong by 11 and went to bed promptly as Elijah and Cecelie had to leave at 5 a.m. to meet Rick in Urbana.  Jeannie and I didn’t have to get up that early, and we enjoyed another morning visit with Don and Ernestine before we started on our goal of helping Katherine with some projects.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Visiting Our Sports Oriented Family

With nephew DuWayne’s help, we made a good trip to Georgia this past weekend—the first time I’d been away from the Illinois since we made the same quick trip to visit son Gerry’s family last year this time. We arrived later on Friday than we’d hoped.  Our first slow-down was a wreck on the Paducah bridge.  Then an accident on down the highway.  Then a long long crawl through a construction site, and then the Atlanta traffic.  Where were those folks all going at 8 p.m.? 
Finally we found ourselves carrying our bags up steps graced with a novelty bulldog and a baby bulldog dressed in University of Georgia garb and then receiving hugs from Gerry and Vickie.  A little later Tara and Bryan and our three great grandsons arrived back home telling us all about the fall party they’d had a church and the sports events there.  While the boys bounced around batting their balloons they’d received, we had a nice evening visit while the baseball game played on TV.  Plans were made for the busy sports schedule that household had coming the next day. Multiple games are not unusual for them. Such schedules are taken in stride by this two-generation family living together in Watkinsville, next door to Athens, the home of the South’s oldest higher education institution.
Saturday morning Gerald and DuWayne were up and ready to go for early breakfast with Gerry and our oldest grandchild Tara, who both help Lu Harris-Champer coach UGA softball.  At breakfast they could enjoy all the pre-game talk before morning batting practice, and they were also rewarded with an early peek at new recruit Alex Hugo at third base, a sight Gerry assured them would be worthwhile.
I slept late and came down to Tara’s husband Bryan preparing bacon and eggs for Aidan (age 7), Maddux (age 4), and Payton (age 3).  He explained they let our daughter-in-law Vickie sleep in on the weekend since she gets them all to work and school on time during the week.  I stayed to visit with Vickie while Bryan took the boys for Maddux’s soccer photo. 
Soon they were back, and I crawled into the van with Bryan and the boys to go to Maddux’s 11 a.m. soccer game.  Vickie met us there and had lawn chairs waiting by the field bordered with tall stately pines. I was surprised at how disciplined and aware of rules these little guys were, and I admired the gentleness and sensitivity of the fathers volunteering to coach them. Maddux was in and out of play as only three players for each team were on the field at the same time, but he was happy because he got a goal. His dad was most pleased at how well he played defense.
Bryan could not go to the UGS softball game at one because his job was to take Aidan to his football game where Aidan is proud to play for a team called Packers.  (The last time he was at our house, Aidan was wearing his Christmas gift shirt that had Rodgers on the back, and I was confused. Aidan was shocked I had never heard of Aaron Rodgers.)  Bryan said he could drop me off at the softball stadium, and Vickie said I could ride with her in the pickup, but before the soccer game was over, Gerald joined us so he was able to see our sweaty enthusiastic Maddux running up and down the field.  Gerald had been afraid I would have trouble stepping into the pickup without a running board, so I rode with him to the softball game after we stopped for sunscreen and then at Subway for a sandwich.
It was a beautiful hot autumn day, but I sat in comfortable seats under a roof with Vickie, so the sunscreen was not necessary.  The fall schedule only allows for practice games, but the teams know they are important since this is their first opportunity to play together with new teammates and find out their potential for the spring season.   The previous weekend the team had met North Carolina at a high school facility half way between the schools since they are only allowed to travel 300 miles for these practice games.
