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?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Long Long Ago and Now

Seems like yesterday that our grandkids first came to the farm to be together and attend Vacation Bible School at our village church:  Elijah, Trent, Geri Ann, and Brianna.  As usual, I was helping there, so it was easy to take them along. For these preschoolers, staying at the farm for that long with each other was a big deal. I slept upstairs with them each night and we would tell stories and make sure no one became homesick. I am guessing the two boys were four or five and the two little girls were three or four. I was so proud having them attend with me.  A cherished memory was going to the local Kroger store and having those four following me like a line of little ducklings across the parking lot and into the store.  As we marched, bystanders watched and smiled at their cuteness.

That was the same year, I believe, that their big afternoon adventure at the farm was catching fish. At that time, we had two farm ponds with one at a higher level than the other though they were a long way apart.  It was planned to allow the higher pond to overflow with a wide shallow slice of running water gently flowing across the meadow and finally our side lawn and down to the lower pond.  That summer the stream of water was thick with baby fish.  The children were so delighted to be able to grab the little fish in their hands and look at them before letting them go on down to the lower pond.

After that, it became a tradition that the grandkids would come and attend VBS together. I encouraged mud pie making, catching fireflies, and other country past times. After we moved the half mile over to Woodsong from Pondside Farm, that first year here we had some adjusting to do. A favorite downstairs bedroom is completely underground and offers wonderful darkness.  We moved two queen size bedsteads into that room with barely room to walk between the beds, but the kids and I were able to sleep together there and continue telling stories and saying night time prayers. 

I think because Tara and Erin lived in our community up on Route 166 during their earliest VBS attendance, they attended from home. Leslie was still living in Carterville and went to VBS there I assume. For some reason that first year Leslie did not come down from Freeport, but later she did.  She also helped a year or so with the opening music. (At night she was as great at telling ghost stories as at music, and I had to put a stop to that when someone got too scared.)  Tara and Erin came down from Johnston City and helped too. Even Gma Shirley came from her church and helped one year when we needed more workers. When Sam and Cecelie became old enough to attend VBS, they joined the older kids. By this time, the cousins had grown very close and were adept at making up their own games and activities.  Geri Ann had to work around ball practices and games sometimes but she was always here when possible, but then she moved to Georgia.

As the kids grew up and entered high school, they would volunteer to be classroom helpers, so they continued to gather at the farm for VBS when camp and summer activities allowed. This year Trent and Elijah have completed their two years of college, but they are here to help teach. Soon to be a high school junior, Sam too is again  working  as he did in VBS at his own church. Brianna has little more than a month until she starts her college career. Once again she is working with preschoolers, and once again she gets to see the one special little girl that comes to our VBS from a nearby church each year.  They early bonded because just like Bri as a preschooler, this quiet little beauty was very shy. They understood each other intuitively.  It was so sweet to see their once-a-year friendship develop down through the years. There are other VBS kids their own age that our grandkids have stayed close to through Tweets and Facebook contact.  I like to think the children who have grown up to work in VBS are honing leadership skills that will profit themselves and others for years to come.

For the first time in decades, I am not working in VBS this year, and I don’t have to be sure to have adequate seat-belt spaces for grandkids going with me.  Their cars are parked outside.  I am enjoying hearing the piano in the living room at Woodsong though and the four here this year creating and practicing skits for opening exercises. I like hearing them debate what to do with their free day time since VBS is at night this year. While I was in bed this morning, Gerald said they got up early today and Sam scrambled eggs for the gang.

Some things haven’t changed, however. There are ten pairs of kicked-off shoes in the front hall the last I counted.  Half devoured cans of soda are left around.  Last evening after a swim in the lake, I picked up wet towels to toss in the washer/drier because I don’t like them left on carpeted floors. I enjoy it all  because of all the magical memories that started long long ago.

Friday, July 05, 2013

The Pleasure and Excitement of Summer Company

After a spate of company last weekend with the Eilers and the Archibalds here, this week has been relatively quiet.  We often do not know who might arrive during the night and be sleeping in the next morning here at Woodsong.  Gerald did know that Tara and Bryan and our three great grandsons were coming to spend a day at the farm at the end of their vacation on their way home to Georgia, and he had been making sure the lime pile and toy machinery were ready for them.  I knew Jeannie and Cecelie were coming “at the end of the week,” but wasn’t sure when they would arrive. 

I was spending the night at Katherine’s, and when Gerald woke he could see who was in the house by the cars outside. Jeannie and Cecelie had picked up Brianna over at her house, where their family has been this summer—when they aren’t at Waggoner.  Of course, Mary Ellen came over the next day.  We liked it that it worked out so several of the family got to see “the boys” who, of course, are greatly changed every time they visit with most visits several months apart.

