Saturday, December 26, 2015

Calm after the Chaotic Fun

Arms flailing. Feet in the air. Toys all over the floor. Punch. Hug. Tackle. Two down. Pile on three. Up the stairs. Down through the railing. Under the stairs. Hit back. Smiles. Bellies down. Roll over. Up. Jump.

That is kinda what it was like watching three very sweet well behaved great grandsons in the family room this past week--Aidan, 9; Maddux 7; Payton 5. Perpetual motion occasionally slowed down when one or all three focused momentarily on some toy or game. Or when all three sat in a circle with pencils and paper playing a game they have created. Of course, they were outside a great deal with Gpa Gerry despite rainy weather Their energy is amazing, and I like watching them.

We said our goodbyes to their family last night because they quietly slipped out of the house this morning way before dawn to make it back to Texas where toys awaited them under their tree there in College Station. Tara and Bryan were torn and did stay for the final Johnson celebration last night but yielded to the boys’ eagerness to get back home on Christmas Day.

It was really fascinating the one morning when they were joined by two-year-old twins. Erin’s friend Candace brought Jamison and Mathison to the farm; and before long, they were over their shyness enough to join in the big boys’ play. I loved how the twins already knew about hooking up toy truck beds and tractors and wrestling with big boys.

Christmas started for us a week ago when we learned our son and wife, Gerry and Vickie, along with Geri Ann came in from Texas Thursday night. We were not sure the Archibalds were going to try to make that long journey with three boys this year, but Gerald had things ready for the boys just in case they made it. He received a text they’d be up Thursday afternoon, so when both groups arrived here, there were ten of us sleeping at Woodsong that Thursday night.

Gerald built a fire in his wood burner in his shop. Duke, Chloe, Chance, and Nelly were bedded there. Of course, Gerry seldom goes anywhere these days without bird dogs either taking them to someone or picking them up from someone, so those unnamed dogs were taken to Gerry’s kennels that have been on the farm ever since he moved from Johnston City to Georgia over eight years ago. Gerald and Gerry were up early the next morning to meet up with McLeansboro hunting buddies for breakfast and a hunt. Or did Gerald have a 7:30 physical therapy appointment that morning? The rest of us got up at a more reasonable time! I especially enjoyed some early morning time with Payton before the others came to the kitchen table. All three great grandsons have such tender hearts that they melt mine.

Gerry and Geri Ann were giving hitting clinics in this area, and Vickie goes along to help and encourage them. So they and their three little dogs were off Friday afternoon to the Champaign area for their first clinic in someone’s sports complex in a barn out in the country. From there, they traveled to a clinic at Louisville, KY, before arriving back at our house Sunday night. It is hard work, but Gerry and Geri Ann enjoy interacting with the softball girls. Oh, and there was a clinic this week in west Saint Louis area that I almost forgot.

Tara and Bryan let the boys run off steam Friday morning, before they left for their visit with Bryan’s mother Linda up north, who often has to settle for just Skyping with these grandsons. They had a deadline to get to the Chicago area in time for the boys to play with their cousin Sam before Brian’s sister began her evening nursing shift. They came back to Woodsong on Monday--or was it Tuesday--by way of Galesburg so they could visit Bryan’s dad and step mother there. Duke had stayed behind, and Gerald was watching over him and the bird dogs here. Duke was glad to see his family, and I think he enjoyed having Chloe, Chance, and Nelly back to play with again when they were all regularly let out to run in the yard.

Erin was still teaching on Friday in Belton, Texas, but drove up on Saturday. She dropped by briefly to say hello before she went on to her Gma Shirley’s to spend the night since her new little French bull dog Ruby is somewhat fragile with his little pug nose. If I am not mistaken, I believe I heard he slept with Gma Shirley that night. Erin showed up at the farm Sunday morning briefly before returning to enjoy the Borum family gathering across from Gma Shirley’s house. I think she returned that night then and let Ruby join his dog cousins in Gerald’s shop. As you can see, I am somewhat fuzzy on details because we were so busy having fun with people coming and going that I couldn’t always keep up. In all of this, Erin’s big event of each day was Skyping with her husband Josh over in South Korea.

Of course, the Taylors were soon over to see everyone, and Geri Ann left with Trent and Brianna to spend the night over there. Sam had arrived in town from Baylor on Thursday also, and Trent, Brianna, and he had all immediately traveled to their cousin Leslie and Mike’s house down in Nashville to see the latest Star Wars movie. So Sam was in the cousin mix whenever possible.

I loved getting to sit around and visit with Geri Ann’s high school friends Cece Hutchinson and Dustin Pritchett when they brought Geri Ann home from her visit with Cece, because I had missed them when they dropped by last Christmas when Geri Ann was here.

No one wanted me to cook, so I didn’t much, since people carried in food and were meeting up with friends and family for lunch and dinner. Vickie and Erin had fun taking Gma Shirley shopping and getting ready for family gatherings. Gerry’s cousin Bryce and son Lex arrived a few minutes after Gerry and Vickie had just left for dinner to see her nephew Jeremy’s new house. Bryce just shook his head because Gerry had texted he’d be here. It made me feel better that I wasn’t the only one with memory getting blurred! But Gerald enjoyed taking Bryce and Lex down to his office and making them some family photos including the new one just made that morning of Gerry and cousins Tim and DuWayne when they gathered with the uncles for breakfast in Jonesboro.

Gerry was home at Woodsong the next day when Bryce and Jaime dropped back by. Earlier when Mary Ellen and we were sitting at the table listening to Gerry’s stories, he had us in stitches telling of his and Bryce’s teen episodes hunting in the fields here. I was amazed how he had learned every back road, gate, and creek on the neighbors’ farms. No wonder he could later get around Mexico fields without getting lost. He must have inherited Gerald’s dad’s excellent sense of direction.

Gerry made sure his grandsons could go with him if they wanted when he took the bird dogs out to flush quail. And a midnight rabbit hunt for Wednesday and Thursday nights was a big deal. Although they felt the need to go back to Texas, we were grateful Tara could not resist staying for the annual Johnson family gathering held last night at her Uncle Louie and Aunt Chris’s house this year.

After all the drizzling and rainy weather, we relished Thursday's gorgeous weather. Dogs and people played in the yard without coats yesterday afternoon. Gerald had worked hard and outfitted a wagon with seats to haul folks behind the Gator, and he was able to take everyone for rides around the lake. Everyone was properly impressed that Payton, a kindergartener, was able to drive the Gator responsibly and well!

Gerry, Vickie, and Geri Ann stayed for Christmas dinner at Mary Ellen and Brian’s house today. They had bird dogs to deliver to Texas, and Gerry and Gerald spent the morning building a platform to also haul home a repaired four-wheeler. Vickie was her usual patient and understanding self as she laughed about their rivaling the Clampets of hillbilly fame. Geri Ann just shook her head.

Mary Ellen’s long table for eleven was beautiful, and the meal was marvelous topped off with pies and Brianna’s baked goodies. Since Trent had to leave early yesterday to go to work, we enjoyed the longer visit with him today. Sam was able to show us a photo of his brother Dave and wife Kristy with his new niece Lila Rose born this very morning!

Folks sent Erin back to the farm to bring Ruby over to play with Fifi, which turned out to be interesting. Fifi, eleven years old, did not appreciate a youngster like Ruby wanting to play and she told her so in no uncertain terms. Ruby interpreted Fifi’s barks as encouragement to keep jumping at her and playing. But all ended well, and we had a peaceful time together.

After gift opening, we hugged and waved off Gerry, Vickie, Geri Ann and their dogs. The rest of us drove into to Marion to Katherine’s house, and she got to enjoy Mary Ellen’s yummy food while we visited with her. Her wonderful aide Connie had come in this morning to give her breakfast and morning pills and help her be dressed and in her wheelchair for our visit.

Mary Ellen had prepared the Saran Ball game full of small gifts for us. The huge heavy ball was passed around the circle while the person beside the player tossed dice until a double showed up. If we could get enough wrap off during this tossing, we won a gift. Everyone played with great enthusiasm and much laughter as we tried to unwrap the ball and get to the gifts. By the time the last piece of wrap came off, we all had some goodies to take home and make us feel we had won.

All good times have to end. Gerald and Sam put Katherine back to bed with the Hoyer. I gave her pills; and after goodbyes, we left her to watch a special gift from Connie on her television.

It is now well past midnight and time for me to quit reflecting and turn off the Christmas trees and get in bed. I think Erin is back from a final visit with Candace and the twins—her little godsons. So to all a good night.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Taking It Easy

Because my stress test indicated I might have a problem, I was scheduled for a heart catheterization last Tuesday. I was told the stress test was only 80% accurate, so I was not positive what to expect.

Two brief episodes with pain in my left shoulder after I lay down to sleep at night had not made my primary doctor think I had a problem, but she told me to go to my heart doctor if I had another such experience. I did. Before I called and was worked in for an appointment, I had three more episodes. The heart doctor was suspicious and ordered the stress test, which I laughingly said cured me as I had no more episodes after that.

But a phone call came saying the stress test did look good, and so the doctor had scheduled the cath procedure at the Carbondale hospital. I was told another doctor would be called in if the cath showed blockage; otherwise I would go home that day. As it turned out, it was necessary to put two stints in to correct the problem. I came home the next day with instructions to take it easy for a couple of weeks, which I have been doing. Things have gone so well that I do not want to take any chances of messing up a good thing. Being told not to even lift a gallon of milk or something of that weight has been one of the harder directions to follow because I lift without thinking out of habit. Of course, I have always had Gerald lift truly heavy things, but that may not be wise at our age. Fortunately he lifts outdoor things with a fork lift.

I went to Carbondale feeling quite calm because Gerald had put up our two pre-lit Christmas trees—one upstairs in the first-floor living room and one downstairs in the walk-out family room. Getting the heavy boxes out of closets and putting the trees together and getting the lights correctly plugged is a big job, and I dread doing it every year. However, since Gerald had done all the difficult part for me, I knew I would enjoy decorating them when I got home.

