Friday, May 27, 2016

Flowers, Losses, and Wins

Well, I guess I better throw out my second Mother’s Day bouquet. Maybe I can find a pretty iris from the yard to replace it. The night before Mary Ellen and daughter Brianna left to drive Brianna to Disney for another summer’s work, I’d heard that Bri, her brother Trent, and cousin Sam were having Friday night supper together. Come to find out, they bought their supper at the grocery store and came out to the farm and had a picnic on the deck. I was at Katherine’s. When I left her house and was pulling out of her loop street onto Duncan, I saw a car stop and kids yelling and wondered who those youngsters were.

Then as I turned the corner, here they came up behind me and presented me with a lovely bouquet that they said was a belated Mother’s Day gift. We had a laughing gathering until another car came up and I had to move on. There is nothing so energizing as young people out having fun! Their flowers came just as I needed to throw away the lovely bouquet Gerald had given me for being the mother of his children, so I have enjoyed them.

Last Saturday rather than this weekend was my memorial participation. I squeezed in a trip down to Busby Cemetery in Goreville between visits to Katherine’s house. I had bought artificial flowers in a timely fashion a few weeks before and they were waiting in the car. I felt bad that I had neglected the annual trip to Busby for a couple of years, and I was determined to have flowers on my parents’ and others’ graves this year.

As little girl, the third Sunday in May was always important to our family because this day was called Decoration Day where my father’s family were buried. Daddy explained to me once that because so many people in that strongly connected community had family buried in more than one cemetery, it was decided to designate different Sundays for different cemeteries. Then people could observe more than one day to decorate graves. I remember the flowers made of crepe paper that people prepared for the graves. Mother usually had iris and other fresh flowers to put in fruit jars and leave on our ancestors’ graves.

Three of my great grandparents’ babies are buried and marked with flat rocks stuck into the earth. Three of my daddy’s baby sisters are there near his parents’ graves, and he and his siblings placed an engraved stone for them. It was always extremely important to my aunt Myrtle, the only sister who lived to adulthood, that the little girls have commemorative flowers. Daddy taught me to honor the graves by not stepping on them but walking between them. This year as I walked between them, my elderly balance was challenged by the uneven grassy ground. I knew I might not get back to put flowers there again.

Yesterday was a lazy rainy day for me, and the rain today will probably make it another one. Yesterday I had to run to town for an INR, but I was back home in little over an hour. It was made into a very pleasant trip because I was able to accidentally visit with Saundra Jent just a bit in the waiting room before and after my INR. We had not seen each other in person for years although I consider her a very special and favorite person. She used to teach our kids at church and entertain them at her home. Her mother Marguerite Miller Hill was the first person who came to visit us when we moved to farm in Williamson County. I so loved Marguerite. I used to tell my kids if I had a flat tire or some other disaster kept me from meeting their school bus after a ball game, they could always go to Marguerite or Joyce Jean’s and either would take care of them. The disaster never happened, but having such wonderful friends gave me peace of mind just in case.

We spent last weekend watching softball. We were shocked last Friday night when our Texas A&M lost to Texas 5-0. All five of their scores were homeruns! One player had not had a hit since Valentines Day and broke out of her slump with one of these runs! We came back the next day and won against Boston and then Texas, so the chance to move on came the next day against undefeated Lafayette Louisiana. A&M thought they had won that game in the 8th inning and were cheering when the umpire declared the batter had stepped over lines no longer present in the batter’s box. So they lost 9-8 in the ninth inning, and thus did not get to play yet another second game against Lafayette. Freshman Samantha Show had pitched so many innings in this tourney that the Lafayette crowd gave her quite an ovation, which was certainly deserved.

Oregon, however, came through their regional undefeated and will play their first game in the Super Regional against UCLA tomorrow at 8:30 pm CST on ESPN. The 16 regional tourneys have been reduced to eight super regionals. So there are fewer games to watch this weekend. Some of the super regionals started yesterday. Again this tourney is double elimination. Their second game will be Sunday at 6 CST on ESPNU. If necessary, the third game will be Sunday at 9 CST on ESPNU.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Strawberry and Softball Season

Lots of rain lately with resulting mud have made it difficult for Gerald to keep his strawberry patch picked as quickly as he’d like. But that is only because he is a perfectionist; he has done a great job harvesting the lovely and delicious red fruit.