Now for their first home game, they were playing Florida State, who had come to Athens with many enthusiastic fans to witness 10-inning games on Saturday and Sunday. With that many innings, Morgan Montemayor, Chelsea Wilkinson, and our granddaughter Geri Ann all got to pitch at least three innings both days.  What a pitching staff we have this year!  While we watched, Vickie was keeping their middle daughter, Erin, abreast of what was going on--just as she closely follows Erin's career coaching fall volleyball at a middle school in Texas where she teaches math. Later in the year, Erin will help coach basketball and softball, and I am sure Vickie will know what is happening with these games also.
Ten innings seem to last a long time, but it provided more practice.  (Even when the home team did not need to play the bottom of the l0th, they played it to give batters experience against the Seminoles’ pitcher. Incoming high school players must regain confidence sometimes when they first experience college-level pitching.)  Of course, Gerry and Tara had a post game meeting, and later they had to be at a  clinic that an outstanding St. Louis pitching coach was presenting since he’d come down to see his Florida State daughter play against UGA.
It was a long day for the coaches before they were able to join us at home in the family room. Geri Ann came over while we watched the UGA football team play Vanderbilt and then had a home screening for Tara to see Maddux’s soccer game, which Bryan had photographed for her. Meanwhile the three little guys were actively moving throughout the room using up their last bits of energy and the one unbusted balloon before bedtime. Geri Ann had a paper to write and an exam to study for, so she left earlier than we would have liked.  Student athletes learn early the discipline of limited time to goof off.
Sunday morning I again slept in and woke to sweet childish voices downstairs and Gerald’s note on the dresser telling me to phone him if I needed a ride. I dressed rapidly in my red and black and repacked my suitcase to load in Bryan’s van. As I went down the stairs, there in the foyer below were the three little brothers laughing and wrestling together on a large leather football dummy.  They are able to entertain themselves with or without organized sports. I felt reluctance to leave this house where three little book bags hang on hooks on the wall behind the kitchen table and three little cowboy boots are lined up on the shoe rack in the laundry hall. The boys continued getting their exercise at the softball stadium as they went up and down metal stairs visiting, rescuing balls that came over the fence, and charming us with their sweet smiles.
UGA did very well winning at the softball stadium both days, and Gerry was an affable host when he took us to dinner before we departed for home. All of us are excited about the upcoming spring season now that last year’s freshmen are seasoned and the new recruits are looking good.  I chose to sit by Geri Ann at dinner as we were able to see so little of her away from the field.  She misses her little nephews since she moved into the dorm last year and then this fall is sharing a house with roommates. As we waited for our food, the two youngest boys were happily enthroned on Tara’s lap, and despite the fully scheduled weekend of work, she now looked relaxed and rested snuggling her little ones.  Geri Ann entertained them teaching them a new and complicated song. 
The food was good and the fellowship better, but it was time to start the long trip back to Illinois.  Fortunately, we had DuWayne who took over driving home and safely got us through a heavy rainstorm that made many cars pull off the road.  Afterwards we were rewarded with one of the most spectacular sunsets we had ever seen.  (The next day I read on Facebook that my dear friend Loretta White Ruff came through that rain and marveled at that same gorgeous sunset.  She drove from her now North Carolina home to Carbondale to visit her siblings.  They are rejoicing at her brother Sam’s respite at home from the St. Louis hospital, where he has been battling leukemia.  He will return for a marrow transplant.  I wondered our close our cars were together on that common highway.)
I also learned on Facebook that some time after we left, Gerry had attended Aidan’s baseball practice at his coach’s home with its own field for these kids.  It was Gerry’s first time to attend a practice of Aidan’s coach of two years, and he was very impressed.  I was impressed he had energy to attend one more sports event before the weekend was over.