I finished the upstairs tree last week. Tomorrow or next day, I yet need to add all the years’ accumulation of ornaments with their many memories to the downstairs tree. The colored lights, however, are pretty all by themselves. At our age, we have more decorations than we have a place for—most were gifts—so I have the gifts out. Big empty boxes are put back in the closet upstairs although that guest room bed is still covered with stuff. In the downstairs guest room, boxes are yet to be emptied, but soon will be.

No cookies are baked and probably won’t be since we aren’t supposed to be eating such. No cards have even been bought, and I may not send cards this year although I am reluctant to skip that pleasant task.

I just heard Gerald go upstairs and fix himself a sandwich or something simple for supper, so perhaps I should stop this and go join him. I am sure the store-bought chicken salad and potato salad are not in those booklets on healthy eating I was given at the hospital, but they are easier, and I will try to do better soon. Decades ago I pretty much quit frying things when Gerald’s dad was diagnosed with diabetes. He would often eat the noon meal with us if he was working on our farm. Much later in efforts to avoid the family diabetes on the advice of Gerald’s’ nutritionist, we switched to skim milk, less salt, and whole wheat pastas and bread. We use sweetener rather than sugar. But one new hospital pamphlet frowned on sweeteners as well as sugar. That may be a problem.

In the old days, I always used lots of raw veggies in our meals—cauliflower, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, spinach; but with both of us on warfarin, we were warned not to use much of those healthy vegetables. Healthy menus become complicated as you grow older. Since I have foolishly used food for comfort and to calm anxiety, my biggest need is to simply eat less. I am trying, but this is not easy for a food addict. Nor for someone whose duties require often being in the kitchen although I notice Gerald helping more all the time. Gerald is disciplined about his eating, so he both shames and inspires me. When there are just the two of us here, I have helped out by limiting his desserts to fruit, angel food cake, and goodies baked with sweetener. When he first started farming, I knew how much he enjoyed cake, and I would be sure there was one if I thought he was having an extra hard day. Now there has to be company in the house for him to enjoy such bounty. That makes it easier to take it easy.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Christmas Month Begins

After the five days with family coming and going at Woodsong for Thanksgiving, the house is quiet now with just Gerald and me here. The leftovers have been eaten up or frozen. Big platter put away on top shelf. Fall decorations put away. Before the week is up, I hope to tackle the beds to get them in shape for Christmas company.

When Mary Ellen brought me home on Wednesday from a stress test at Carbondale, Jeannie and Rick and their little dogs Lucky and Leah were soon here. Gerald was meeting with the farm tax man preparing for the end of the year. Although she did not know I would be gone all morning, Jeannie had PMed me [Translation: Private Messaged on Facebook] the night before not to worry about their lunch, and so I didn’t. Later that day Cecelie and her boyfriend Ryan arrived, and there were six at the kitchen supper table. Soon Trent and Brianna came over and pulled up a chair before the younger generation started their cousin activities.

Mike and Leslie and their dogs Millie and Sidney arrived Thanksgiving morning from Nashville. Mike, a competitive weight lifter as well as personal trainer, was ready to help Katherine be able to join us. Her van was at the shop, and so she could not come in her motorized wheelchair as she has done in the past. Mike was able to lift her into the hand-pushed chair we used to use successfully and then into the car, out of the car, and back into the chair to be with the family.

Her aide followed us to the farm and stayed to help Katherine at the table until time for her to go to her own family gathering. I wish I could say it was a successful visit for Katherine, but that chair has become extremely painful now. After she had secured at aide at the last minute for the holiday, Katherine had assured me she would be okay not to join us, and I felt bad at how much she suffered to come. But she did get to see everyone and catch up with the rest of us on all the family news and see Cecelie as a brunette. I was very glad for her to have a day out of that hospital bed with her high intelligence so bored by television. Mike and Rick helped take her home and put her in bed just as her aide arrived to take over.

Although there were 14 here for dinner, an entire branch of our immediate family was celebrating in Texas. My sister’s large family has always celebrated there, and my brother’s family in central Illinois. Gerry and Vickie’s family haven’t been able to automatically make holidays since they moved out of state. That is appropriate as years pass and family spreads out. This year, however, Elijah traveled to Texas on his break to visit Sam and also his Illinois State friends down there. Sam and girlfriend Anna were playing with the Baylor band (in the rain) that weekend. So Elijah, Sam, and Anna joined their cousin Erin and the Archibald gang at Gerry and Vickie’s house. The only one not at either Woodsong or College Station was our Geri Ann, all alone in Oregon. Of course, she had friends there, but we were all thinking of her and wanting her with us. She will soon be home for Christmas break though.

Preparing for the cold winter ahead, Jeannie was riding her bicycle anytime the weather allowed it. After she filled the slow cooker with her healthy green beans we all like and fixed another crock pot with potatoes to bake, she took off. With a 2 o’clock dinner planned, it wasn’t necessary for me to get up early and put on the turkey this year. (Yes, just as Gerald predicted, it was nearer 3 or maybe after before we actually sat down to eat.) As always, Mary Ellen was busy cooking at her house making her yummy corn casserole her kids requested and the green bean casserole the men like. She’d brought over pies the day before. All the grandkids pitched in and helped prepare the dinner. Cecelie and Ryan set the tables and prepared pre-dinner snack trays. Brianna fried the required okra for us, and Trent stirred the giblet gravy until it thickened. Leslie had opened and bowled two cans of cranberry sauce and provided other help, but the home-made apple pie she brought proved she can cook as well as she can sing. I don’t know what else everyone did since I was with Mike getting Katherine here. Everyone put the food on the buffet and the little tables Gerald set up for us.

The cutest thing at the dinner besides my three granddaughters was the tray of adorable turkeys the grandkids made the night before. Somehow Oreo cookies and chocolates and candy corn were put together to create the little birds. They were so cute I couldn’t eat one, but I sure enjoyed seeing them!

The next day toward evening Gerry arrived after traveling through Texas rain. He was on his way to pick up bird dogs and to hunt with friends in the Carolinas. He had not been able to sleep Thanksgiving night and finally gave up and hopped out of bed and started earlier than he meant to. I think he may have pulled off the road to rest some, but he was tired out when he got here and meant to shower and go straight to bed. Even so, he stayed up when the gang gathered for supper and generously kept us laughing with his stories. Sometime during the evening, Elijah arrived from Texas and joined his cousins in their evening plans.

Early the next morning Gerry and Gerald went to someone’s house for breakfast with bird dog friends; and after picking up dogs, Gerry started off for the last lap of his journey east somewhat later in the morning than planned.

On Friday and Saturday people were sleeping in, seeing friends, and going shopping for bargains. Jeannie and Rick left at noon Saturday, and then Cecelie and Ryan and finally Elijah left Sunday during the morning. Gerald and I rested and watched our favorite preacher on his computer before we came upstairs and began eating left-overs. My first-to-arrive Christmas card was in the mailbox Monday and as always from Valerie Martin, my cousin's Jack widow. This morning on the breakfast table, I found a note from Gerald saying he was going to Union County to have breakfast with his brothers. Life has returned to normal.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Good Birthday

From Friday through yesterday, my birthday was celebrated, and I enjoyed it all. Since I had an appointment in Carbondale right before lunch on Friday, Gerald said he would take me, and then we went to the Asian restaurant that friends Bill and Mickey Tweedy has introduced us to a couple of weeks ago before they left the state for a month. I loved the beauty of the rows and rows of artistic food displays there, so that was my choice for a birthday dinner. Afterwards we went to an afternoon movie Woodlawn, which we both liked. There were only three of us in the theater! Going to a movie is a rare treat for us, so I felt that was all that needed to be done for my birthday. But when I got home, there was a package and card from my sister in Amarillo. The next day there was a package and card with notes from Gerry and Vickie in College Station.

Yesterday, my actual birthday, I had birthday breakfast with my youngest daughter, birthday supper with my oldest, shared birthday cake with my husband at lunch, and heard from my middle daughter and son on Facebook. I received birthday phone calls from my 87-year-old brother Jim and my almost 90-year-old sister Rosemary. That was one of my best treats! I was also overwhelmed with all the community and friends’ wishes on Facebook. So heart warming!

The special day started as soon as I got out of bed at 8:30 when I heard a voice. My youngest daughter Mary Ellen, who is local, was there. In addition to a card and a very lovely birthday cake saying, “Happy 82nd, Mama,” she gave me a gorgeous autumn floral arrangement. That takes care of our Thanksgiving dinner table centerpiece that I had not solved yet! As if that were not enough, she also brought a beautiful poinsettia to start my Christmas decorating. These were added to the dining room table with other gifts and cards including a sweet one from my husband. Before the celebrating was over, the table was almost full.

The best part of Mary Ellen’s visit was the time she took to have a breakfast with me. For some years, I have taught everyone in our house at breakfast time that if they wanted an egg, all they had to do was this: Spray a small safe microwave dish, break an egg in it, and beat with a fork. Put into the microwave for 30 seconds and, viola, you have a scrambled egg. I always say to use a real dish rather than anything plastic for the microwave. That may be perfectly silly. But just in case plastic in the microwave is not safe, why take a chance?

Just recently, I think from Katherine, I learned that you do not have to beat the egg if you put a saucer on top! Thirty seconds and out will slide a very pretty white egg! That has been my latest routine breakfast treat with toast. I am usually too full then and have to remember to eat a banana for a snack later in the day. (I do breakfast by kicks that I get on—for a long time it was a raisin bagel in the microwave and a cup of yogurt. Then cold cereal and a banana was one long-time breakfast. Gerald always gets up early, punches the button on the coffee maker I fixed the night before and fixes his own breakfast—either the microwave scrambled egg or quick oatmeal.) Anyhow visiting with Mary Ellen over our eggs and toast was fun. She had me talking and laughing, which is not something I do often in the early part of the day.