Although I really admire his attractive garden that I watch from my kitchen window, I still have not dared venture out and even tried to pick any. When younger, I have always picked strawberries on my knees. I know I could eventually get down, but I also know I would have a hard time standing back up. GRRR. Gerald bends over; and though it hurts, he believes it is strengthening his back.

His crop is fantastic providing us berries almost every meal, a freezer full for next winter, usually some in the fridge, and some he is giving away to other family members. I have helped burr a few, and I have washed and placed the pretty berries into the freezer bags. I’ve also made lots of shortcake using my mother-in-law’s method.

My mother made strawberry shortcake using pie crust she baked for that use. I think I also remember her serving shortcake to her club members once on the little sponge cakes sold for that purpose. And maybe one year when the Dairy Queen was the newest thing in the nearby town of Anna, I believe she served her club friends the sugared berries over that yummy frozen product--perhaps with a slice of angel food cake along side on the glass desert plate.

When I married Gerald, strawberry season was in full swing, and his father had a wonderful patch. I was amazed to find his mother used crackers instead of pie crust for her shortcake. In the years since, I have used both my mother’s and Gerald’s mother’s method. I also used the little sponge cakes a few times in my early wifehood, and once I baked the shortcake recipe in my wedding gift cookbook. That was a lot of trouble, and not particularly satisfying. But for many years, I make shortcake with crackers. Now I use whole wheat crackers; and for Gerald and me, I use Apriva—the sweetener from Kroger. I still use sugar when making it for others as I did the night of the tornado warning when some of the family came over and when I have taken shortcake to Katherine.

After watching and following Texas T&M and Oregon’s games last week and weekend, we made a point of listening to the Sunday night announcement where the 64 teams battling for NCAA World Series championship in June will start their journey in the sixteen regionals. A&M will be playing in Lafayette, Louisiana, and Geri Ann will be playing at home in the beautiful new Jane Sanders stadium at Eugene.

Although we were saddened, when A&M lost in their first game 5-4 to Louisiana State at the SEC conference tourney on Wednesday, it helped cheer us up that Gerry was able to unexpectedly quickly arrange to go to Eugene for Geri Ann’s senior softball weekend! Her mother was already there, and Tara was able to take her two youngest—Maddux and Payton—to cheer their Aunt GA on. (Aidan had a baseball game of his own, so Bryan stayed home in Texas with Aidan.)

Oregon’s series against Utah started on Thursday night, and it was quite a night! The Oregon Ducks won the Pac-12 conference for the fourth straight year—matching UCLA, the only other such winner in conference history in the years 1988-91. Cheridan Hawkins pitched a complete game and beat Utah 5-1 for her 20th victory this season. Gerry was able to see Geri Ann hit 3 for 3 and was part of the stand-up ovation the crowd gave the Ducks for winning the conference.

Unfortunately, the Ducks lost Friday night when Utah came back for a 3-2 win. Oregon’s Madi Bishop, a top-100 recruit last season out of Jonesboro, AK, scored both its runs—the first on an error Utah made on Alyssa Gillespie’s single bunt when Bishop raced from first to home. Bishop later blasted a homerun single over the left fence, but Utah made the last run and won.

Gerry was there Saturday along with Vickie and Tara and the boys to be on the field with Geri Ann before the game when Oregon honored its eight seniors. Then her family saw Geri Ann belt her solo homer over left field. Winning the series against Utah, the Ducks won 3-2 when Cheridan Hawkins once more pitched a complete game. Hawkins allowed only two unearned runs, five hits, two walks and had seven strikeouts. Obviously she is ready for the post season.