Jeannie came prepared with food and ideas and declared she was cooking for all of us.  We declared that her egg salad sandwiches for Friday lunch were the best we had ever eaten. Since people often sleep late and are barely up for lunch or have only recently eaten the bowl of cereal or toast, which is what they usually get for breakfast here, the egg salad was a great idea.  She also fixed supper that night, but the Archibalds had needed to leave before then--knowing they would still arrive home well after midnight. 

As usual, the three little guys rode the tractor, the lawn mower, the Gator, and played hard in and out of the house.  Cecelie and Brianna enjoyed entertaining them as well as Gerald.  When I arrived home, I played peep-eye with the shy one and gradually had my turn interacting with each precious boy.  Still in the flower mode, Gerald took the boys to the fields and let them pick bouquets for their parents.  I was impressed that they made sure their dad had a bouquet as well as their mama.   Later when Maddux was yawning and a mite cranky, his mother asked him if he was getting tired.  He nodded yes and added, “From all that flower picking.”  It is always sad to see them leave and we dreaded the long trip ahead for the parents, although they are pretty accomplished at keeping the kids occupied or asleep. 

The next day Elijah arrived driving down from Illinois State, where he is taking some summer classes and working.  I think the grandkids gathered up at Trent and Brianna’s house on Friday, and on Saturday Sam and his friend Anna were here at the farm for cousin activities. They always have plans since they keep connected by phone and Facebook.

 Elijah sang for us at church on Sunday, and then he was invited to sing again that evening at the Fifth Sunday Sing, where five or six of our rural churches meet together four times a year.  I missed that since I was visiting at Katherine’s.  Earlier that day, I think it was, Jeannie had taken her kids over to Carbondale to visit her alma mater, but she had left a loin roast in the slow cooker all day, and there were delicious pulled pork sandwiches for supper when I arrived back home.

Dodging the rain when necessary, Jeannie had, of course, ridden her bicycle every day—sometimes on local country roads and sometimes going over to Harrisburg and getting on the bike trail. On  Monday she started to bike to town, and Gerald and I were relaxing at the dining room table.  Suddenly she appeared with one hand over an eye with a bloody face and knees.  Broken glasses were in the other hand, and she was saying, “I’m hurt.” We sprang into action all talking at once--grabbing clean dish towels to soak up blood and trying to figure out what to do.  Cecelie rescued the damaged bike and brought it to the house.

Their little dog Leah, who had never done such a thing before, had run in front of Jeannie’s bike on our driveway before she had a chance to do anything to prevent the bike’s fall and her face going into the gravel.  As soon as we had the blood flow somewhat stanched, she was calling her insurance company and her husband and trying to figure out what to do in order to avoid the emergency room if possible.  There were no approved places in our area for her insurance, but they kindly told here that therefore she could go anywhere with pre-approval from them. 

With a deep looking gash  on her face above her eye, we were thinking plastic surgeon, but the telephone book did not help us. Gerald’s doctor said to call the hospital for a list, but they put him on hold and we gave up on that because we wanted to get things taken care of. We did not want to spend the rest of the day in the ER, and Jeannie did not want to end up unnecessarily with that enormous expense. I tagged along with Gerald and Jeannie because I did not want to sit at home not knowing what was going on. The first urgent care place we went to was closed for lunch.  We went to another. 

The girl at the desk was so attentive and assured Jeannie that the P.A. there did that kind of thing all the time, and Jeannie went in quickly.  Not too much later, she came out after a tetanus shot and four stitches on her forehead with bandages on her head and knee. She assured us it had not hurt anything like she thought it would.  By this time, it was well past lunch time, so we went to a nearby eatery to plot her next move.  She had also talked to her eye doctor at Freeport and was hoping she could have the lenses put in a new unbroken frame, so she could wait to replace the lenses back with her own doctor.   I could not imagine that anyone could get the one lens, which had some damage in its corner, out of the frame without breaking it. 

We bravely went to Wal-Mart and no one was even at the desk in the eye center.  That seemed like a bad omen since we saw some other customers sitting closer to the intersanctum.  But when that clerk came out, we immediately felt her concern and expertise.  Within a very short time, she had found a frame among the children’s frames that fit Jeannie’s lenses exactly, and she had both lenses transferred to the new frame, which cost $9.09.  We were happy campers, indeed, and were soon back at Woodsong feeling very blessed.

Jeannie, Cecelie, and Elijah were actually on their way to Nashville, TN, to visit Leslie, whose birthday was Tuesday.  The kids had concert tickets to celebrate. After a little debate, they decided all was well enough to head to Nashville.  Jeannie loaded up her crippled bike on the back of her van and knew she would be renting a bike in Nashville.  Rick is teaching summer school as usual, and he came through last night and left his truck here and took Elijah’s car on down to Leslie and Mike’s for the rest of the week.