At lunch, I cut the birthday cake for Gerald’s and my lunch dessert. Then that evening I went into Katherine’s house and took a piece for her and a second piece for me. (I was wondering how we would eat an entire cake—and suddenly it was half gone!) Usually if I feed Katherine a meal, I do not eat along with her as that is too complicated, but I fixed enough chicken strips from her freezer for both of us. I baked her a potato in the microwave as she asked and added a green salad and a bowl of lovely fruit that Connie, a wonderful long-time aide, had prepared for her. After all the necessary adjustments and putting her bed up so she could eat, I was able to feed her and eat my chicken strips at the same time. So we had supper together. She asked all about my birthday and if anyone had sung happy birthday to me. Since no one had although Gerald mentioned it, Katherine agreed she would if she could. She sang ever so sweetly, and I teared up as I was afraid I would. And then we ate birthday cake together,

Now that multiple sclerosis has damaged her voice, I rarely have the emotional strength to listen to a recording of her beautiful music from days long ago when she was a professional singer, a teacher, a children’s librarian, and story teller. She could hold an audience rapt whether it was an auditorium of soldiers at an army base or 100 or more preschoolers at her public library.

I drove home early watching carefully for deer, but only saw one which turned away. After filling the next week’s supply of prescription pills, I went down to play on the computer and enjoy more birthday greetings until I was finally tired enough to go to bed hoping I would fall quickly asleep. I am embarrassed at writing such an egocentric blog, but that is all that’s happened so far this week, and with family coming for Thanksgiving break, I may not have time to blog again for while.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Beautiful Belle

The curtain opened and there was a brunette peasant girl with apron and her basket going to the village bookstore. I caught my breath. How could that possibly be our youngest granddaughter—one of our three blond granddaughters? First of all, in my mind I often still see her as the tiny little girl who was too shy to sing. And always the blond hair defined her pretty looks. If we had not known that our Cecelie was going to be Belle in Beauty and the Beast at Freeport High School’s fall musical, I don’t think I would have recognized her.

We had traveled all day one more time to see one of FHS’s outstanding theatrical events. Freeport is only 12 miles south of Wisconsin, and going up the length of Illinois is always a challenge. But we have met that challenge first to see Leslie and then Elijah in their plays, musicals, and the traditional Show Time performances. We have missed a few, and I still feel regret over any we did not see even if we have a video. Now it was our joy to see the youngest Eiler sing and act.

We pulled off Interstate 57 to stop at Cracker Barrel in Urbana for lunch and use up a Christmas gift card one of our kids gave us. Then on Route 72 over to Bloomington where the long trek up Route 51 and 39 begins. We look forward to seeing the windmill farms to break the monotony, and there were new ones since our last visit.
Finally at the edge of Rockford, we turn west for the brief last lap of the 400 mile trip. I love the big farm houses along Route 20 going back to a time when farming was more profitable in the region there. Arriving in Freeport, we stopped for flowers and checked into our motel room, and then headed to Jeannie and Rick’s, where Jeannie had chili and sandwiches and yummy pies waiting for whomever and whenever people showed up. Cecelie and her boy friend Ryan had to get to the theater early. Elijah was there from Jacksonville already, and so were Leslie and her husband Mike. Jeannie’s food was good, but the colorful fall arrangements and bright paper ware on the table and buffet pleased me even more. I’d already enjoyed the autumn door wreath and the large pumpkin by the door—Jeannie explained it had grown up this summer from where last year’s pumpkin had ended up! (I had to turn my back to avoid looking at the huge unseasonable Christmas tree in the lobby/lounge at our motel.)

The night before, Leslie and Mike had arrived from Nashville and slept at our house, but they left Woodsong hours earlier than we did since they and Rick were going up to Madison before the musical. There a car was waiting for Leslie that she had managed to buy long distance from two states away thanks to a Nashville friend formerly from Madison and to her dad for checking things out. I had to be impressed that our little lion (Leslie) could deal so well. Leslie’s old car was to go to Cecelie, who needs it to get to work. Somehow Cecelie manages to work at a local consignment store as well as taking her studies seriously. Knowing how hard our children and grandchildren work, I feel irate if anyone talks about today’s youth lacking a work ethic.

Jeannie had secured great seats for us, and we crowded into the almost full house and greeted Cecelie’s other grandmother Rosie and friend Jerome, who always come over from Naperville for these events. Soon warning lights flashed; and before we knew it, a loud voice filled the auditorium introducing the story about to begin

Then the curtain opened and we were transported back in time. The student orchestra always impresses me. Once more it added greatly to the atmosphere whether the scene was happily bucolic or frighteningly dangerous.

Not only did Cecelie and the other students gift us with great singing and acting, but the sets were outstanding this year and created by a technical math class of high school kids and their math teacher. I was sitting by the head of the math department (Rick) and I could tell he was rightfully proud. Both the village set and the villagers’ singing and dancing were delightful even if they did not appreciate Belle’s love of learning. Of course, someone did because there was a book store in the heart of the village.
Even more extraordinary was the set for the enchanted castle with its stairways, upper rooms, and many details that were proof of the skill and care of the students who made it.

The screen that came down for the forest scenes was magical with its three dimensional illusion. Although they did not, of course, I felt the characters were actually going in and out of the big trees on that flat screen.

There is a long tradition of outstanding theater at Freeport going back at least if not earlier to Jeannette Lloyd, who designed the theater. (I think for her doctorate.) After the final stage calls and ovations, we joined the traditional throngs that crowd an upper hallway to hug and congratulate the cast, present bouquets, take photos, and greet alumni from previous shows. (This is one of my favorite parts of the FHS experience.)

There I discovered from a huge banner on the hallway wall that the student orchestra was over 150 years old! In 1864 during the Civil War, someone started at orchestra for the students there! (Many of our high schools in the southern end of the state were not started until the 20th Century.) I would love to know the story of the origin of that orchestra. I am certain some dedicated teacher musician worked overtime to start it just as dedicated teacher musicians have worked overtime to continue its success.

We skipped the after-theater reflection time at Jeannie and Rick’s house because we were tired enough to go straight to the motel and bed. Gerald would let me sleep in the next morning before he left to go back home for some obligations there. I was staying and catching a ride back with Leslie and Mike so I could see the Saturday night show. After we arrived, however, we found out that for the first time in 26 years, there was to also be a Saturday matinee since this show was so great for children—some of whom showed up in Belle dresses. So I saw three of the four performances! I would have loved to see Thursday night’s opening too, of course, but I felt well blessed.

Mary Ellen and her kids, Trent and Brianna, broke away temporarily from the Taylor family plans to stay in Freeport that night and see Cecelie. (As it turned out, Trent did not have to work that weekend after all, so he came too.) Thus, I had one granddaughter on stage and four grandchildren and a grandson-in-law in the audience cheering her on. Housewives don’t always get promotions or noticeable rewards, but I cannot describe the joy and pride I felt for the family love present that night. (And I knew that Cecelie’s other states-away four cousins would have liked to be there.)

Jeannie fed nine of us for dinner before the Saturday night show; and to my amazement, I learned she was hosting the cast party afterwards. Fortunately she had explained to me that she always fixes more food than necessary—just in case. Well, the case was that instead of the 30 or so she expected to come, there was probably 60 or so! She had enough food! Since they have an ordinary size house, I am not sure how there was enough room, but it sounded fun to me. Mary Ellen, Trent, and Bri were able to attend the party and the kids spent the night. Mary Ellen picked them up the next morning. I think the last guests left at 3 a.m., and Jeannie got to bed at 4. Pretty good for such a recent cancer survivor I’d say. Everyone was still high from the fun and excitement of the night before when we gathered to drive down to Cedarville for worship.

I think Jeannie fed eight of us lunch (plenty of left overs) before the siblings had their last visit together. Finally we had to make our exit, and I crawled into the back seat of Leslie’s new car for its journey to Woodsong. The sunset and clouds were beautiful as we drove that long stretch to Bloomington, and then I slept some when darkness came and before we stopped for supper at Effingham.

We were at Woodsong by 10, and Les and Mike went right to bed since they had to get on the road by 6 the next morning. Les had taken the day off to register her car and stuff; but Mike, a personal trainer, wanted to make his 9:30 appointments. (He explained to me that he had someone cover for him until then, but he usually starts meeting clients at 5:30 on Monday mornings.) I told them goodbye as well as good night because I knew I’d be sleeping in. I went downstairs to check email and Facebook and ruminate on the weekend’s fun.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Happiness Is

Happiness is seeing Katherine smiling in bed with a pile of Sam’s photos on her lap. The framed one of him in his Baylor band uniform was especially good looking, and now it and the others are over on her bookshelf where she can see them from her bed. Sam’s girl friend’s mother had been down to Waco to see her daughter Anna, and she brought the photos over when she came to visit Katherine and report on the Texas visit.

Happiness is the relief on Brian and Mary Ellen’s faces knowing harvest was good and is all done for another year. Now they are ready to enjoy Brian’s mother’s visit from Arizona. And Mary Ellen and Brianna are ready to travel up to Freeport to see niece and cousin Cecelie in Beauty and the Beast.

Happiness is not one new job but two for grandson Trent. One at the college—something to do with computers and the Internet, which is what he is studying and excelling in. (You can tell by my vagueness how little I understand this new age we live in.) The other job is at the theater, and I know how much Trent enjoys and understands the film world, so I like thinking about his getting to be in the theater with the new films. I do not see Trent much now; and with two jobs plus college classes, I can expect to see him even less, but I am so proud of his ambition and hard work.

Happiness for my son Gerry is and has always been tramping in the fields with a bird dog. Right now he is training newly acquired dogs and loving it. Lots of other things make him happy too, but this bird dog hobby lets him be outside enjoying autumn. Adding a grandson or so to the mix even makes his pleasure greater.

Happiness for Gerald has always included being useful and working hard for others. As always, he is doing just that. I appreciate that he has time to pitch in and help me with little things more than when he spent long hours working at the barns or in the fields.

