Monday, November 27, 2017

Lots of Blessings

The first thing that happened to me on Thanksgiving morning was a surprise presentation of gorgeous flowers by Gerald for my birthday! It was so nice to start the day calmly with beautiful flowers. Two of our three great grandsons were already outside, and I quickly put on some bacon to bake for when they showed up at the kitchen table. After I ate my egg and toast, I started looking at my small to-do list.

The Freeport Eilers were going to eat with their church family this year. Their church provides a community dinner for anyone who will come much like Herrin does. Last year Jeannie had a cold and had to stay home and the rest of the family came without her. This year they were staying home; and when Cecelie called me with birthday wishes, they were on their way to their feast, and I assume to pitch in to help. Jeannie and Rick's daughter Leslie and husband Mike were in Ohio to be with Mike's family. Geri Ann in Oregon and Sam in Waco were both going to a friend's home for dinner since they are tied up until Christmas break. Erin and baby Caroline down in Texas were having Josh's parents to be with them from Oregon or Minnesota --they live both places, so I am not sure of their current location. I liked knowing that Josh knew his folks were there to celebrate with his wife and daughter, and I was pleased that Gerald brought up and placed with our group the 8 by l0 photo of Josh holding two-week-old baby Caroline before he had to return to South Korea. Josh stays in our thoughts and prayers.

We have had a lot of excitement crammed into little more than a week's time! Last Saturday we drove over and took flowers to Katherine who was in the hospital at Carbondale. Before we left the house, we were shocked to hear that Gerry, our son who had just gone to Auburn University as associate softball coach two months ago, had accepted head coach at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and that it would be announced at press conference on Monday.

Gerry invited us down; of course, Gerald and our daughter Mary Ellen wanted to be there. Me too, but since doctors warned me to not travel without resting every two hours or so after a pulmonary embolism several years ago, I knew that would be out of the question with the race down there. Mary Ellen double checked that Gerry really wanted them there despite how busy as he would be. She had a terrible coughing cold, and Gerald woke up somewhat weak on Sunday morning, but they went anyhow. They were making good time until they hit a couple of very long traffic delays, so their 8 pm arrival time stretched out till 11 pm.

Ready to fall into their beds in their reserved room, they could not locate the room for their key. They went back to the desk, and found that motel with their very expensive room had no night clerk! She left evidently as soon as she gave them their key and no directions. After a continued search, they finally gave up and went elsewhere and got to bed at 1 am. and were up shortly after 5 for Monday's exciting activities starting with a tour of facilities and meetings before the 11 o'clock press conference . All the fun and pleasure of hearing Gerry's career praised gave them adrenaline, and the many hugs and laughter provided serotonin and endorphins to get through the day happily and wide awake feeling good. They were back home by 11 that night after the second 630 mile trip in two days. (Yes, they received an apology and no charge at first motel. Evidently there were two buildings and the night clerk in her hurry to leave failed to properly explain.)

Gerry's wife Vickie cares for baby Caroline during the week while Erin teaches, so she had used Erin's break to go to Normal here in Illinois to see the Archibald family--Tara and Bryan and her three grandsons. Suddenly she had to shorten her visit and fly down to Lafayette. Yet she looked rested and beautiful in her red dress that perfectly matched the bouquet they gave her. (Vermilion is the school color, and I had to google it to discover that bright red or scarlet is close enough. I suspect I will be doing quite a bit of googling to learn about Lafayette and the Ragin' Cajuns.) I was at home, but I was able to see much of the festivities with all the videos on Facebook and spent most of the day doing so, although I was aware it was three days till Thanksgiving.

It was difficult to think with all the excitement, but fortunately I had the pumpkin pies that Gerry loves all baked and in the freezer and an angel food cake and one pie made without sugar for Gerald. and a large frozen pecan pie someone had brought once upon a time that did not get eaten. Gerald had bought our frozen almost 22-pound turkey and it was thawing in the garage fridge. I figured I would make the dressing and fry the okra, and I had ingredients and assignments for everyone else to put a simple holiday meal on the buffet. I was disappointed that now Gerry would not be with us as planned, but I was glad he would at least have a day to get some sleep. Mary Ellen had wanted to do the dining room table, and I was relieved to let her. I went to my physical therapy Tuesday afternoon, and then I ran by Katherine's house as she had just come home from the hospital the night before.

On Wednesday. Gerald helped and we cut the plastic wrapping off the thawed turkey and made it ready for him to put it in the oven early the next morning. Oh yes, I set the oven's self cleaning mechanism to take care of some pumpkin pie batter I'd spilled the week before. Later while I was at Katherine's and then running by the store for last minute items, Gerald cleared out the smokey air from the burned-up oven gunk. When I got home, things were in full swing with the great grandsons having arrived. Vickie had flown back to Normal from Louisiana and came down for Thanksgiving with the Archibalds as originally planned. Aidan, our oldest great grandson had to play in two basketball games on Tuesday night, so they could not come sooner. But it did not take long after they arrived for the three boys to be outside doing all the things they do on the farm. As soon as I was back at the farm and after hugs and greetings, I put away those last minute items and then swiped out the coating of white ash left in the oven; our grandson-in-law Bryan reached the back of the oven for me. We all had a party to go to!