The dilapidated Candy Land  game is once again under the flap of the couch in the living room.  This is the same game that little Tara used to play and made sure rules were changed as we went along because even back then she wanted to win. Now it is her sons who play with Gerald, and the game is interrupted as younger boys join Aidan, who is very kind to let them join in.  I had forgotten once where I had stored (hidden) the game, but Aidan quickly went to the couch and pulled it out

Now faded bouquets have all been thrown out, the leftovers eaten up, the bloody towels soaked and bleached, and we’ve had a calm Independence Day.  I went to Katherine’s most of the day before an aide arrived, and Mary Ellen came over to the farm.  None of the beds have been touched since people left, but since Eilers will be stopping by on their way back north, I will let them deal with that.     

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

A Ride around the Farm

Gerald reported at lunch the other day on the beauty of the wild flowers in our Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres.  He wanted to send a bouquet of these to daughter Katherine, so he invited me to take a tour with him that afternoon to collect flowers.

We climbed into the Gator and started off first to check out the little sunflower plants in several plots around the farm.  The deer have destroyed one plot and are working on another, but Gerald has sprayed four plots with deer repellent that is supposed to keep the deer away.  We will see in another month whether we get to enjoy blossoms on these plots.  If we do, the birds will have quite a feast later when the seeds drop from the bloom center. Although we saw no deer on this particular day, we did see one circle of smashed grass where they had slept.

Gerald has planted all kinds of hay seed and native grasses on the CRP land surrounding our home—timothy, lespedeza, red top, alfalfa. Although there is some work for the farmer involved with this government program requiring planting, mowing, and sometimes careful burning, it is pleasant to think of the earth growing richer for future generations and bird life more abundant for us.  Little blue stem is particularly appealing to Gerald because unlike a dense ground cover  such as fescue, this native grass has bare spots between the plants, and the quail have room to nest and run through these little alley ways.

Soon we were over beyond our lake and were riding through lush tall grasses and abundant patches of flowers--brown-eyed Susans, Queen Anne’s lace, red and ladino clover, and plants I did not know the name of.  Gerald would grab his machete and hop off and cut tall stems to put into our large box in the back of the Gator.  I have heard of sweet clover all my life, but somehow I thought that was just a generic name for the red and white.  Now I have learned that the very tall plants with lacy leaves and little yellow blossoms are what that term refers to. The lacy leaves on the stems of partridge pea   were as pretty as blossoms to me. All these were added to the box along with some pretty heads of milkweed, which of course oozed its milky substance when Gerald cut the stems.

Although we occasionally saw the quite lovely lavender bloom of thistle plant, we didn’t collect them when Gerald chopped the thorny things down.  I was reminded of my dad paying my older siblings so much for every one of the thistles they cut from his pasture.  I think I tagged along with Rosie and Jim but was too young to make any money. 
Gerald remembered being paid for collecting pods from the milkweed plant for the war effort during World War II.  The silky seeds inside were used for life jackets. 

Infrequently we saw the brown head of the weed called sour dock, and I remembered using those seeds for coffee in the play house I created in two of the angles of the rail fence still remaining at Mount Airy Farm from my father’s childhood. I loved my mother’s stories about her and her friend Vera’s adventures, and so I tried to imitate their rail fence play house.  (One angle provided a living room area, and the next angle allowed me to have a kitchen.  I carried in a wooden box for a table and other objects for furniture.)  Gerald clipped me one stalk of dock in honor of  that childhood memory, and it looked rather nice in the middle of the arrangement I put on our dining room table, where it matched the brown cloth beneath it.

I am sure part of the reason for this ride around the farm was to distract me from the sadness of our daughter’s illness, and temporarily it did. Our box was full and running over, so I had plenty of flowers for a huge bouquet from Gerald to Katherine, which was especially pretty when he added a few tiger lilies and orange butterfly weed.  There was a bouquet for us, a couple of blooms for the kitchen table, and a huge arrangement in a bucket for the front porch. Best of all was the memories stirred up and the memories created of fields full of golden yellow blossoms swaying midst an abundance of tall warm season grasses.

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) website which administers the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for the federal Department of Agriculture gives this explanation:   “In exchange for a yearly rental payment, farmers enrolled in the program agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. Contracts for land enrolled in CRP are 10-15 years in length. The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and reduce loss of wildlife habitat.”

Oh dear!! (Written June 29)

I wrote a blog three two days ago, and I liked it altho I had not had time to edit it yet.  I was going to copy it to have Gerald check the ag facts and spellings.  So started to copy it from the many-day blog entries and put it on a separate document and then print it out for him to see. Somehow someway, I not only lost the blog post completely on Word--but a crazy half light blue page that will not let me use a cursor has shown up on the long many-day original copy of the blog that I write on instead of directly on here as I am doing now.  Don't know what happened and I cannot get rid of it on Word.  If I never hlog again, you will understand that I am too frustrated until I get this problem solved.  And computer stuff bumfuzzles me, so I may never be able to solve and use Word again.  We will see what the future holds. Ha.