Happiness for all of us has been knowing Gerald’s youngest brother Keith is feeling better under the care of DuWayne’s doctor. When a Glasco brother is too sick to meet up with the others for breakfast, it is concerning. His brother Garry also was recently unable to meet others for breakfast. Garry’s family has had a flurry of hurt ankles: Vera’s broken in a car wreck, Vicki Sue hurt for awhile from a trip and fall, and Kerry out of commission the remainder of the harvest season when he broke his ankle so severely that the doctor warned he must not do anything or he might mess up those pins. So Garry came out of retirement and finished harvest! But this week on Tuesday, Gerald was able to go down to the Jonesboro restaurant to meet his brothers and nephews and be spoiled by the sweet waitress there. He came home in a very good mood.

Happiness is having a grandchild in the house. Leslie and Mike arrived at Woodsong from Nashville on their way to Freeport to see Cecelie’s show but also to pick up a new car in Madison. They will be leaving, Leslie hopes, by 6 in the morning, but it is nice to have them sleeping here tonight.

Happiness for me has always been when I know my loved ones are content and enjoying what life brings them. And there has been a lot of that lately. There has been a lot of difficulties too, of course, but happiness is dwelling on the good things and being grateful.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Autumn Leaves and Other Things

Driving to Katherine’s house on Saturday, I was finally seeing yellow and light orange leaves on the trees along the roadway. Bright red was very rare. The next day, however, as we drove to church, there seemed to be considerably more scarlet, and the orange was brighter. But there is still much green on the trees, so I hope the color has not peaked yet. Does anyone know why the coloration comes almost two weeks later than it used to? For many years, I counted on fall beauty by the middle of October—not the end.

Years ago I was directing a play at Marion High School--The Thread That Runs So True about Jesse Stuart’s rural classroom The students were to decorate the room with colored leaves. Right on schedule when the play was performed, the leaves were gorgeous and available for us. For many years our church went to Ferne Clyffe on the middle Sunday of October. Many couples camped there for the weekend; and then on Sunday, some wonderful volunteers cooked the fish, hush puppies, and potatoes for our noon-time feast, which we supplemented with other dishes and desserts. Always we were surrounded with glorious colors as we worshipped, and I am still warmed by those wonderful memories. Why are we now having to wait so long for the leaves to change?

Although we are still eating sliced tomatoes twice a day from the garden, they were gathered awhile back. Frost killed the plants over a week ago, and Gerald.cut down them down along with the tall blackened orka stalks. Now we can look out the kitchen window and see the flourishing and still green strawberry and asparagus that Gerald planted last spring. Green tomatoes are in the garage wrapped in newspaper waiting for later use after ripening there.

Most fields are bare now as farmers have finished up their harvests. I feel relief because I worry about our son-in-law as he stretches his days into the night making sure their crops are safely gathered. I hope he is catching up on his sleep, but he probably is catching up on other things neglected during harvest. Mary Ellen not only works hard for her real estate customers, but she is also there pitching in at the end of a day helping move machinery or bringing late night suppers to the field. I breathe easier when they do not have to work so long and so hard.

Gerald has worked for several weeks cleaning out ditches on the other farm so that the water will drain off freely. He has chopped and knocked down saplings and thick tall weeds with his tractor equipment and prepared the sides to plant with fescue. It is now up and ready to grow through the fall to hold the soil in place.

I no longer do much fall housecleaning although I have washed a few windows. I am most proud that I went through a box of papers in the garage that the mice had found. I have no idea why that paper mish mash and those magazines were ever put in the garage in the first place some years ago, but they were. Now most are in the trash barrel to be burned, and the field mice will have to find something else for nests when they come in during the cold weather.

While Gerald was in town yesterday, someone handed him a flyer announcing “Stand Up for Vets” on Saturday, November 7, at 1205 West Pleasant Hill Road in Carbondale. If you know a veteran in need, offer to take him or her there. Warm coats, blankets sleeping bags, and other items needed for the cold winter ahead will be handed out. There will be hair cuts and health checks, educational and resume information, hygiene and food items, applications for housing, drug and alcohol treatment information. I had been reading Susan Walmsley’s Facebook posts about collecting, laundering and filling racks and tote bins in her pole barn with clothing for these veterans. I am so grateful that people like Susan and Christ Community Church are using this fall to help people prepare for winter challenges. If you aren’t located to be able to donate to this cause, remember that all our soup kitchens are in need right now because of Illinois’ budget problems. Help the helpers get ready for winter needs if you can.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Family Stories and Mysteries

Long ago I became interested in family history. Gerald had a friend in Hawaii who was interested in his family story. Soon after we were married, we visited him and his family when they came home to Kentucky on furlough. Chester urged us to look into our family while we could. My grandparents were dead, but we took a day and visited Gerald’s grandfather and great aunt and wrote down everything they told us about their parents.

A good many years later, Mother had a long-time letter writing friend who was into genealogy and sent Mother some of the forms she used. I wrote down some stuff my parents told me on those forms. My parents had been contacted by a distant relative from out East who visited them and many other Martins in Southern Illinois. He recorded what he could find out and shared it. Together he and the family worked to find information and put a tombstone on the grave of my great great grandmother at Busby Cemetery in Goreville.

They were never able to determine positively her death date, but they were able to make a good guess about the year. No one knew where her husband Valentine Martin was buried in Clinton County, but Hannah Alice McCullough Martin Nichols now had a marker. And since the family story was that Mr. Nichols had abused her and, thus, caused a son to go rescue her in a wagon drawn by a team of oxen, the name Nichols was left off the tombstone. I carried on a brief and rewarding correspondence with the family researcher and one of my dad’s elderly first cousins who had been located, but they both passed away soon after.

We never expected to find out much about Valentine except the story passed down that he died from a fall from a horse in 1858. He and Hannah had come to Illinois with the McCullough family in 1829. My Uncle Homer told me once that the Martin family had a preacher in its background even before my great grandfather William Felix Grundy Martin came to rural Goreville and married Louisa Jane Craig, built a home in Sleepy Holler after the Civil War, and with a brush arbor revival meeting changed a nearby place called Hell’s Holler to Happy Holler.

This was long before the Internet, but a decade or so later, I must have written someone for information on the McCulloughs since I thought Valentine was as far back as I could ever go with the Martins. I can’t remember to whom or how I made inquiries. I do remember that suddenly I was surprised to have strangers send me long hand written letters and large envelopes full of papers with information—some relevant and some not. This would have been wonderful, except those letters contained questions, and it seemed to me that I “should” respond as generously as the other person who had tracked me down and shared so much material. (The McCullough family had lots of people interested in their antecedents; and at that time, one of them published a newsletter on that clan.)

That was a very busy time of my life with elderly parents to help care for as well as four children to rear. I soon knew I was in over my head. I had to give up genealogy as a hobby. I swore off and promised myself to never bother anyone again with a question. I am sure this early correspondence must be in this house somewhere since I am addicted to paper and seldom throw anything away.

Genealogy was not one of my plans when I retired in 1998 after a brief late-in-life career. Learning how to use the Internet to write emails was my plan. Almost immediately, however, I learned by email that a couple of our Illinois Martins had connected with Jeffrey Martin, who had found our common ancestor in the Carolinas and even a generation beyond that back in Virginia.

I was so hooked to learn that Valentine’s father was Elder William “Cedar Billy” Martin, a preacher who came to Bedford County, Tennessee, with his family in 1817. Oh, so that was who Uncle Homer had heard stories about when he was a young man. Cedar Billy inspired a Yahoo group named after him, and the first summer of my retirement and for a long time afterward, Cedar Billy was one of the most used phrases in my life. Jeffrey Martin helped us with his encyclopedic accumulation of Martin information. Emails flew back and forth between a couple dozen people from several different states. Someone would make a conjecture, and later someone else would be able to find the correct information. So the emails contain both true and false stories as we tried to piece together what went on two centuries before. They are still on file out there in cyber space, but no one has written an email for a long time now.

In the meantime, I had become involved with a cousin’s daughter several states away, who did all her research with hand-written letters and had accumulated much information in that way. Carolyn was a highly trained psychiatric nurse, and she was as fascinated as I had always been with my precious great uncle—Oscar Isadore Martin. I had written a couple articles about his influence on my childhood summers at Mount Airy Farm. Oscar had entered the state mental hospital when I was only eight, and I assumed that was the first time. Actually it was his fifth and final time. Carolyn found out that starting at age 31, he would go in for eight months or a year or so and be discharged and evidently be all right for awhile. (He had been discharged in 1931, two years before I was born, and was not readmitted until 1942.)

Mother had told me of his early marriage and the death of his wife, so I always felt sad for this sweet uncle who was so good to us kids. I am positive in my own mind that Mother did not know that Oscar had a baby son when his 16-year-old wife died of spinal meningitis and malaria in 1908. She told me about the possibility of his having an illegitimate child, and she would have told me if she had known he had a son with his wife. Why did my father not tell her?

I found out about his son Hebron when Sandra, the daughter of my childhood playmate and second cousin, started working on family history. In the 1920 census, she found Louisa Jane still living in Sleepy Hollow. Living with her was son Oscar and her grandson Hebron, born in 1908. Oscar was in the hospital for the second time when Mother and Dad married in August 1923 so Hebron was no longer with his grandmother, or Mother would have known about him.
Oscar was discharged in December 1923. Louisa Jane died in 1924, and Oscar went back to the hospital at the end of that year for the third time. Hebron’s maternal grandmother died in 1925. Cousin Sandra could not find Hebron in the 1930 census but found where he had married and divorced in Missouri, joined the service in Utah, and then lived in California after World War II.

Before I knew about Hebron, I had interviewed a couple of older people (now deceased) who were younger than Oscar but remembered him. They told me how everyone liked Oscar, and one told me what a fine horseman he was. On Saturday farm families came to town to sell their eggs and cream, shop for groceries, and visit with their neighbors on the benches built into the front of the buildings there on Goreville’s main street.
Oscar would ride his horse Fowler down the then dirt street standing up on him and playing his banjo. He could get that horse to shake hands or do anything, and he enjoyed showing off his skill. I feel certain folks enjoyed his show.