The Archibalds had invited both sides (Johnson and Glasco) to an early birthday party at Pirate Pete's. That was what Maddux wanted for his and his cousin Kinsley's birthdays.  I had never been to Pirate Pete's but knew where it was. In our day, Tara and our other grand-kids would lure us to Chuckie Cheese's in Paducah. So going to Pirate Pete's was an adventure, and we quickly understood why the kids loved it. Gma Shirley and I and other adults too staid to participate as some did in a laser fight were comfortable in a quiet dining area. We enjoyed visiting until the kids (and adult kids) wore down and joined us for pizza and opening gifts. The blow guns the boys chose with the tickets they won provided soft padded “bullets” flying through the air the rest of our holiday. I liked that and hearing them fiddling with the piano in this sometimes too quiet adult household. The boys are extremely kind and well mannered, and I love watching them grow up.

After Mary Ellen and Brianna arrived Thanksgiving morning, Mary Ellen added to the table decorations she had started on Wednesday. She had new yellow clothes for the dining table and adjoining kitchen table, and she had made a tan burlap runner and placed red candles inside two large glass vases with the candles held up by harvested soybeans. All was quite lovely and symbolic, but Thursday she added bows on the vases and a centerpiece between them. Come to find out, that centerpiece was a gift wreath from Jeannie for my birthday, and in the middle of it was a chocolate pecan pie with two chocolate candles announcing I was 84.
In addition to my assigned tasks for a simple menu, Mary Ellen and Brianna carried in a potato casserole and creamed corn, and Vickie made her deviled eggs that we all love. So our buffet was full with a a variety of foods. I really make giblet gravy for Gerry as I am not sure others eat it, but I decided to go ahead and make it in case someone did want it. Mary Ellen had emphasized we needed to eat on time for hungry kids' sake, but she had also brought sausage/cheese balls and dip to keep people from starving.

Gerald had gone to town to drive Katherine and her wonderful aide out to the farm in her van, so Bryan took over getting the heavy turkey out of the oven and then carving it, which Gerry used to always do. My dressing was not getting done since it was such a big pan. As usual, we really did not make the 12 noon deadline, but everyone was there and laughing and talking. Katherine had seen baby Caroline's photos that decorate our kitchen thanks to Gerald's photography hobby, and she was back to her spot for her wheelchair at the table. Food was prepared and placed. Brian and Trent had joined us, and we had congratulated Trent on SIUC's success in a cyber security tournament. The two college students had seated themselves with the three boys at their table. We were almost ready for Gerald to thank God for our blessings when there was an uproar in the kitchen. The kitchen door slammed, and suddenly there was Gerry who had driven from Louisiana to be with us after all. Suddenly we had even more blessing for Gerald to express thanks for.

After a meal of fellowship, Mary Ellen and Vickie put away the food and did the enormous kitchen clean up while I visited and enjoyed my birthday. (They did leave that difficult dressing pan for me.) Katherine was getting very tired and her aide had another dinner to go to. Gerry and Vickie and the Archibalds also had yet another to go to that night with the Johnson family at Terry and Sheila's. Brianna had come home from Murray with great relief from turning in her senior thesis--and yes it was excellent her professor said--and she wanted to celebrate with a movie with her family. So the house quieted a bit until Gerry and Vickie and the Archibalds returned, and everyone needed to get to bed.

Although the Archibalds left early Friday morning (for another Thanksgiving celebration with Bryan's family), the boys had kayaked and created a neat tunnel in the lime pile and ridden on all the things with wheels that they love. Bryan had already washed and put the kayaks back on their storage ropes. Gerry and Vickie left soon after with the bird dogs Gerald had been feeding for Gerry. They were headed to Erin's house where Gerry would be able to cuddle baby Caroline—the perfect ending for his brief break. Gerald and I went back into the empty house.

Saturday was a catch-up day.Gerald fixed a faucet in the downstairs bathroom, and I boiled the turkey carcass and put bags of broth into the freezer, which will make good soup to go with our sandwiches on cold winter nights ahead. On Sunday we worshiped grateful for our abundant blessings and asking God to help us with our heartaches. Today there is casserole in the oven from left-over turkey. Attractive green pods have burst into bloom adding orange lilies to the other beautiful colors of my birthday bouquet gracing our living room. Brianna will be defending her thesis in front of four professors this week, and I must think about boxed-up Christmas trees stored in closets.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fianlly Fall Coloration