Friday, October 04, 2013

A Season of Change

As I looked out the living room windows, two scarlet patches of leaves were there in the midst of the green to delight me. A tree that Gerald planted over 11 years ago.    Looking out the kitchen window across the driveway and behind the garden, tall brown corn awaits the combine.  On down the lane, our neighbor’s lush green soybean plot is pleasingly speckled with yellow leaves. Everything is changing for the end of this growing season and  preparing for winter’s rest.
Brian and Mary Ellen are working as fast as they can to gather this summer’s corn crop with  its over-the-top yields.  After last summer’s drought, they are rejoicing over these abundant results from their hard work.  
Mary Ellen has learned to drive the pickup with the trailer behind pulling the golden grains to the market. This is not easy to do, and she was fearful at the prospect.  Yet that did not stop her from jumping in to assist in this way.  Brian put new tires on the trailer so that she did not have to fear a blow-out that might very well topple a wagon. 
I am amazed that she has been able to quickly learn this new skill, but I should not be.  One adjective I have used to describe her since she was a little child is the word “competent.”  Need rice crispy treats?  Little Mary Ellen was good at it.  Need your hair fixed?  Mary Ellen could do it.  Drive a tractor?  Mary Ellen did.  Sew a garment?  She did it all the time.  Make a gift?  Her craft skills were fine.  Need a pianist?  Yes, Mary you out.  Or a soloist?  Sure.  She was always my helper in so many ways.
In college, she shone in ag communication classes and organizations. She even took one semester out to work as a secretary.  After graduation in the middle of a recession, she went right to work as a reporter on our local newspaper, and took and developed photographs as needed leaving the old Marion Daily Republican building in the middle of the night if necessary to meet a deadline. It scared me to death but did not faze her.  But, of course, she wanted a better job with benefits and advancement possibilities.
No agriculture jobs were available with the ag crisis going on, so she gave up looking for the  better job in Illinois, and she decided on a move to Nashville, where she  joined her sister Katherine.  That was a great place for someone who loved music as both those daughters did.  Temporarily she stayed in Katherine’s apartment and took temporary jobs, where I am sure she was appreciated for her competence by that agency.  Soon she was hired as a writer for Tennessee Magazine.  And eventually she was editor.  She was enjoying her success and the travels it provided her and all the fascinating people she met, and then her former boyfriend came back into the picture. 
I had it in my head that the boyfriend might be giving her an engagement ring that Christmas at Pondside Farm, but that didn’t happen.  What did happen is he gave her the ring down in Nashville; and on New Year’s Eve,  she called us to say that they were being married that night in the chapel on Music Row. They had just decided.
Should we drive down?  No, Brian’s mother was much too far away to make it from New York and maybe it would be fairer if we didn’t come either.  His cousin and fiancé were in town from Florida  to offer support, and her girl friends were helping her with flowers and cake.  She had time for a whirlwind shopping trip, and she looked gorgeous in her short two-piece wedding dress in the beautiful photos that they had to share with us.
We had an exciting family celebration  when they came up for the weekend at Pondside Farm.  From there, Brian had to go back to northern Illinois where he was working in his home area, and Jeannie sweetly drove Mary Ellen back to Nashville.  That long-distance marriage did not last long until phone and flight bills made it easy for them to decide they wanted to be together more than on the weekend, so Brian moved down to look for work there.  That did not last long either because Brian was offered a full-time job with DeKalb that he had been seeking, and were soon settled in Iowa.
As Brian advanced in his career, there were moves from Iowa, where their two children were born, to Michigan to Indiana to St. Louis, and finally to their country home five miles south of Waggoner and its population of 250 while Brian worked north of Springfield.  So there were lots of houses for Mary Ellen to decorate and settle in, many schools to help her children adjust to, family medical needs to be attended to, and eventually a successful real estate career that had to  be aborted with the move to Waggoner and then rebuilt in Springfield, where she continued developing her public relations skills and experience, which she always had a talent for. . 
Now with their two children starting their own adult lives, Mary Ellen is back in her home rural community with Brian working in an office in their home and driving into St. Louis when necessary.   For the moment, Mary Ellen is a homemaker and a truck driver, who still likes to help me out carrying in a meat loaf or slow-cooked ribs or sharing egg salad she said they would get tired of.  It is so fun to have her nearby to talk to and to see what new thing she has achieved with the home they have moved into. 
Until harvest is over, she is sharing this busy season with her husband.  Brianna was home for Murray State’s fall break, and she rode the truck with Mary Ellen while they caught up with Brianna’s news about life as a college freshman, What will be next?    More real estate?  She is good at that.  Another move if Brian’s work calls for it?  She’s good at moving too and making friends wherever she goes.  A completely different career?  Whatever it is, I know from past experience that she will be quite competent. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

By the Light of the Harvest Moon

Earlier in the week, I drove home from Katherine’s quite late; but with the way lit by the beautiful full harvest moon, I enjoyed the drive.  I was able to reflect on all the joy of company we have had so far this month.  It started with Gerry and Vickie’s visit the first weekend in September, which was especially fun because they brought their oldest grandson Aidan up with them.  He got to be bird boy when the men dove hunted, and  he caught a bass when he fished with Gma Vickie, who caught the biggest fish ever caught from our lake in grandson Sam’s opinion. To please Aidan, Vickie cooked it, and  I came home from Katherine’s to join the gang already at supper eating that large bass. Before the weekend was over, Aidan was allowed to drive the four-wheeler (with many cautions) and to drive the tractor with Gerald sitting in the buddy seat. 