Well, because of lack of time, I do not work much on family history any more although the need to finish essays I have started on various ancestors hangs heavy on my mind. However, for some reason I woke up at 3 a.m. recently and started pondering the mystery of Hebron and why my father had not told Mother or us about him. I have to think it was so disturbing that Hebron had disappeared from the family that Daddy did not want to talk about it. Anyhow a couple of days later, I wrote an email to my older brother and sister and a cousin in Oregon trying to stir up memories to see what they knew about that era of my dad’s life before he married Mother. I heard back from my cousin who answered a question I asked about her dad’s time line. And since then, I have called both my siblings, who also never heard tell of Oscar’s son Hebron.

But my brother Jim did tell me some great stories about Oscar’s brother Sam. And one new story about Uncle Oc. Sam ran a baling operation for many years, and Jim said Sam was baling hay for Daddy with his team and bailer. (Or was it a threshing machine?) Evidently it was necessary to dig a hole for the machine’s wheels to be placed in to keep it stationary as the horses moved around it in a circle. They finished and were ready to leave the field, and the machine had to be pulled out of that hole. A neighbor man was driving the team and he could not get the horses to work together to do this difficult task. He became angry and was yelling and whipping the horses unmercifully. Oscar went over and asked to drive the team. Jim, as a young boy, was there with them, and he said Oscar talked to the team and calmed them down completely. Then he asked the team to go forward and pull the heavy machine out of the hole. And they promptly did. I wish Hebron could have been there helping to see his dad work with the horses.

Monday, October 12, 2015

What's Cooking?

What’s cooking at Woodsong? Not much these days. With just Gerald and me living here, I have to be careful to not cook too much. Both of us have a slightly restricted diet, and that cuts out some foods. I cook our noon meal; and if I am at home I fix us a light supper of some sort. Sometimes it’s left overs. Oftentimes soup and a sandwich in the winter. Sometimes bacon and tomato sandwiches when the garden is producing tomatoes. Occasionally hamburgers with fries baked in the oven. Barbecues made from left-over roast or sloppy Joes once in awhile. Right now we are eating sliced tomatoes for lunch and supper.

If I am at Katherine’s at supper time, Gerald finds something easy to fix from the little freezer in the garage. Before I go to bed, I make the coffee for the next morning and lay out dishes on the table; and Gerald, who gets up early, makes his own breakfast—sometimes an egg in the microwave or sometimes oatmeal or even cold cereal.

I don’t particularly like to cook anymore, and I was never what I consider a good cook, but I have always liked to feed people. I like having people sitting around the table. I do not like cleaning up after a meal, but it is a necessary task. And when guests are here, I get help.

When I heard our granddaughter Erin was coming last weekend, I ran by Small’s, our local grocery, on Thursday afternoon because like lots of other people, that is where I like to buy meat. I restocked for me and Gerald, and I bought lunch meat and sliced cheddar cheese just in case Erin might need a snack some late night. (She didn’t.) I knew from experience that her schedule would be crowded with catching up with friends and the other side of her family, and it was. (I also have caught on that the kids and grandkids are very thoughtful about not wanting me to have to cook for them.) In fact, on Friday, Mary Ellen brought over a meat loaf and a dish of au gratin potatoes, which turned out to feed us for three meals since Erin ate lunch with her Gma Shirley before her hair appointment and met up with her buddy Candice for supper. I put some of the meat I’d bought into the freezer.

Just as I was getting up Saturday morning, Mary Ellen and Brianna showed up to take Erin down to Creal Springs for some sort of junkque festival going on there with people selling crafts. (I did not know it was at a barbeque place.) I knew Erin planned to go to the Johnston City Homecoming game, and I browned the large roast I’d bought at Small’s, surrounded it with veggies, and put it in the oven. I hoped someone might be there to help us eat it at lunch time. Brianna had come in carrying a fresh loaf of banana bread, and I had already finally remembered to take from the big freezer a pumpkin pie, one of several that Mary Ellen and Bri had made for Thanksgiving last year. It was left over, and I stuck it in its pie container in the freezer thinking I’d get it out sometime when Gerry dropped in. However, as the year went on, it was covered up and I forgot to get it out.

So when the craft shoppers came in laughing and showing off Erin’s pumpkin people, there was desert on the buffet along with the roast and veggies and sliced tomatoes, As it turned out, they had eaten at the barbecue place (not knowing about the roast), but they joined me and Gerald and ate dessert. This was a hit since they could send a photo by phone of Erin eating pumpkin pie to torment Gerry.

It had been so cold that morning at the junkque affair that Erin had decided not to go to the football game as I guess most of her reunion friends also decided. So we were all able to sit talking and giggling at the table as long as we wanted. Our centerpiece was Erin’s pumpkin people—Papa, Mama, and Baby Pumpkin heads made out of small blocks of wood painted orange and with faces created by ancient bolts and odds and ends from someone’s old toolbox or rusty tin coffee can perhaps found in their grandfather’s garage. Each face was unique, and they were cute little creatures. Erin is excited collecting seasonal decorations for their apartment when her new husband comes back from South Korea next year. We conjectured how much we could make if we got crafty with stuff from Gerald’s shop, and decided such little block heads could also be made into Santas or Valentine faces. Erin assured Gerald he could saw her out 90 blocks any time for her to figure out a project for her language arts students to create.

Before long Brian was able to drop in from harvesting and eat with us. Finally Trent came by to see his cousin Erin, and he made a hit with his red Mario hat. He had already eaten at whatever his morning activity had been, and eventually people had to leave and Erin had to get ready for her 10th class reunion dinner. Most of the roast was left over to be put in the fridge for this week--where the remains of Mary Ellen’s meat loaf already was. At least the pie was gone, and I was glad there was still some banana bread left because it was so good.

Erin had gone shopping with Gma Shirley on Thursday, and the Johnson family was gathering in for Sunday dinner in Erin’s honor. She was excited about getting to see her cousin Jeremy’s new baby boy. When she returned to pack for her flight back to Texas from Saint Louis, I enjoyed hearing about little Kinsley, who had brought a frog into Gma Shirley’s house. Since Shirley is one of the best cooks in our community, I had to appreciate all the largesse that Erin pulled out for us of a large plastic bag—many large slices of tender succulent ham, meat loaf, the die-for dumplings Shirley makes, corn, green beans, and cheesy broccoli. I do not know how many Shirley fed at her house that day, but she fed us most of this week! I took Katherine supper that night, and one day a piece of left over ham on our lunch table was wrapped in bread for Gerald to carry a sandwich to the field for Brian even though Mary Ellen might have already fed him. Between the left over roast and Shirley’s food, I did little cooking last week.

On Saturday, I did fix us a couple of good pork chops from Small’s with vegetables and tomatoes before I went to Katherine’s. When I returned home, Gerald told me he’d just heard that Gerry and Vickie would be coming through Sunday night. Gerry had worked a hitting clinic at Indianapolis, and then in his typical style had picked up some dogs to take to Texas via Shelbyville, Tennessee, where he had to be at 9:00 this morning.

Wanting me not have to cook on Sunday, Gerald suggested we try out that Creal Springs barbecue place the kids had said was so good. However, when he called Mary Ellen to see if they could go with us, she explained they were not open on Sunday. So we ended up going to Harrisburg to our favorite Kentucky Fried Chicken buffet and ate a wonderful meal there with its never-ending line of hungry people. Then we took a leisurely drive home down Old 13, which I had not been on for a couple of years. It sounded as if Gerry and Vickie might be arriving around supper time, and I figured I’d whip up a cake mix and make a light supper.

However, before I started, Gerry texted his dad that I was not to fix supper. They were going to take us to town for dinner. That is what we did after we enjoyed watching two little half brother puppies frolic in the front yard as they were fed and watered. We had a good visit and went to bed early since Gerry was to meet a friend at 5:15 in Marion this morning. He was taking the friend’s dog back to Texas to train. Gerry and Vickie were so quiet leaving the house this morning that even Gerald did not wake up.

I did cook us a bite of lunch today, and I guess I better do something for our supper—if I have not forgotten how.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

A Family of Teachers

After a weekend here to celebrate her tenth high school class reunion, granddaughter Erin left us with hugs and we waved her off. There was a text when she arrived in Saint Louis with the rented car to be gassed up and turned in. Another text when she was ready to catch her flight. And just as I was drifting into sleep an hour or so after Sunday midnight, I heard the loud musical signal that Gerald’s phone plays when a new text comes in. Loud enough to hear over the noise of a tractor, I suppose. I had not been waiting for it, but I knew instantly who it was and why. Gerald slept through it, and he would find it on his phone when he woke up at five or six. I rolled over and thanked God our granddaughter was safely back home in her apartment in Texas. I knew she would be getting up in a very few hours to go spend the day teaching 7th graders and then after school coaching the season’s sport for girls.

Erin is one of four women who together coach volleyball, basketball, track, power lifting. Seems like there was a fifth sport. Right now I think the season is volleyball. No softball for that age group, and oddly with all her softball coaching experience, Erin seemed to find that refreshing and less pressure on her. I do not doubt she is a fine coach.

But what I really am deeply pleased about is her class room and the 90 kids who come through it daily. I love hearing about her activities to help these kids be better writers. I enjoy hearing her enthusiasm and understanding for her “sweet babies” who may smart off or cuss her or who might even in an extreme case throw a desk across the room. I like knowing she is teaching them that is not the way to be. I like knowing that she does not take personally the bad behavior that results from a child’s life-time of home or neighborhood mis-education. (And sometimes even a lifetime of brutality.) I hate hearing the teachers who shake their heads and talk about how bad the students are today and, thus, excuse themselves from trying to earn their paycheck. This is Erin’s third year of teaching and the first in this city, and she has every intention of making a difference in students’ skills and, consequently, in their lives. And she will.

Many years ago I listened to Katherine’s stories when she taught inner city 7th graders sometimes taller than herself. Some were dangerous. Yet I never heard her talk bad about a student or hesitate to go talk to a parent in the projects if needed. She deliberately never locked up her purse; and if I am remembering correctly, she only lost one twenty dollar bill. Good teachers love their kids and never give up.