Although I had admired a lovely large tree across our lake with yellow leaves for a couple of weeks, I kept wanting to see some reds and bright orange colors. Other trees in our yard and those across the fields were mostly still green. I remember when we used to be able to count on bright-hued leaves by the middle of October, and I noticed the last couple of years that was no longer true. I thought maybe it was just our region, and then I read that autumn coloration is arriving later elsewhere also. But finally a week ago, I looked out the kitchen patio door towards the lake to see the maple Gerald planted in the yard when we moved here, and it was at last a brilliant red. On beyond the maple was a Bradford pear tree Gerald planted that was now lovely with deep wine leaves. Rains and winds came, and the maple looks all snaggly now with half its red leaves on the ground, but it had brought me a proper measure of pleasure before that happened. I drove through that blinding rain to Katherine's one night; and driving home later after the rain stopped, the blacktop road glistened with red and orange fallen leaves shining in my headlights. Even better, a breeze would ever so often blow more leaves down to shower me with additional loveliness in my car lights.
Although the maple is worst for the wind's wear, the pear tree with its crown of wine leaves is still there to please my eyes. The trees in the woods across hills and meadows surrounding us have gradually turned from green to mostly brown. If we were able to walk under them, I expect there might be some brown leaves to shuffle through; but like our pear, these trees seem to be clinging onto their leaves for a bit longer. As much as I enjoy the coloration, I am also fond of the beauty of bare stark branches, which I've always associated with November. Maybe now with global warming, those bare branches will wait to decorate the sky until the latter part of November.

Our son-in-law finished his harvest over a week ago before that heavy rain came, and we are grateful for his good crops and a completed harvest. With memories of the fortunately rare years when weather made harvest impossible until after Thanksgiving or even Christmas, there is always a certain anxiety until the crops are in. Perhaps our worst year was the one when Gerald was still combining in late February after he had made a trip to northern Michigan to buy tracks for the combine. Horror stories of farmers' combines stuck in mad that year stick in our memories making an early harvest that much sweeter.

My summer was full of tests that mostly turned out good. (A false positive on a sonogram necessitated an angiogram, so I was grateful for that good report.) Now I am finally able to have time to start physical therapy tomorrow to improve my balance. One morning last summer I woke up to find that the arthritis and other problems in my right knee were joined by arthritis and tendinitis in my left foot, and that day I had to start using a cane to walk safely. Those pains have mostly subsided on their own, but I still need that cane when I am away from the house. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to walking better yet after physical therapy.

I also tire easily, and it has been necessary for me to realize that I cannot go to town and complete four or five errands in a half day as I have done all my life. Such adjustments do not come easy for me. Gerald helps me more than he ever needed to in the past when he was working 12 hour days or longer. I think his gardening is over for this year; we ate the last tomato from the fridge two days ago. I failed to wrap up any green ones in newspaper to use on Thanksgiving Day as I often have in the past. Yet now he is busy doing such things as replacing 16-year-old faucets or putting back up the large wire shelf in the garage, which I've used for a clothes line when clothes come out of the drier. (We learned there is a limit to how much weight that long wire shelf could take when he washed and dried a summer-full of shirts worn for only an hour or two, and I suggested hanging them there temporarily before they went back in the closet. When Gerald walked out the next morning, the shelf was down and the shirts were on the garage floor. So I have now taken off that wire shelf the antique shoe last that belonged to my father. Daddy used to have it secured on a stand in our basement in Jonesboro, and he sometimes put half soles on our shoes when they wore out. I like to think he inherited the last from his father, but I don't know that. It is small to fit inside the shoe, but very heavy since it is made of iron.  I like seeing it and holding it and thinking of my father, but I think it is probably time to give it to a local museum.)

Gerald received a phone call from his Union County friend Irma Dell Eudy Elkins telling him of yet another death of a high school classmate. I had a small grade school class, and five of my closest friends have been dead for a few years now. They did not live close enough to see them often, but I miss knowing they are out there with their minds holding many of the same memories I have. And I miss not hearing from them at Christmas--or at all. I do not consider death the end, but losing people from your life here on earth is a natural part of growing older. Frequent deaths are to be expected at our age just as leaves fall off trees as winter approaches. What happened in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas, is not a normal or expected occurrence, and we Americans must determine to put an end to it. Such massacres are not occurring in Japan or European countries, and we have a responsibility to stop them here. I liked seeing a post from one of Katherine's friends down in Nashville. Her photo showed a handful of postal card messages to congress. That is a small action any of us could do.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Social Life Slowed by our Age

Aging brings frequent doctor checkups—teeth, eyes, hearing aids, heart, INRs for blood thickness, etc. etc. Then add the fact that doing the minimum of what needs doing takes forever, and we get slower every year we age.  At least some of us do. The result is that our social life has slowed down considerably. We do not get out much in the community any more, and we hesitate to invite people over for a specific date since we might be called into town to help take care of Katherine on that date if an aide fails to show up. My dad used to say if people invite you over and do not set a definite time, they may not mean it. I think he was only partly correct. We love it when people drop in and find us home. We have enjoyed some social life this month and are grateful. It does us good to be around others and hear their stories and experiences. It makes our limited life less limited!

An unexpected family reunion was our first event this month! My mother-in-law's maiden name was Godwin, but her father died soon after she was married. Gerald is not even sure if he actually remembers Nathaniel Godwin or maybe his one memory is just of a photograph of him as a little boy sitting on his grandfather's lap. Mom Glasco talked about her family and cousins, and I remember meeting one cousin decades ago.

