Friday, February 27, 2015

The Grass Is Greener

One of the first things I noticed on our recent trip to Texas was the green grass everywhere. I even saw one man out using his lawn mower the first day we arrived. Later we were to see both a hotel and a restaurant bordered with beautiful blooming beds of bright yellow and deep purple pansies Spring was obviously coming earlier down there.

This was our first trek down to visit our son Gerry and his family since they left Georgia and became residents in College Station, where Gerry became associate head softball coach at Texas A&M. His oldest daughter Tara Archibald also took employment in College Station, and she and husband Bryan and their three young sons (our only great grandkids) are just five minutes away from Gerry and Vickie’s. Bryan continues to work in his home and only flies to the head office when necessary.

Erin, Gerry’s middle daughter, left Corsicana and took a job teaching language arts to sixth graders in Rockdale and coaching the high school softball team there. She chose to live with her parents and drive to Rockdale even though she often has to get up at 4 to run before she makes the trip to school. She usually has the entire upstairs to herself. There is one bedroom decorated with many softball awards reserved for the youngest daughter Geri Ann, who is away most of the year. She is a junior at the University of Oregon. We slept in Geri Ann’s room, and we were happy that Erin and Tara and Bryan and Aidan, Maddux, and Payton were all so available to see each day.

Our trip was planned to coincide with Geri Ann’s softball team’s foray to Texas. We arrived on Sunday in plenty of time to drive with Gerry and Vickie and all the family to see the University of Oregon Ducks play the University of Houston on Presidents Day. Unfortunately, it rained hard on that holiday when Erin and the great grandsons were all off school. So plans were messed up, but the whole family was able to go up and have dinner with Geri Ann before she had to leave us for the team’s required study hall.

Tuesday was not only cold but very windy. By determination and cancelling other things, everyone but Erin did get to return to Houston on Tuesday to watch Geri Ann play and win their two games with the Houston host. Despite multiple layers of clothing we were cold. But the stadium with the Houston skyline rising up behind the outfield was lovely, and we were grateful for plastic seats rather than aluminum bleachers.

Wednesday was the day the Ducks were to play Texas A&M at College Station, and Gerry understood that we had to cheer for Oregon and be happy when they won. We were glad to get to see Gerry’s team and begin to learn the players’ positions. A&M had to leave on Thursday for their tournament in California, so our visit with Gerry was shortened. (And we were extremely pleased to learn after we reached home that the
Aggies had won all five of their games in that tournament.)

The Ducks were participating in a tourney hosted by Baylor University starting on Thursday, so for the next three days we drove to Waco’s beautiful campus. Undefeated Oregon played Baylor that first day and gave the Bears their first defeat this season. They then won their two Friday games, and on Saturday defeated North Texas before their final game, which was again with Baylor. This time it was Baylor who gave the Ducks their first defeat.

Despite Vickie urging us to stay longer at College Station, we left after this last game. So Vickie and Erin had come in their own vehicle, and now Gerald was driving again after enjoying being chauffeured in Houston and Waco’s city traffic. After gathering to greet Oregon at the game’s end and to say our final goodbyes and give our last hugs to Geri Ann, we traveled on to the Denton and Ponder area in Texas.

Before going back home, Gerald wanted to see friends who left Illinois and settled in
Texas. A native Texan, Bobby Sanders left our village of Crab Orchard and moved his family back home years ago. One of our neatest vacations was when we went down to visit Bobby and Katherine and then went on down to San Antonio and met up with Gerald’s air force captain. After Katherine’s untimely death, Gerald has returned several times to hunt or just to visit with Bobby briefly when Gerald was trucking nearby. We stayed up late talking and the next day had a long visit over breakfast at the local Cracker Barrel. By now, the weather predictions were pretty dire, and Bobby urged us to stay on and be safe at his house, but we had another visit we wanted to include in this trip.

When Gerald was in grad school at the University of Illinois, Don Dillow was our pastor. His wife Helen Ruth and I had toddlers the same age, and Helen Ruth was a real encouragement and mentor to me. We have had many visits and connections down through the years here in Illinois, but they finally left the Springfield area and moved into a beautiful home built by their son and became Texas citizens. Despite health problems that come with aging, they lead very active lives. They both looked great. Don still hunts and gardens. Helen Ruth still plays the piano and teaches Bible classes. We arrived in early afternoon, and talked hard and fast sharing updates with one another for a couple of hours. It was raining hard now, but ice was expected. The weather forecasts were worse and worse, and the Dillows urged us to hunker down with them and wait for good weather. It was tempting and would have been fun, but we needed to get home to Southern Illinois.