I love hearing our daughter Jeannie tell how she interacts with students in her classroom turned into an art studio. The kids are sometimes put into shock mode when they realize they must create and are not expected to do the same thing at the same time as a neighbor. For many kids this is an unsettling new experience. The freedom of not coloring within the lines (so to speak) has to be dealt with emotionally before their innate talent begins to express itself. This takes lots of time and lots of patience.

My own little long ago teaching experience was always in schools with less of the behavior challenges that Erin. Katherine, Jeannie, and my niece Kyna have faced. And I never taught long enough to master some things. So I vicariously enjoy hearing these descendants’ successes. Yet what many people do not understand is how far we have come from the days of one-room schools when teachers were routinely run off by over-grown 8th graders who liked to throw their weight (and fists) around. Yet the successful teachers—even tiny young women sometimes—could subdue the miscreants and charm kids is into learning, which all humans love to do if they find they can. (I am sure the teachers today who have died from guns would prefer yesterday’s fists, but I am avoiding that subject.)

I suspect teaching is like everything else—its success depends on determination. If one method does not work, something else needs to be tried. Quitting is not an option for a good teacher. I loved hearing my sister-in-law Vivian, whom I am sure was an excellent teacher, tell about a night class she took on discipline near the end of her career and how much she learned from that class. Good teachers are always learners and open to new ways if the new ways are better.

I did not mean to blog about teachers tonight, but education is one of my strong interests, and I got carried away. There are three or four teachers in our area whom I consider master teachers, and I always follow their careers when I can. My grandfather, who died before I was born, was a teacher. I had his teaching exam results framed for a gift for my brother, and I am ashamed to say that I loved it so much that it is still hanging on my wall. I always delighted in my brother’s stories of teaching also. One story: he became a principal in a poverty-stricken area and the basketballs were constantly being stolen by kids who did not have them. He quickly let them check them out and take them home with them, and then they were returned and none were ever stolen again.

My great grandfather did not want his son to leave the farm and ride his horse so far away the 20 miles or so to Carbondale to become a teacher. An older man in the community loaned him the money, and he was always grateful to that kind man, my daddy told me. Both my parents were teachers, and I heard them arguing their somewhat different teaching philosophies at many meals. (I saw how they respected differing opinions, and so today I value honest debate.) I saw them pile into a car with other teachers to go to Carbondale to take yet another night class in hopes of completing their degrees. Besides the loved ones I have already talked about, I have one granddaughter who taught before she had her three sons, and I have two grandchildren in their last year of college who are planning on careers in special education. I like to think this pleases that grandfather I never met.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

In His Hands

Thanks to Bob and Oleta Barrow and their hard-working reunion committee, once again former college roommates, old friends, and new friends met up for the annual gathering of Baptist Student Union alumni from Southern Illinois University. And when I say “old friends,” those words are even more descriptive than in years past. After climbing the stairs to the fellowship room at Murdale Baptist Church in Carbondale, we were surrounded with huge bulletin boards illustrating the reunion theme “He’s God the Whole World in His Hands.” Globes centered each attractive table.

We had been invited to bring items to tell where we had been and what we had done in God’s world. A long row of tables against the wall showed the many places where members had served and their diverse activities. Cal and Sharon Reynold’s display truly took us around the world with their international mementoes. One favorite display for me was A.B. and Rosalea Plunkett’s with one of her beautiful paintings and with photo cubes of the many churches in Southern Illinois where they had served. There were beautiful quilts made by Beverly Walker and Jane Walker Sims, lovely art work by Betty Morgan Molen, Carol Smith’s music and her service related items, needle work by Oleta and wood work including a neck tie of wood by Richard Stewart. I’ve yet to read the handouts on the Global Day of Prayer that Alan and Evelyn Jones displayed, but I will. I did not know Dr. Bill Fulkerson, and I did not get to meet him and introduce myself. But I learned from his display that he cared about immigrants and their children, so I know I would like him. There were other displays I have forgotten, but not knowing Oleta would ask me to blog about the reunion, I failed to take notes.

It was so good to meet up with Johnson Hall friends--Nan Stephenson Stogsdill, Irma Richardson, Verona Withrow Highsmith, and Alice Ann Yewell Weeks. All are widows now, and I was inspired by how well they handle their loss and continue to serve. Nan gave me an update on her twin Ann and on her older sister Jo Pippa, whom I looked up to as a role model. Becky Ferris Searle was special to me also at Johnson Hall, and Gerald and I always enjoy visiting with her husband, Dr. Howard Searle, who has worked bringing hope and health in so many places in the world. Becky is still training a new generation of teachers in northern Illinois.

After the greetings and hugs, we quieted at the tables for Ken Cannon to welcome us. Cal Reynolds read John 10:27-29 in recognition of our theme. Pastor Paul Hicks also welcomed us and blessed our evening meal, and the men’s ensemble from Murdale blessed our ears with their singing. After dinner, Charlene Purnell reminded us again of our theme when she played a favorite of mine: “This Is My Father’s World.” Roger Deppe led us as we sang together, and then we were entertained by Jim Cox dressed in his cowboy boots and jeans. Jim has a great voice and great sense of humor, but the lovely music that came out of his guitar made me wish he’d also played a solo with it. Maybe next year!

Then we became serious and fought tears when Bob and Harlan Highsmith gave a patriotic salute for our wounded warriors.

Sharon Reynolds led us in table games and an opportunity to share memories of our BSU days. People like to recall the fun things and the pranks. This is the first time that I’ve attended that no one told the story of why there was a tiny window added to the prayer room. But A.B. and Rosa can tell you if you don’t know. Bill Hollada told the story of the Doyle Dorm guys who blasted Carbondale with lively music one night—not a hymn. I loved Carol Stickey’s story of how she met her husband who had climbed up into a tree and eerily called her name as she passed below. And loved hearing how someone ate in the cafeteria with girl friends but went for coffee afterwards to sit alone—knowing full well that the fellow interested in her would join her to get acquainted. They have been drinking coffee together ever since.

As we left for our local homes or hotels, some stayed behind to practice in the sanctuary under the direction of Murdale’s music director Steve Shirk.

On Friday morning we came together again for more visiting over coffee and yummy rolls and coffee cake before the first session started in the sanctuary at l0. Once more we sang together and then listened to Carol Smith’s powerful piano solo”To God Be the Glory.” Before Darrell Molen spoke remembering those who have died the past year, Ray and Charlene Purnell reminded us of Horatio Spafford’s response to loss and grief as they played “It is Well with My Soul.” Next we were rewarded with the beautiful medley of hymns that the choir prepared for us the night before.

Jim Cox gave a tribute to Helen Green Galloway, who was our reunion leader for so many years. He had been passing around his phone showing the flowers we had sent to her hospice room. It was appropriate that he again used humor because humor was something Helen was famous for. I have never known anyone as facile at repartee as Helen, and we are grateful for all the laughter she gave us. Her hospice room is constantly filled with family and friends enjoying her last days with her when she is not sleeping. There is a Facebook page devoted to messages if you want to have current news. Students at Johnston City High School called “her kids” are raising funds for a scholarship to be given in her name in appreciation for her many years of service as guidance counselor. If you should want to contribute, I would suggest you contact Holly Kee on Facebook. Never retiring from service to others even as she approached 90, she continued her many volunteer activities including flirting with the old men as she delivered Meals on Wheels, teaching her Sunday School class, and leaving laughter wherever she went.

Ginger Wells challenged us with her devotional “God Is Not Finished with Us Yet.” I find myself repeating this to myself. To challenge us further, Becky Searle led in a “Presentation of Nations” replete with facts and many nations’ flags. Nada Fuqua led us in the song all of us former G.A. members cherish: “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations.” The love and the teachings of Jesus are too important not to be shared.

We recessed and returned to the fellowship hall for the catered lunch that featured a lavish potato bar and a salad/fruit bar and even a table with more pie from the night before! After lunch, we were called to order a final time with Bob leading us in the joyful “Go Tell It on the Mountain” with Carol at the piano. Next was a wonderful treat by special guests, the Korean Musical Group.

Our final challenge was a message by Jerry Day, retired Illinois Baptist State Association regional mission strategist. Once more we heard the comforting knowledge that God has the whole world—all nations—in his hands. We were reminded that He has taught us to love and serve all people wherever we are in His world.

The hard working committee members who helped Bob and Oleta were Ken and Jo Nell Cannon, Roger and Audrey Deppe, Earl and Delores Dungey, Calvin and Sharon Reynolds, Carol Smith, Marc McCoy, and Gene and Ginger Wells. They began their planning the day after the last year’s reunion and prepared a program meant to encourage us to experience joyful service, inclusiveness, international concern, and especially loving one another as Jesus commanded.

They could not have known that the Pope, the leader of America’s largest Christian group, would be gathering great crowds as he also emphasized joyful service, inclusiveness, international concern, and loving one another.

I thank God that our American forefathers had the wisdom to give us religious liberty with a separation of church and state, which of course has allowed our churches to flourish. The teachings of Jesus shine through our culture when we work together to help the poor, the sick, the marginalized, long-time neighbors and new immigrants in our midst, We sometimes see the fearful and evil things and do not recognize the enormous good being accomplished in the world by God’s followers. People are longing for God’s warmth and wisdom, and we have the opportunity to shed God’s love knowing that in as much we have done good to one another, we have done it unto God.

Near the end of the reunion, I bumped into Lora Blackwell-Kern and she is still volunteering with the Fellowship of Baptist Educators, which she has promoted at previous reunions. Although I’d early seen Verona Highsmith, I had not really visited much with her. At the reunion’s close as Gerald was looking at the notebook with letters from those unable to attend, I saw Verona and hastened over. There I was surprised to meet her younger sister Valerie Withrow Cole. Someone else came up to visit with Verona, and I had the opportunity to hear about Valerie’s post SIU life when she and her husband lived in the Washington, D.C., area until their retirement near Branson in Missouri. She had worked on the staff of the First Baptist Church where Presidents Truman, Clinton, and Carter attended, where she was privileged to participate in many exciting things and to have Jimmy Carter as her Sunday School teacher. There is never enough time to see everyone or get acquainted with the ones we don’t know, but our lives are richer from the visits we made these two days.