We also were briefly in contact with some Godwin relatives that Gerald's sister Ernestine found online in Saint Louis. That is how we found his great grandparents' graves in the Creal Springs cemetery several years ago. We were surprised since the Godwins we knew about had lived at Pomona. Since we live so close to Route 166, I invited these Saint Louis folk to come by the next time they visited the cemetery, but they never did. However, Gerald's cousin Irma Fay (Wenger) Brown met a Godwin relative at a funeral visitation recently. He turned out to be a custodian at the school across from my childhood home in Jonesboro. That meeting resulted in an invitation to their annual Godwin reunion. So on a recent Saturday, we took off for the Devil's Backbone park in Grand Tower on the banks of the Mississippi River. Although very windy, it was a beautiful day, and the drive through the hills and farm lands was beautiful. We stopped at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Murphysboro to obtain our contribution to the pot luck, so it was a work-free outing for me, which was good since I was having some leg pain. We were able to see all of Gerald's Wenger cousins, and we met lots of nice folks there and learned a little more Godwin history. I wish I could hear better in crowds, and I might have learned more!

Last weekend we were delighted to hear that Jeannie was planning on coming down since she had not been able to come in August. She brought lots of school work with her despite working late Friday night. But I always enjoy visiting with her as she sits handling her kids' art work helping them get ready for their next step—the current project is making sketch books. Since she has over 500 students (K-5) at two different schools and is expected in some cases to teach from a cart, it sounds to me that it is an impossible job that reflects the lack of respect too many have for the value of the arts. Nevertheless, when I hear her talk and see the kids' work, I am positive her students are learning more than she can guess. In talking with the kids about books, she found they knew the word “spine,” but since the kids are computer literate, she was surprised they did not know about fonts. She took back a arm full of old magazines from our house to help her students discover different fonts.

Before Jeannie arrived on Saturday, Gerald invited me to go with him and our birthday granddaughter Brianna and her mother to Carterville. Gerald had been planning for some weeks that he wanted to buy her a new Bible for her birthday. He had recently met a knowledgeable clerk at the book store there who helped him buy two new Bibles, so he wanted Brianna to meet this clerk and have his advice. Brianna is by nature a thoughtful person, so she listened and considered carefully before we left with her new Bible. Mary Ellen made some Christmas gift purchases, and I knew I was getting old because I resisted buying a single book. (Every time I was tempted, I remembered the pile of half read books awaiting me in our living room and told myself not to add until I finished some of them.) After lunch at a nearby family restaurant, we returned Bri and her mom to their house as Brianna had plans to dress for Halloween parading with her brother Trent in Carbondale. (They went as Dexter and Dee Dee in memory of their childhood when Trent was always involved with some scientific project and Bri was the annoying little sister.) We went home to anticipate Jeannie's arrival.

On Sunday, Mary Ellen and Brian invited us to celebrate Bri's birthday by having lunch at Kay's Sugar Creek restaurant in Creal Springs. Many years ago when Gerald and I used to go down for Sunday lunch or Friday supper at a little cafe on the opposite side of the street, Kay's was closed and seemed at that time mostly open for noon-day meals for seniors. I had not even realized they were open again on Sundays. (And for all I know, they may have been for years.) It had been several decades since we ate at Kay's—I only remember one Sunday dinner there with a favorite pastor and his wife way back then. So last Sunday, we walked in to the typical country-style cafe with a cozy friendly atmosphere and only a few tables occupied. A blackboard told us that Sunday dinners gave you a choice of fried chicken or chicken and dumplings with two sides. I debated and ordered the dumplings, which surprised me by being served in a bowl, more like a soup than the usual dumplings. But the down home ambiance was charming; we had not been there long when a fellow Crab Orchard school alum walked in, and Jeannie and Mary Ellen enjoyed a brief visit with someone they'd not seen for years. The best part, however, was lingering after we'd eaten. Jeannie asked her daddy some good questions that brought out some family facts and stories I'd never heard. Our sweet waitress was more than patient; and with plenty of other tables for those arriving after us, we felt no need to hurry and depart. I've always been fascinated with the history of Creal Springs, where Gerald's grandfather Ben Glasco attended the Academy to earn his teacher's license and where my grandmother Sidney Martin attended a church assembly that was held there in the 1920s, I think. (Gpa Ben chose not to use his teacher's license since farm hands earned a larger salary! So not valuing education has been with us a long time. Nevertheless, I understand that Gpa Ben would have neighbors gathering in since he took a daily paper and was able to read it and keep up with the news the others wanted to know in those days without even radios. He also was considered an excellent mathematician and ready to help figure interest and other farm sums. I always admired this trait in Gerald's dad also.)
Jeannie left us Monday morning, but we had an evening to look forward to. Gerald's high school class of 16 no longer has planned reunions, but when their Wolf Lake class valedictorian and his wife come down from Peoria, we are grateful that Irma Dell Eudy Elkins gives Gerald a phone call and an invitation to meet other classmates or relatives who get the word and have dinner with Harold and Jean Stark at Anna's Mexican restaurant. The service team there is so kind and attentive and they have a great reserved room for us. Even in our separate room, I have a great deal of trouble hearing. Since others there had the same problem, I did not feel out-of-place as I sometimes do when I have to keep asking for repetitions. I always enjoy catching up with Shirley Miller to ask her about their small church in the village of Reynoldsville. Houses on the west side of highway have been torn down long ago and their property absorbed into one large farm. With that area in a flood plain, no new houses can be built on the east side either. So the once thriving small village church of decades ago has seen young people move away and older people die off. But a local dozen or so residents still faithfully attend, and I love to hear all about their worship and mission activities. For example, they bought 22 pairs of tennis shoes for local school children who needed them. They are prompt with needed food or errands if they see a need. If you are going to have car trouble on Route 3, try to have it near Reynoldsville. Their congregation stands able and willing to help those with misfortune on the highway. This tiny congregation is not made up of highly moneyed people, but Shirley says they have no problem paying light and heating bills and for a young man gaining experience preaching for them. I have heard of small churches having difficulty securing a pianist, but Shirley prevented that problem years ago when she and her husband gave their daughter piano lessons as a child. She has no idea when the congregation will no longer be there, but she is enjoying the present time, and I enjoy it vicariously.