One of the joys of having our youngest daughter Mary Ellen’s family move back to our community is that Mary Ellen is able to drop in and out frequently.  When I can, I try to do the same  on my way to or from town when I go the highway instead of the back country roads.  Mary Ellen brings yummy meat loaf from her freezer and delicious ribs slow cooked for hours in her oven, so she has cut my cook time, which is nice with so much time needed at Katherine’s house.  Sam and Brianna both had to come enjoy the Georgia family and to play with Aidan.  And Vickie brought her mother (Gma Shirley) over before they left on Labor Day.  Leslie came through later in the day for a brief visit but missed the Georgians.

We were also thrilled to have a visit from Bob and Sylvia Mountz, who were visiting in the area for a couple of days before heading to Champaign to meet a relative before catching their flight back to Phoenix.  We wished they could have visited longer because Sylvia and Gerald have so many shared memories from when her father, Ralph Fisher, was manager at the State Forrest Preserve (now called Trail of Tears State Park).  Mr. Fisher and Dad Glasco were great buddies, and Gerald and I took Dad down for a visit when the Ralph and Catherine still lived in their retirement village in Arkansas.  I loved visiting with Mrs. Fisher and seeing  the huge lovely photograph of their eight children as a focus  in the living room. The Fishers were strong advocates of education, and Gerald said they were a great influence in their rural community.  He had to show Sylvia and Bob what we laughingly call the Fisher file, with all the clippings and information about their talented family.  Ralph had written long letters to Gerald telling of the academic and other achievements of each child and grandchild.  Of course, they were given copies of those letters. During their too brief visit we fed them Flamm Orchard peaches, and Bob had to have some of Gerald’s tomatoes fresh from the garden.

Another day one of our closest neighbors, Mary Lea Kahlor Burnham dropped by to borrow some cages and had time to have a coke with me.  A neighbor visit is a real treat and much better than the brief phone calls we sometimes share.

Then the five Archibalds arrived at 4 a.m. on Friday before the weekend of their cousin Sarah’s Saturday wedding.  Bryan had been chosen on the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Century Football Team.  They got a minimum of sleep after that before starting their busy day, which included plans for the three boys to play in the lime pile, and ride all the farm vehicles with Gpa Gerald.  Sam was off school that day (teachers’ meeting I guess), so he got to be with us at lunch. Mary Ellen and Brian were in Waggoner closing on their house sale there, so they couldn’t join us.

Later that afternoon and more farm play, after baths they were off  meet up with Bryan’s mom who was staying in the cabins at Giant City and was all excited to be able to see her three grandsons while Bryan and Tara went to the banquet honoring the All Century Team.  They spent the night with Linda, and  woke to face the extra busy Saturday which included tailgating, being recognized at the football half time, and somehow getting every one dressed and back to Stonefort for Sarah’s  5 p.m. wedding!

In the meantime, Gerry and Vickie and Geri Ann had arrived Friday evening late, and we were able to visit before they took off the next morning for tailgating with Bryan’s family, who were here to celebrate Bryan’s honor.  Gerry and Vickie and Geri Ann were in and out changing clothes for the wedding, and much later were back to finally collapse  and report a great day and evening after the reception in Marion.  Gerry and Vickie had the three boys with them  and quickly settled them down since Bryan and Tara were staying to visit with his dad and stepmother, who were  in a motel in Marion.  

Sunday morning granddaughter Erin and her fiancé Ted Schoblocher, who were here briefly from Dallas for the wedding, carried in a variety of  breakfast goodies.  Everyone chatted over coffee and reflected and laughed over all the fun at the wedding festivities the night before.  It was fun to hear about the little boys dancing. This breakfast visit was much too short, but Erin and Ted had to get back to Texas for work the next day. Later Tara and Bryan and his folks, Ron and Tonda, were out to see the farm.

By that time, I had gone on to Sunday School.  I am working with preschoolers again this year, and I knew it was important that baby Isaac have a familiar face to greet him.  I was rewarded by his coming into my arms without crying and later I had the privilege of giving him a bottle before he got down on the floor to play with his sister and Miss Kim. 