Thus, we are grateful that although Bob and Oleta cannot continue leadership for another year, Ken and Jo Nell Cannon and Calvin and Sharon Reynolds are willing to coordinate a perhaps simpler version of the reunion possibly at Giant City State Park. I am sure they would welcome any help and suggestions you might give them.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Harvest Is Here. Ready or Not!

Our son-in-law Brian started harvest today. Gerald happened to be working on clearing a drainage ditch near this field, and he even got in on a bit of the excitement. In the weeks and months ahead, the thick tall brown corn in area fields will gradually be replaced by stubble.
Mary Ellen, who has been much too busy lately, dropped by this morning for a visit before taking a client an offer for her home and then helping her husband with harvest. She bragged on my timely seasonal decorating, and I did not know what she was talking about since I looked around and saw nothing new. Oh, yes, a couple days ago I had found in storage the little hanging harvest doll and put her up by our front door, a door that I rarely use. I’d forgotten about it, but Mary Ellen had enjoyed it as she came in. I had meant to check to see if it was still up because it blows off easily, so I was glad to hear the doll was still in place. (As she left, sure enough the doll had blown onto the porch floor, so Mary Ellen put it back up for me-- probably a little better than I hung it since I am a couple inches shorter and do not like standing on stools as I did when I was more steady on my feet.)

Our family members in Texas were at various football games today. Even Geri Ann had arrived back in Texas after her last short summer course finished Thursday in Oregon, which uses terms rather than the semester system. She has a week’s vacation at home before their fall term starts. Sam was playing trombone with the band for his first game at Baylor today. The other night, Katherine enjoyed sharing with me Sam’s telephone report to her on his new life away from home down at Waco. I loved all of that report except that he had sometimes studied until 3 a.m.

Gerald and I tried last night to use up some of our Christmas gift cards. We went to another movie on the movie gift card from Jeannie and Rick, but we still have some left on their restaurant card. We had gone to the late afternoon showing of War Room. The timing was perfect for a late dinner at the nearby steak house to use the card from Gerry and Vickie. We had to be impressed with the exceptional service there. (There was an apology for the kitchen being behind, and they kept trying to make it up for us. But we did not think it was that slow,) Our young waitress not only kept the coffee cups and basket of rolls filled, but then brought us a container of rolls and yummy butter to take home with us! Mary Ellen got enjoy one of those with us today at lunch to go with sliced tomatoes and a sausage/veggie casserole I’d fixed in a skillet on top of the stove instead of the oven.

The post Labor Day political commentary is constant, but we’ve had a summer full of it already. I was delighted today that finally I heard more than a sound bite or the size of the crowd for Bernie Sanders. It was a relief to hear someone talk the issues and not waste our time insulting someone’s looks or calling someone stupid.

We’ve had plenty of hot summer weather this week, but the most telling thing to let us know that autumn is almost here was today’s cool weather. Gerald relished it and came in tired this evening from cutting fragmite from that ditch. He said he bet he would sleep good tonight. I had not been in the garden all summer except to stop there and admire his spring-planted strawberry and asparagus plants. But when Gerald said at supper he was going out to pick the okra and tomatoes, I grabbed a plastic bag and followed him out and started at the other end of the row. I was chilly when I came back in the house!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

September Starts with a Visit from Gerry

Together Gerald and I stood at the garage door and watched our son depart down our long driveway in his rented white van with a trailer full of dogs behind. He had called Gerald that he was coming on bird dog business and invited Gerald to ride up north with him, but Gerald could not accept because of a dental appointment. So Gerry only came by Woodsong on his way back from northern Illinois.

Sometime after 2 this morning, he arrived after long journeys to Louisiana and then up north with little sleep, and he fell into bed where I had left the lamp on for him. (I was in bed but still awake at 2, so that is how I know it was after 2.) Gerald had gone to bed early as usual but then woke up and was up when Gerry arrived. I slept until after 9 as usual, but Gerald and Gerry had already been up early taking care of the dogs and visiting a sick friend of Gerry in another town and back to the farm before lunch. Gerald had already brought in tomatoes from the garden to send with Gerry to Texas. Tomato recipients keep telling us they are the best tomatoes they’ve ever eaten. (I am inclined to think that enjoying delicious garden ripened tomatoes is sort of like every year believing your Christmas tree is the most beautiful one yet.)

Sliced tomatoes were on the lunch table with spaghetti that I’d planned before I knew Gerry was coming. But in his honor, I did slice up okra, dip it in cornmeal, and fry it in oil the way my mother-in-law taught me and the way our kids and grandkids like it. Gerry’s response was gratifying. And we had Gerald’s watermelon for dessert.

Then Gerald and Gerry picked the okra to send home with him and loaded in the tomatoes, watermelons, and cantaloupes. Knowing our three great grandsons would be eating the melons was very pleasing to Gerald since he had heard how much they liked the ones in sent home with them after their visit at the first of August.

Gerry told us at lunch that those three little guys were surprised at the seeds since their store-purchased ones had been seedless. I have smiled all afternoon guessing what three little boys were going to be doing with stray watermelon seeds in their mouths. Fortunately, their parents handle three boys beautifully and understand mischief like that. And fortunately, these three have good manners and kind hearts as well as all-boy energy and normal brotherly aggression.

Our social life this summer has included a trip to see friends in Ziegler and being invited to enjoy an area-famous loose beef sandwich at Maid-Rite in Christopher, visiting new friends and touring their antique-filled home including their bedroom with her wedding gown from over 50 years ago displayed on a manikin, and then seeing lots of friends from near and far at Katie and Alan Ozment’s 50th wedding celebration. Of course, Gerald regularly goes down home to Jonesboro to join brothers and nephews and others for breakfast at JR’s. (He takes any house guest willing to get up at 5 a.m. to make this gathering.) And a dear friend from down there phoned when their classmate and wife came down from Peoria for the McClure reunion; so once again we joined this group for supper in the back room at Anna’s Mexican restaurant.

Another summer highlight came last Friday when Gerald was caught up with all his projects and invited me to take off for a late lunch at the restaurant at top of Pirate’s Bluff looking out over the Ohio River at Cave-in-Rock State Park. The thick greenery beside the road and the deep summer green of the trees on the hills and in the hollows of Shawnee National Forest made the trip there especially lovely. I had never before seen hummingbird feeders held by rubber suction cups, but those feeders on the windowed view of the river and the large potted flowers on the deck outside brought hummingbirds and butterflies to enliven our lunch with their beauty. We spent the rest of the day driving along the river and enjoying the river towns we both find charming. Soon we may be returning as we often do to enjoy the fall coloration so abundant there, but I was grateful to be able to see this season’s green glory.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Tranquility on the Farm

Life has calmed down, and we are enjoying the in between season with summer winding down and cool days hinting of autumn almost here. Gerald is bringing in tomatoes, okra, cantaloupe, and watermelon from his garden—far more than we can eat with the company gone. So he is taking excess to friends and the soup kitchen.

At the beginning of last summer I filled the hummingbird feeders as usual, but after an unexpected several days in the hospital with blood clots, I could not keep up with preparing the sugar water and cleaning and sterilizing the feeders, so I gave it up. This spring I decided to not even start although I knew I would miss the busy little creatures. And I do.

However, that decision gave me one of my most delightful moments this summer. Sitting at the kitchen table and looking out the glass doors towards the lake, I observed a very large dragonfly sitting on the top of the wire hanger where the one of hummingbird feeders was supposed to be.

Seeing a dragonfly always carries me back in memory to the ones I loved at our small pond over the hill from our house at Mount Airy Farm, where we spent summers. This pond is where we swam and even took baths sometimes despite having muddy feet when we left the pond. The far side of the pond was edged with cattails, and the dragonflies flitted among them. I can almost be there again and smell the damp aroma of the sticky mud when I see a dragonfly.

The dragonfly visiting our deck was using the hanger as its post to catch its meal. It would sit perfectly still with its lovely wings spread out. Then it would dart off I assume to catch a gnat too small for me to see, and then return to rest again. I would pleasantly relax and rest with him as I waited for his next flight. I was mesmerized, and I am not sure how long the dragonfly and I shared this time together. I had hoped it would make it a habit to sit there, but I have not seen since.

Most of us in Southern Illinois always feel a surge of pleasure when we see deer despite the damage to crops and the danger on the road. Late at night as I come home from Katherine’s, it is not uncommon for a flock to be scared by my car lights as I come in our long driveway, and one by one they leave the lake running and cross in front of me heading into our neighbor’s field. I stop and hope the last slowpoke has crossed before I go on. My favorite sightings this summer included a single large buck running bedside the road at the edge of our son-in-law’s corn field and then the time that twin spotted fawns ran beside my car before turning into the woods there. Family members have seen triplet fawns in our fields, but I haven’t yet seen them. Nor have I seen the albino deer that our next door neighbor posted a photo of on Facebook. Two neighbors further away chimed in they had seen her, and I am keeping my eyes alert in hopes of a sighting.

Small pleasures are important mood elevators, and they are plentiful during this end-of-summer season.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Cousins Week

Cousins Week is officially over. Elijah just left Woodsong to see a friend in Madison, Wisconsin. He and Trent had gone down to Cadiz, Kentucky, last night to meet up with Lige’s sister Leslie, who drove up from Nashville. Brianna had left the day before to drive to Michigan to see a friend. Sam was up early this morning to go to work as he has been helping out with his high school’s annual band camp this week as well as being here at Woodsong enjoying Cousins Week. Despite the late night hours, Trent managed to make an A on his summer statistics exam Wednesday. Erin got in on Cousins Week by a fortunate schedule happening, and I was glad because she could give her younger cousins some good advice. And I think Sam’s friend Anna has been officially adopted by the group.