Fortunately, we kept to our plan to drive on into Arkansas, and we stayed at the same motel we stayed at on the way down. The wind and heavy rain made driving difficult, but Gerald didn’t seem to mind. Because of the predictions, we really weren’t sure how long we might stay there, but our roads were clear the next morning and we were able to complete our trip back home by late afternoon. Bobby and the Dillows were iced in for the next couple of days. Wrecks were common. I am wondering if the grass is still green under all that snow and ice,

Although we experienced rain and cold in Texas, we missed the ice and snow that shut down the schools here at home last week. (There was and is still snow on the ground, but the roads are clear.) We had a lovely welcome home thanks to two neighborhood teenagers who had come over and cleared the front sidewalk for us while they were off school.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Play Ball and Speak Up!

Although they were supportive of us three kids, my parents lived their own lives and did not try to live through ours.  I have tried to emulate that.  However, I find as I am aging, it is more difficult to have an engaging life.  With sickness in the family, I am pushed to keep up even the necessary tasks for survival. I really do not feel comfortable making plans with others since I may have to cancel out at the last minute.    Being involved with outside activities is next to impossible.  So my main social life is conducted on Facebook.  Every thing takes me much longer to do than in the past, and even worse I have to schedule rest for myself during the day.  I have said all this to explain why I may be relishing life through children and grandchildren more than through my own  more boring day-to-day activities. 

Last weekend we found out what it was now like to attempt to know what was going on with two softball teams.  There were ten games in two different tournaments that  we were trying to keep up with on college websites. (It was easier for us when we had three family members together at the University of Georgia for the last two years. Of course, we actually are still very interested  in Georgia’s games since we feel quite attached to Coach Lu Harris-Champer and the young women we loved to watch play for the Dawgs.  And they did good last weekend.)

Opening-season games started on Friday with our son Gerry and the Texas A&M team at the SoCal Collegiate Classic tourney in Los Angeles  and granddaughter Geri Ann playing with the University of Oregon at the Kajikawa tourney at Tempe, AZ.  We loved knowing that Vickie was in Arizona stands watching her daughter play as she has for at least 15 years.  (Before that Vickie was watching her two older daughters play while keeping one eye on little Geri Ann playing in the sand pile beside the ball field.)

The opening Friday games went well for both our teams.  Since University of Oregon was ranked 2nd in national pre-season polls, we were not surprised that they won over Cal Poly 8-0 in their first game.  For us, the thrill was that this was Geri Ann’s first time to bat for Oregon and her first time to pitch when she went in after four innings by Karissa Hovinga and gave up only one hit in the last three innings.  Nor were we surprised when they next beat the Texas Longhorns with a run rule 9-0 score.

A&M (ranked 24th in preseason polls) beat Coach Jo Evans’ alma mater Utah  with a 5-1 score in their first game of the season, thanks to a grand slam by Cali Lanphear.. They were not so fortunate, however,  when they had to go up against UCLA, who was ranked seventh in the nation. They lost 13-0.  But since A&M lost eight seniors last year, we were comfortable with a split in the first night of the tournament.

The next day, I was prevented from spending the day in Gerald’s office hovering with him over his computer and eating lunch there. One of Katherine’s aides from another  town, who was scheuleded to be there, had the brakes go out of her car and was stuck at home till her car got out of the shop. So I went in town to do what little I can do to help Katherine.   As it turned out, her evening aide then texted that she was in the emergency room again with her two-year-old so she couldn’t come either. So it was a long day for me and mostly I had to get caught up on softball with Gerald’s accounts of the games.

Oregon continued their winning ways defeating Northwestern Wildcats 8-0 and the North Carolina Tar Heels 8-5. Our excitement was Geri Ann’s first home run for Oregon.  But there was also  good news from Texas A&M. After beating San Diego State 9-5, A&M had their revenge in a re-match with UCLA by winning 6-4.
But the best news of all that night was from granddaughter Cecelie’s speech team from Freeport High School competing in their regional tournament for individual events.  Everyone of the team members qualified to move on up to compete in the Sectionals this Saturday.  We’d heard from Jeannie and Rick as they drove down to watch the events, so we knew they had a great day. Illinois is too long a state for us to attend speech tournaments, but I am a die-hard Pretzel fan for Freeport’s team.

I was pretty tired from Saturday and I needed to sleep late and take it easy because of some leg and back pain that has been handicapping me.  So we had a lazy Sunday and were back in Gerald’s office together to watch Andy Stanley preach on the  computer.

After lunch Texas A&M lost their last game to Purdue, but Oregon won 10-2 with the run rule over the Wisconsin Badgers with Geri Ann pitching a complete game. Oregon won their sixth and final game against Nevada 12-8.  Not a bad beginning with A&M winning three of five games and Oregon winning six games. 

 Facebook was full of rejoicing Freeport speech fans, and we were seeing pictures of granddaughter Brianna and her new friends in Florida.  I thought she was beautiful n her work uniform at Disney.  So even though my life is more restricted than I’d like with some muscle pain slowing me way down, I can vicariously enjoy grandchildren’s activities spread out from Florida in the east and Oregon in the west and the others in between.