I did get home in time to see Ron and Tonda for the first time since Bryan and Tara’s wedding on New Year’s Eve 2005.  I had lunch in the oven for anyone who could stay, but everyone was anxious to get back to their far away homes, so Gerald and I had a quiet lunch and rest time before I left for my usual Sunday afternoon visit with Katherine. I took a lunch plate to her and stopped on the way to leave one for Trent, who was home taking care of Fifi, while Mary Ellen and Bryan had breathlessly gone from their house closing to their first Parents Weekend with Brianna down at Murray. That they were able to sell their rural home in only a couple of weeks after the first buyer had to regretfully back out was a miracle.  (Although I am sure that Mary Ellen’s knowledge as a realtor was a factor in the miracle.)
As I drove home beneath the beauty of the luminous yellow moon promising the coming appearance of the same yellow in autumn leaves, I knew I had much to rejoice over before harvest even began.  And now at the end of the week, it has.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Late August Summer Days

Tall corn stands thick and proud these hot muggy  August days. The neighbors’ soy bean fields delighted my eyes as I drove home from our village library and after visiting with a friend today.   The lovely bushy greenness spread out to the horizon like a warm wavy blanket.  After last year’s drought, this summer in our region has allowed farmers to produce bumper crops.  We are grateful.

We have eaten very good zucchini casseroles of various kinds to our hearts’ content and maybe a bit more than that. And corn on the cob from our next-door neighbor’s bounty. And now huge red juicy vine-ripened tomatoes with every meal but breakfast.  The okra has just started producing, so I will be putting more and more of that in the freezer for meals when the grandkids are here.  I have made zucchini cookies once and bread several times for us and for others. One is in the freezer for fall. (Gerald thinks a plant blight of some sort will end the zucchini season soon.)

I have used sweetener for most of the baked goods except what I gave away.  I made a second batch of zucchini bars yesterday that turned out vey good.  It was a recipe in my files that I’d never tried before. Maybe it is not accurate to say I made a second batch because the first time I was also pleased with the result until Gerald asked where’s the zucchini.  At that point after an extremely busy morning, it dawned on me that in my rush of doing two or three things at once I had never grated the zucchini I had laid out to add to the mixture.

I have not yet picked any garden produce.  Gerald continued to complete the task  even when he had to use just one hand being careful to not violate any of  directions given him at the hospital when he had the pacemaker put in.  But I have put corn and some zucchini in the freezer along with some tomatoes and even one batch of juice I made for wintertime chili. Despite my efforts to preserve some of the garden goodness, Gerald has had to take many full buckets and boxes to our homeless shelter in town.

The garden produce is not the reason I have been so busy. There have been days when Katherine’s aides could not show up, and I have gone into town to help her. She does not want me to, but she has to have help even though I have no training for nursing.

Good things are also going on. Before her new teaching and coaching job started in Texas, Erin was up for a weekend after all most a year away. It was so good to see her.  Brianna has started her freshman year at Murray, and we enjoyed a girls’ going-away lunch date with her mom despite their own work-crammed schedule this summer. Now Leslie is stopping by tomorrow on her way from her Nashville home up to a wedding in northern Illinois.  Gerry is coming in this weekend, and he and his dad will hunt dove in those beautiful sunflower fields Gerald planted.  Next week Gerald will get a final check up with the surgeon and two days later with the pacemaker people.  So  in the midst of concern about Egypt and Syria and our daughter’s health and a friend newly diagnosed with leukemia, life at Woodsong continues with peaceful mornings filled with fog and beauty and days with worthwhile work for our hands to accomplish.  And now I am going to bed for one of my favorite  blessings—a good night’s sleep.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Life Too Full of Happenings--I Need a Break

Stuff (life) just keeps happening and does not seem to slow down.  Good things. Bad things.  But too much at once.  And lots of zucchini to cope with.

VBS came and went with little effort on my part but much enjoyment with grandkids in the house.  Elijah was at our village church three Sundays recently, and I loved hearing him sing.  I loved having him and Brianna with us as we studied Job in Young Adult Class.  (And it was fun having Mary Ellen visit last Sunday too, and then really nice to have her invite us all to lunch!)

The day before I had a wonderful unexpected treat when my brother Jim and wife Vivian come down from Mattoon.  Frankly, they have had serious  health problems that have made me wonder if they’d be able to come for awhile.  But Vivian’s sister in nearby Vienna was celebrating her 80th birthday, and they came down for the family get-together there despite the tight medicine schedule they have to keep for the time being.  Jim called me the night before, and Katherine insisted I leave for an afternoon break so I could see them when they dropped by the farm on their way home. 