Gerald's special social outlet has always been “breakfast with the boys.” And so this morning, he made time to drive down to Union County to eat breakfast with his one remaining brother and his nephews and who ever shows up for breakfast at wherever the current gathering place is. Getting to see little Jentra in her spurs preparing for the horse show at their arena this afternoon was a special treat for him today. As usual, I slept late, and he brought the family news home to me

Despite aging problems, we have enjoyed the social life we have been blessed with this month. We are grateful to have the energy to visit with others and hear their news—if we keep our hearing aid batteries changed and if we sit close with enough concentration!

Monday, October 02, 2017

Harvest in the Autumn of Life

Gerald and I deserted other work and went to the 25th annual BSU Reunion wondering as probably many of us were if this would be the last one we would be able to attend. After visiting in the large lobby at Giant City State Park Lodge, we entered the reserved dining room and were greeted by attractive tables with theme-related decorations and lovely program booklets with Ecclesiastes 3:1 on the cover: To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.

For younger readers and non-Baptist readers, I should explain that BSU stood for Baptist Student Union, and the BSU at Southern Illinois University Carbondale was very important to many students for decades. When Helen Green Gallaway was still alive and leading our reunion, she liked to tell of their BSU bus taking students to Ridgecrest, NC, and stopping for a motel. The owner there sniffed at the sign on their bus and declared those college kids did not even know how to spell “bus.”

I had already been blessed in the lobby by conversation with Pat Abney of Anchorage, Alaska, who was present with her brother Sam of Galatia. I remembered Pat's name from my last year at Johnson Hall, but I had not seen her since. As she answered questions about her life's work, she told us about 28 years teaching biology, her political activities, her 10 years operating a Bed and Breakfast, and on and on. Hearing her story, I was immediately inspired and very grateful I had come. What Pat did not tell me and I found by googling her was she had been named Outstanding Biology Teacher of Alaska, Alaska Woman of the Year, and other such honors.

When I opened my booklet to discover the evening's program, I found Galatians 6:9: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. As Gerald and I became acquainted with our table of eight, it seemed those people could have been an illustration for that verse. I have known Jane Walker Sims and her sister-in-law Beverly Walker for a long time, and knew they had served others well.

On the far side of the large table were Dr. Robert and Marilyn Parks of Mt, Vernon, who would have to exit early because the doctor would be leaving home at 6:30 the next morning on his rounds of 14 nursing homes. From the snatches of conversation I could hear in that noisy room filled with excited once-a-year visiting, I heard enough to know the Parks are using the very special buildings on their farm to serve special needs kids, senior citizens, and many others who come for events they host. If that was not enough activity, Marilyn rose to tell us of the college classes she and her brother, Dr. Curt Scarborough, want to have there on the farm. Most of us probably remembered Curt from our SIUC days, but few of us may have known that after 21 years as a pastor, he joined a non-profit called FreeWay Foundation in 1975 and became president in 1985 after establishing a college as part of their organization. Retiring after 41 years there, he still has the energy to want to establish CrossFire Christian College with his sister Marilyn on Crescent Lake Farm. You can google to find out more about opportunities there where it declares you can audit classes free if you are not studying for a diploma.

I was very fortunate to be seated next to Don Donley and wife Esther from Kankakee. Just like Pat Abney, they've had a full life and are still going strong. Don explained after SIU graduation, he first became a hospital administrator. Then because of talking with lawyers for the hospital, he studied law so he could speak their language. Later he used that law degree in a bank in downtown Chicago.