Back when I wrote about only one pair of tennis shoes in the front hall, Elijah had read that blog and hastened to tell me that I did not need to worry about their absence. The younger gang of cousins were already texting and planning on “Cousins Week” the first week of August after they finished summer activities and before they started school again. Unfortunately, Geri Ann is busy right now with a short summer term at Oregon and had already left Texas. Our youngest grandchild Cecelie was working full time this summer at the consignment store, so she could not come down join the college kids. I had to be proud of her!

Erin and Geri Ann had planned to come earlier in the summer, but the rained-out postponed softball camps foiled their plans. So Erin, at least, was finally getting to come up between workshops to prepare for next year’s teaching. For me, getting to meet Josh Simons, her new husband over in South Korea, by Skype was one stand-out moment of her visit. Next summer we get to meet him in person. Erin was kept busy seeing all of her loved ones including Candice’s toddler twins, fishing on our lake, and walking either 4 plus or 5 miles down to Gma Shirley’s house. Since her wrist watch and her car disagreed on how far it was to Shirley’s house, Erin was perturbed about that, but I was impressed either way. She was also able to see her parents because Gerry and Vickie arrived here the day before she had to get on the road to return to her new apartment and participate in the new teachers’ orientation workshops. She and her mom had time together fishing out on the lake that afternoon.

Nine of us all together were at Brian and Mary Ellen’s house for dinner in Erin’s honor last Sunday. Mary Ellen has had a busy week at work, sometimes feeding cousins, and attending Brian’s gall-bladder surgery on Tuesday. (This was same-day surgery, and he says he did good.) Nevertheless, in spare moments, Mary Ellen has been in and out trying to see her brother but has kept missing him. But as she was leaving last evening, she met up with Vickie, who is also doing a lot of walking, and they had a long visit down by the lake. I watched the debates, and I enjoyed discussing them with Sam when he came in at the end of the evening.

Gerald and Gerry took off yesterday for northern Illinois on some kind of bird dog business and are due back this afternoon. Vickie is spending another afternoon with her mother and tonight is having dinner with her brothers and families. So right now the house is empty for a little while and the quiet gives me time to reflect and enjoy recording all the comings and goings here this week. Thinking back on all the fun is one of the blessings of company. I am wondering if Cousins Week will become an annual affair.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Trent--A Star with Star Wars

A little boy’s sweet singing woke me up Thursday morning. Soon I was at the kitchen table with Aidan, 9, and Payton, 5,—our youngest and oldest great grandsons—Tara and Bryan’s boys. (Their Maddux, 7, was still in bed as I think he inherited my sleep genes.) Since their family moved to Texas, it is a rare treat for us to get to see this family. They had come downstate the evening before after a week or so visiting Bryan’s family in northern Illinois, attending his cousin’s wedding, and taking the boys to downtown Chicago.

At the breakfast table with me, Payton would periodically say wishfully, “He said he would come back.” He was talking about our grandson Trent, 22, who had come over for the family supper the night before. I bet Payton repeated that sentence at least ten times. Because of the sparsity of visits, I am not sure he knew Trent’s name.

Following supper the night before, the three boys had immediately been treated to Trent’s complete attention all evening. Trent had engaged the boys in discussing Star Wars videos, which evidently they have three or so that they watch. Since Trent has all of them, he quickly drove back to his house to get the latest to share and he came back with his collection of masks of the characters. (Although I have walked through the family room with it playing many times, I have never sat down and watched an entire Star Wars video. So I have no idea what to call these characters, but the masks were impressive.)

Trent did a masterful job of keeping three active noisy boys entertained downstairs while the rest of us enjoyed sitting around the table visiting and laughing. Tara asked Brianna questions about her spring internship, so we were able to hear a little more about that. We asked questions and caught up on Tara’s involvement with the sports facility that Ty and Kesha Warren are building in College Station. But mostly we laughed and enjoyed being together. By the time we left the table very much later, Trent had two out of three boys asleep for the night. Mary Ellen, Brianna, and Trent left for their house. (Their Brian had to be out of town this week.) Trent’s next day agenda was to finish the week’s statistics class at John A. Logan since the college is not open on Fridays during the summer term.

But the next morning as Payton remembered all their fun, he said with a certain awe more to himself than to me, “He said he had waited seven years to show us Star Wars.” After breakfast and Payton’s final, “He said he’d come back,” their day was instantly filled. First with the usual farm activities with Gerald and then a visit down the road and onto the next one for a visit with Tara’s Gma Shirley. Tara’s cousin Jeremy—just her age and who grew up with her--could only come to see her during that part of the day because of his shift at the mine.

For the boys, it was important to see Jeremy’s daughter Kinsley, just Payton’s age. For Tara it was important to meet his new son Bentley, four-months old. Even better, she had been promised she could care for the two children after Jeremy went to work as his wife was already doing. Bryan had to make a trip back to the farm once for new sets of clothes for the boys because Kinsey and they remembered a previous time when they were allowed to play in the mud. And after that reprise, they were hosed off and left to dry in the sun while Bryan came over for clean clothes.

After lunch and more play at Gma Shirley’s , the gang came back to Woodsong to fish in the lake. (I think they had almost as much fun digging worms in the garden as they did using them to fish.) Gerald was extremely impressed with very feminine tiny Kinsley who not only caught a fish—a blue gill she explained—but she was totally comfortable with handling worms and poles and taking the fish off the hook. While Bryan and Gerald supervised that activity, Tara was delightedly and smugly engaged rocking Bentley. I came in from Katherine’s and even got to hold that smiling baby boy just a bit when he woke up. Occasionally I heard mention of Star Wars and Trent’s promise to come back.

Somehow Bryan and Tara had to get those four older ones rounded up, re-dressed, hands washed, etc, along with any necessary care for Bentley and get out of our house and over to Gma Shirley’s to meet up with Kinsley and Bentley’s parents for the roast beef supper that Shirley was cooking for them.

Belatedly the two adults and five children were finally heading out through our kitchen back door when Tara and I realized Trent had arrived and was coming in the front door! It was a crisis moment, but we literally hid Trent from the kids and Tara promised they’d be back in a couple of hours. Of course, I figured that was probably not possible since everyone over there is as eager to see these far-off loved ones as we are, and Kinsley is not likely to be satisfied with ending play time with cousins any sooner than possible.

I was concerned that Trent might be bored with just us two oldsters here at the farm. But he contentedly ate a bite of supper with Gerald and me, helped Gerald with a computer problem, and took a little nap until the boys returned. (Trent is not only our Star Wars ace, but he’s also our computer and Internet expert since he is on his college’s cyber security team.) It was late when the Archibalds arrived back at the farm, but Trent had the next video ready to go and the boys were soon once again enthralled. And very rapidly asleep after that day’s heavy play. Tara and Bryan were able to move the two youngest into a bed, but Aidan was still sleeping there on the floor with a blanket when I carefully crowded through his feet and the wall when I moved upstairs after my Facebook fix in my office. With enough dim light left on, he later put himself in a proper bed.

By Friday morning, we were all excited because we knew Erin had spent the night close enough to be arriving at the farm sometime around noon or soon after. So the Archibalds decided to dally long enough to see her before they took off for their challenging trip home to Texas. Erin has moved from College Station to an apartment in Belton since her new school is at Temple. Her family is going to miss seeing her as they were able to do this past year. Although he likes to sleep in on his day off, Trent had arrived early enough to let the boys finish the last video, and then he helped them dig more worms to go fishing again out on the lake.

We’d almost finished our bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches with potato salad, corn on the cob, and chocolate cake when Erin drove up and joined us. Everyone wanted to hear about her new husband Joshua and how to pronounce her new last name. Josh is now stationed in South Korea, and they communicate daily between midnight and 2 a.m. but are able to Skype on the weekends. While we visited with Erin, Tara quietly cleared the table and filled the dish washer. Then they had to go. It was difficult to tell the Archibalds goodbye, but Erin’s presence made it less lonesome.

Erin, Trent, and I ended back sitting around the table again while we visited. We heard about the writing workshop Erin had just completed for her new position. This workshop made her miss her annual coaches’ gathering, which she regretted, but she had loved the workshop and the presenter. Erin’s enthusiasm was contagious. Trent and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her materials and hearing all the ways she’d been shown to get sixth graders writing, editing, and sharing their work. And we read Erin’s essay in the booklet that the workshop had published. Trent, who reads widely, is interested in everything, and Erin made us both want to see kids bending over their desks happily writing about their lives. It will be fun next summer to hear her tell us how well these ideas and methods worked.

Too soon the afternoon ended, and she was off to her cousin Sarah’s house as Sarah and her husband were cooking dinner for her. I ran in to check on Katherine but did not stay long in town as the aide had things well under control.

This morning I woke up to Gerald and Erin’s excited conversation as they breakfasted together, but by the time I got up, she was already out walking—clear down to her Uncle Louie and Aunt Chris’s place! Soon Mary Ellen showed up here hoping to visit with Erin, so I benefitted from that. Mary Ellen has been working so hard all summer that she couldn’t stay long as she had finally planned a mother-daughter day with Brianna after bringing her home from Orlando near the end of June. Erin was taking Gma Shirley out to lunch, so I am hoping it worked out for Mary Ellen and Bri to lunch with them as Erin invited after she found out she’d missed Mary Ellen’s early morning visit.
After a quick lunch, Gerald went to Cape Girardeau as his brother Keith is once more back in the hospital, and later I ran into Katherine’s to give afternoon pills. While I was there, Sam and his friend Josh came in from the cruise to the Cayman Islands that Josh’s family took the boys on for their high school graduation celebration. I knew Erin was going to supper tonight with her friend Candice; and when I got back from Katherine’s, there was her note on a napkin with a drawn heart reminding me where she was. Now Gerald has returned, and we have talked over his visit with Keith. We have also talked to our son Gerry who is headed back to Texas early in the morning. He and Vickie are in the East where was he scouted a softball player. It is not easy keeping track of our family during these busy summer months.