Adding to our pleasure was finding out their daughters Judi and Jane (Beth) were with them.  I relaxed thinking one of the daughters could drive if Jim got tired—but he left the farm in the driver’s seat.  Come to find out when I called him today for his 85th birthday, he drove all the way down (with a traffic jam that slowed them considerably in Marion) as well as all the way home.  Although Jane would have been glad to drive, he  enjoyed making the long drive. I do not think I could not make that  trip there and back in one day.  And with Katherine so sick, I haven’t tried to go up for an overnight visit as I used to do.  So it had been much too long since I had seen them, and I was very grateful for their visit.  Elijah and Brianna came in while they were here, and I liked that they were able to see relatives they had not seen in years.  Vivian was especially pleased to see Elijah because he received the first of many many baby blankets she has made down through the years including ones for all of our grandchildren after Elijah.

Another joy has been  having Gerry and Vickie in the house yesterday and today.  They came by way of Dallas where Gerry had helped in a softball clinic that our granddaughter Erin was having there. Then they had driven all night and stopped at the farm for some sleep before coming over and joining Mary Ellen and me at the hospital in Carbondale, where Gerald was having a pacemaker implanted.  They had to return to Georgia this afternoon, but Gerry retrieved his dad from the hospital this morning and took him to breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I had a mite of trouble the first time I saw Gerald in a hospital gown before the procedure, but he looked the picture of health, and I felt confident that all would go extremely well and it did.

He had never spent a night in the hospital during our marriage, and I’d planned to spend the night with him although I figured he would protest.  However, it turned out that he was in a large ward  with very tight quarters, and they would not allow anyone to stay in there through the night. I saw no point in trying to sleep on a  hard chair in a waiting room.  So I carried out the little  bag I had packed with a tooth brush and meds and came on home at the close of visiting hours.  It had been rewarding  to watch the screen above his bed recording dots every time the pacemaker helped his heart rhythm.  We have to appreciate the modern miracles that researchers and physicians have created for us. I have a feeling Gerald will have more energy than ever now despite the fact that he already works more than anyone his age ought to in his wife’s opinion. The big worry now is how we will keep him following the doctor’s orders until the pacemaker settles in and the incision heals.

Before this, Gerald has  been busy mowing the yard since he is not supposed to do so  now for awhile and getting his garden in shape and picking zucchini.  On top of that, he has been getting estimates and talking to insurance folk because last Friday I needed to go to Herrin on an errand and I stopped by to leave zucchini and to share a few Union County peaches that Bill Tweedy has brought us. I invited Mary Ellen to go with me as  I thought it might give her a needed break from all the hard work they are involved in right now with crops and kids and moving stuff down from Waggoner.  Mary Ellen is an excellent driver and likes to drive, and we followed our usual pattern of my handing her the car keys. 

Just as I expected, we were having a good time talking and laughing, when suddenly as we were driving along on the main street of Energy we were rear ended with great force.  I never understood why, but a man had rammed into us. (The policeman said this has kept happening but the man kept passing his driver’s exam and he did have insurance.  We sure hope.)  We were shook up both physically and emotionally, but we knew we came out of it with a minimum of damage considering the jar we had.  Dark bruises show where my seat belt saved me from serious injury.  Otherwise, Mary Ellen and I were ok, and the car can be fixed.

Before Gerry and Vickie had to leave today, For our lunch I made a zucchini casserole for a veggie to go with out baked pork chops and instant mashed potatoes.  I’d been wanting to make a peach pie with the peaches  so I did that for dessert.and used sweetener instead of sugar as a welcome home gesture for Gerald.   It was successful.

All in all, there is just too much going on right now and I must take a break from blogging.  I process life by writing, and it is both relaxing and distracting for me to keep from thinking of problems I cannot control.  All my life when I see something beautiful, I have wished I were an artist and able to capture it permanently on paper.  Instead I have  to use words to try to make transient things more permanent. But right now, maybe I need to save that writing time for more important things.  Maybe I should be the one to start picking the zucchini.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Knock Knock

How can it be that our young people are not safe to walk in their home neighborhoods at 7:30 in the evening?

How can it be that wearing a hoodie makes someone suspicious?

How can it be that a court room lawyer would think it okay to make bad jokes in front of  parents whose child had been shot?

How can it be that “educated” lawyers and some of the media talked down to and failed to show respect to Trayvon Martin’s young friend who gave an honest report--just because she was unsophisticated and  uncomfortable testifying and could not read cursive? 

How can it be that persons claiming an unrecognizable voice (according to the experts) were able to claim they knew it was their dear friend George’s voice?  And that Trayvon’s mother did not recognize her own son’s voice? 

How can it be that six women feel it is legal for a man to shoot and kill an unarmed youth?