We will be watching at 3:30 CST Friday afternoon when A&M plays Texas on ESPN2, which will be A&M’s 27th appearance in the NCAA tournaments. And we will be staying up late that night because Oregon plays Fordham at 10:30 CST on ESPN2.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Spring Blessings

When weather cooperates, farmers are busy replacing the fields of henbit and wild mustard with plantings of corn or soybeans, Gerald said I was probably correct that those early plants equal out any nutrient depletion when they are plowed under. Best of all, he explained those plants hold the earth and prevent erosion. And they add organic matter to the soil. So they are helpful as well as colorful to look at. He said some farmers actually plant rye or turnips (a field turnip, not the table kind) to accomplish those tasks; and as the plant and roots deteriorate, better air and water passages are left in the soil beneath the planted crops.

Nothing is prettier than white dogwood blossoms peeking through greening woods, and that has been a major pleasure for me this spring. I am in the midst of facing up to what must be done for a tooth problem. The spectacular displays of dogwood along the highway made even the anxious ride up to the periodontist at Mt. Vernon pleasurable for me and Gerald.

We continue to watch college softball games and are more interested than ever as tournament time approaches. We even got an unexpected over night visit from our son Gerry back when A&M played at Missouri. Taking some batting cages up early in his truck, he swung by here. Gerald had debated driving over as we have done it the past, but seeing it on television was certainly easier. In the third game of their series last Sunday No. 18 A&M beat No.1 Florida 6-4. Today Gerry posted that they were 7th nationally in home runs, 18th in batting average, and 7th in slugging percentage. Go Aggies!

Oregon moved up to No. 3 ranking after a streak of winning shut-outs and players breaking school records. Geri Ann hit her 10th homerun this season last night. They will travel to California this weekend.

A friend started Katherine’s birthday celebration a day early with a gift-laden visit from her church girl friends. I made a homemade birthday cake and ordered in pizza for Gerald and me to join Katherine in her bedroom to celebrate. I have opened and displayed her birthday cards there; her husband’s flowers and the flowers of a friend have made the room festive. I read to her the more than 100 birthday wishes on Facebook, and she enjoyed reminiscing of those friends from the times when she lived a much different life than now--one full of activity, accomplishments, and challenges.

Unfortunately, one of Katherine’s long term aides, the oldest and one of the very best to get much accomplished in a brief shift, had to resign because of some health problems. She stuck it out through the need for infusing an antibiotic, and the last dose was given on Katherine’s birthday. We deeply regretted her leaving, but knew she needed a chance to rest and revive. So I have spent more time at Katherine’s house than usual trying to help out until she secures more staff. (Final exams at the local colleges have also played havoc with some of her aides.)

Her many bedroom windows open up on a lovely city park, and the activity there does add some variety to her limited life. Last fall, Gerald fixed a new television for her up in the air above those windows at just the perfect height for her viewing. Always good with electronics, she understands all the complicated choices that modern TVs have, and she has to repeatedly tell me step-by-step what to push to get shows chosen, watched, recorded, rewound, or whatever, while I still long for the days when one pushed an on and off button. But the television and some things on her phone (which is even more complicated than the TV) allow her keep up with sports, the political season, local news, and the current TV shows every one talks about. Since I am busy doing other tasks while there, I am not so up to date. (When I am in my kitchen at my house, however, I usually have the news on and try to keep switching from channel to channel as commercials come on. Nevertheless, I know the words to some of those commercials.

In addition to softball excitement, our singer/actor granddaughter Leslie got a call back on an audition for a nation-wise tour this week. Suddenly she had to frantically arrange to take the very last seat available for a flight to New York City, and she even got a request to return on Tuesday, but she did not make it to the final cut and returned to Nashville where she had been pouring her heart and extra time into the second “Any Song Will Do” event to be streamed at 7:30 tomorrow night (Thursday). Hope you can watch it with us at

And her brother Elijah finished his student teaching with an A and will graduate from Illinois State this Saturday morning. As if that is not enough excitement for Jeannie and Rick’s family, Cecelie has her prom at Freeport High School that night!

The excitement here on the farm is the abundance of asparagus and now a handful of strawberries starting to turn red. Gerald honored me with the first one but confessed that some little animal had actually had one or two before mine.