Because he wanted to do volunteer overseas mission work in retirement, he spent a year in seminary studies as required by the Southern Baptists at that time. Esther was not only a trained elementary teacher but also had studied and became a school librarian, so they had many talents between them to share. They actually ended up going to both Ghana and Kenya in association with the Wycliffe translation group but Don did not regret the seminary classes. First Esther worked in a school library, and then she was needed in another nation as a first grade teacher. Don worked in administration and at one school keeping 25 computers going and so forth. I loved best when they told of individual students they helped continue in school. In one country, local schools were sometimes staffed by teachers with high school diplomas and not much beyond that. So although the young woman was near the top of her class, she was ineligible for university work until she took remedial classes, which she did with the Donleys' encouragement. And another young woman was able to have a bedroom in their stateside home after Don helped her get a job in the bank to work her way through college. (And a car to get to that job.) I noted their three children are all involved in careers helping others. The daughter, Kathy Donley, and her husband, Jim Wilkerson, graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Kathy is now pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in the inner city—just one block from the Capitol in Albany,New York. Not only are the Donleys not growing weary doing good, but the next generation is doing good also.

It would not be a BSU meeting without lots of group singing and musical presentations. Thanks to Doris McCoy, Ray Purnell, Charlene Purnell, Bob Barrow, Carol Smith, Charlie Baker, and Jim Cox, our master of ceremonies, we had both Friday night. Nor would it be reminiscent of our fun in BSU days to not have laughter, and that was provided by Bob and Oleta Barrow's enlisting Tom Gwalney, Sharon Reynolds, Barbara Highsmith, and Bill Sielschott to play the Liars Game.

Cal Reynolds ended the evening with the first of his very practical and encouraging
messages on our theme of “Harvest in the Autumn of Life.” He started with “God's Care in the Springtime of Life...A Time of Preparation.”

After final chatter and visiting, some from far away stayed in the cabins at the park; others of us went home or elsewhere until the 9 am time to reassemble on Friday morning. Jim Cox woke us up with some fun with his guitar followed by “Moment by Moment” sung by Bob Barrow and Charlie Baker accompanied by Carol Smith Then we were treated to another challenging sermon by Cal: “God's Care in Life's Summertime...A Time of Propagation.”

In past years, we have had a large choir under talented leaders in remembrance of Chapel Singers that so many BSU students sang in. As our numbers have gone down, this year we had a double quartet to practice and sing for us. Thank you to Bob Barrow, Dee Gwaltney, Harlan Highsmaith, Becky Searle, Jim Cox, Nada Fuqua, Cal Reynolds, and Ginger Wells accompanied by Carol Smith for beautiful music. The traditional memorial service for those who died last year was provided by Carol Smith and Dee Gwaltney.

I was inspired next by Jim Cox's “Remembrance of a Friend” as he told the story of his pastor's part in persuading him to go to college. As the oldest of five kids in a family where no one had gone to college, he had not prepared to do so. His pastor urged that he try one semester and then took him to Carbondale, secured him a basement bedroom and a job, and Jim found out how well equipped he was for advanced education even though he had not taken college prep courses. He has blessed many with his radio career and his musical leadership. In his early career at Channel 3 in Harrisburg, I looked forward to his original program “The Hour” live each weekday. Jim and his interesting guests provided me, an isolated farm wife, with mental and social stimulation, and I also enjoyed when he once came to direct the choir in our village church during special services.

One of Jim's most valuable contributions in life may have been his friendship with Al Fasol and leading him to the Lord. Al returned this year to share with us from his book Humor with a Halo and was introduced by Jim. Al had a career as a seminary professor teaching effective sermon preparation. As we were discovering from Cal Reynolds' sermons, Al did a good job. I think our group gave both Al and his student Cal very high marks. Gerald got the publisher's name from Al to order this humor book of actual happenings. I decided to check it out on Amazon, and thus found Al's other more serious books. Partly because I have so many writers as friends, I have a difficult time not spending more than I probably should on books. But as a history buff, there was a book I knew I had to have: a book telling of significant Baptist preachers in the South from 1670 to 1975. A new volume was way too expensive for me, but I have a second-hand copy coming for less than $15--postage and all. I am very eager to start reading it!

The morning ended with a reminder that October 31 will be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. After Carol Smith accompanied by Lora Blackwell-Kern led us in singing “A Mighty Fortress,” Carol shared a presentation with help from Dr. Fasol reading scriptures in German and Jerry Upchurch following in English. Carol will also give the presentation on this important historical event at her church.

Before the blessing on our lunch time out in the main dining room, Ken Cannon invited anyone who wants to help with next year's reunion to let the committee know. Reinforcing what Cal had told us, we read in our programs by unknown authors: (1) Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant. (2) If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.

After lunch, we had more singing together, and Cal spoke on “God's Care in Autumn's Harvest: a time of Production and Consummation.” And we celebrated by singing “The King is Coming.” Before Marc McCoy led our benediction, we sang once more “Spirit of BSU' written by two men familiar to many of us—Bob Entrekin and Archie Moseley.

Cal's messages gave our age group some very good advice. He urged us to listen to our bodies but not to waste away too much time in our recliners listening to TV. We need to be willing to interact with others than our church family—the drug users, the prostitutes, the followers of Isis, and any others needing concern and love. Throughout his messages, he emphasized the importance of planting seeds with the young ones who will soon be replacing us. That is why his wife Sharon has to frequently answer their doorbell when a little kid asks: “Can Mr. Cal come out and play?” In a neighborhood where many parents are in military service, Mr. Cal can provide a listening ear, someone to pitch a ball to, and sometimes a parent substitute.

As good as Cal's encouragement to us was and as much as I enjoyed interacting with so many senior adults who had lived interesting and valuable lives, oddly it was sharing of problems that may have helped me most. I heard people speak of heart attacks, “he almost drove me nuts,” a friend whose daughter had to have heart surgery, a son in prison, a child whose life was destroyed by LSD, the death of a wife leaving three young sons, someone who was not there because of myesthenia gravis, and cancer, cancer, cancer. (As I read the letters from those who could not attend, I was saddened that Roger Deppe's wife who I so enjoyed meeting and visiting with last year could not come because of her cancer treatments.) The hardships reminded me of what I already knew: it is silly to ask why me when troubles come. Life on earth does not guarantee carefree retirements, and we should not expect that no matter how well we plan. Difficulties and challenges are to be expected during all phases of life, but the help of caring friends, the teachings of Jesus, the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and the promises of God can make life's challenges easier. Or as the unknown writer quoted at the end of our program booklet said: You're going into a season when you are about to experience breakthrough after breakthrough because what you went through didn't break you.

Thank you Ken and JoNell Cannon, Cal and Sharon Reynolds, Lora Blackwell-Kern, Bob and Oleta Barrow, and Marc and Doris McCoy for all the work you did preparing this gathering for us.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Comings and Goings at Woodsong

Our three great grandsons were at the farm for the first time in a long time last weekend. About l0 Saturday morning, they had left their tearful grandmother and their little cousin Caroline who had come over to say that final goodbye in College Station. Bryan had stopped to feed the boys as needed and they had fallen asleep before they arrived at Woodsong about l0:30 that night, where they quickly tumbled into bed.

The next morning, however, they were up earlier than Gerald, which is no small feat. Since Tara, their mother, had a game to coach that afternoon, the plan was to visit here and let tbe boys run off energy before the trek upstate. After caring for their dog Duke and letting him out of his cage in the shop, they were fishing, driving the Kubota, playing football in the front yard, and for the first time getting to try out the kayaks that Gerald had prepared for them. I am not sure who had the most fun—Gerald or the boys. I was to go to Katherine's that morning, but I did get hugs and visits as they came and went to the breakfast table where Gerald bought toaster strudel pastries to add to my collection of cereals. I think Bryan was as delighted as his sons because these had been one of his favorite breakfasts as a boy. I don't think any of them wanted one of my 30-second eggs in the microwave but perhaps did eat a slice of bacon.

Early in the afternoon I met them at Cracker Barrel, where Bryan insisted on buying our dinner. I went to the farm for a break before I went back to Katherine's. The men folk all went by to visit her briefly and let her see the boys before they came back to load their stuff and Duke. They would get to see Tara that evening and stay at the hotel until the moving van arrived with their furniture the next morning. Tara had already enrolled the boys in school, and Aidan would start that same day. Maddux and Payton would meet their teachers that afternoon and start on Tuesday. I am sure their Sunday ended happily with that family reunion. Mine not so much.

Do you know what happens when you drop your phone in a full coffee cup and find it there later? I know. Cause I did just that. When I left Katherine's Sunday night, I consciously put my new cell phone (that replaced a very old one I dropped and broke a while back) in my pocket. Usually I keep it on the car seat or the middle cup holder where I can grab it easily if I hit a deer and have to call and wake up Gerald to come and help me. But for some reason, that night I decided I was not going to hit a deer. Putting the phone in my pocket would insure I did not forget to carry it into the house. But I had barely backed out of Katherine's driveway, which requires some concentration because of park traffic, when I noticed an amber warning light was on. What did that tiny wrench mean?

We had recently had a screw in a tire, and I knew from that experience that an amber warning light could be serious. So I decided I better call Gerald before he went to bed and ask advice. He did not know what the amber wrench symbol meant either, but the car seemed to be running well, so he said to come on home. Relieved, I dropped my new phone into the cup holder beside me. I had no trouble getting home and took the phone out only to discover I had forgotten I'd left a cup of coffee in that holder when I drove in to town.

I dried it off the best I could, but it would no longer charge or come to life. I got down the container with rice that I had used for a grand kid's phone that fell in the lake once. But two days stored in the rice did not help. So Tuesday afternoon I took it where we bought it, and the competent young man ruefully showed me tiny drops of coffee when he took the phone apart. I replaced it with the cheapest one I could get there. He asked if I wanted to insure it, but I assured him I did not plan to drop it in coffee again. The good news was he was able to save all my phone numbers, and I like it.

The next morning we had to go to Carbondale for an appointment to get our hearing aids checked out, so we ate lunch at Denny's, a sentimental spot from our college days and since then. After lunch, we went by Gerald's favorite hardware store where he found a couple of small pulleys for his newest project, which he promptly went to work on back at the farm although he did first phone our son-in-law Brian and helped him out by picking him up to take him someplace else in the field.

We have just now returned from our annual reunion of friends from BSU at Southern Illinois University, and it was a good two days. But I will have to write about that later, because Gerald is in the shop finishing up his project to load and store the kayaks neatly and efficiently between grandchildren visits, and I want to go see how that is coming along.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Changing Seasons

The corn fields are brown and soy beans are yellow. Our son-in-law Brian is already harvesting, and that means Mary Ellen too is busier than ever trying to help out as she keeps working hard at her own job. I will worry knowing their sleep will be shorter than ever.

Everything seems to be changing during this season. At the first of the month, we learned that our granddaughter Tara and family are moving back to Illinois as she became pitching coach at Illinois State up at Normal. This will place their family closer to her husband Bryan's parents too, so I'm sure they are happy as we are. (And Bryan will be closer to his firm's headquarters.)

For Gerry and Vickie, Tara's move wll take away the close geographic association with those three Archibald grandsons. That will be a tough adjustment, but it probably helps that they are overly busy themselves adjusting to changes of their own.

Our month started with Gerry and Vickie's quick visit over Labor Day weekend coming up for the surprise 80th birthday party for Vickie's mother. Gerry also needed to pick up some dogs he had bought in northern Illinois. Aidan and Payton both had baseball games, but since Maddux's fall soccer had not yet started, he was able to come with them. They drove all night to get here for a few hours sleep before the party. There was time, however, for Maddux and me to have a long grown-up conversation at the late breakfast table about their family's upcoming move. And besides getting to play with his Johnson family cousins, there was time for him to drive the Kubota and to play in the lime pile Gerald provides for the great grandsons' diggings. Since Nelly, the Boykin spaniel, was also with them, we enjoyed a couple of demonstrations of Nelly's enthusiastic expertise diving into the lake to swim and restrieve the ball she loved having Maddux throw out for her. Gerald went with Gerry to get the dogs upstate, and Vickie had the opportunity to visit again with her mother before another all-night drive back to College Station, where Gerry had to be on the softball field at A&M on Labor Day.

That Wednesday night Tara arrived after the long drive from Texas, and we had a brief visit before we all fell into bed. In her honor, I set my alarm to be sure I was up in time to make the morning smell good with cooked bacon for our breakfast before she left for the drive up to Illinois State's ball field and to start her search for housing for their family. The university was furnishing her a room until Bryan and the boys can join her this weekend.

We were still adjusting to that big family change when we got the word this week that Gerry had accepted a new job as hitting coach and recruiter down at Auburn University in Alabama. So he is in the process of moving dog stuff, trailers, and such to various destinations on the way down to Auburn after a quick visit with Vickie, Erin, and Caroline in Belton. Vickie will keep her plans to care for Caroline while Erin teaches, so I am sure this year will be filled with lots of trips between Belton and Auburn.

Our adult children are not the only ones who have been busy. Gerald continues bringing in garden produce, and he had his second cataract surgery last week. Mary Ellen wanted to be with us and drive us home, so we had a good visit and after-surgery breakfast with her at the neatest restaurant up at Thompsonville. It was good to hear how excited Brianna is with an observation class for young children learning to speak English. She will be student teaching next semester. Fortunately, Gerald's eye is healing faster than the first one, which gave us some concerns. (The optomist kept assuring him the eye was alright and that his meds may have caused the slowness.) He is down to two eyedrops a day again on this second recuperation.

However, during all this busyness with eye drops and garden produce, Gerald also had a big exciting project going. In order to get better Internet reception, he bought and assembled a 70-foot tower out by his shop. Roy Walker's crew came with a boom truck to set the tower up on the concrete pad. We sat and cheered as the machine took it skyward. Our neighbor Scott even came over to admire that event. For Gerald perhaps the best part of this project was visits with his friend Roy where they talked and talked about their youthful days in Wolf Lake down in Union County. Both their fathers were in Woodman of the World Insurance Fratenity, and they shared many memories and old photographs of long ago acquaintances.

Katherine was pleased this week to see the letter from Sam's summer intern supervisor that came to her house–a very long letter critiquing in detail his successful first teaching experience this summer in Austin. It will be forwarded to Sam, but I made her a copy. As a former teacher of inner-city kids, Katherine understood just how valuable his work had been. Sam's girl friend had also phoned her about starting her student teaching this semester, so Katherine gets to stay involved as these two young adults change from the teens that used to hang out at her house into professionals prepared to make the lives of young people better. As a third generation teacher myself, I am pleased to see yet another generation preparing for this important work.

So the season is changing, and our lives are also changing in many ways . And that is way it is supposed to be.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Full August

Grand kids, cantaloupe, watermelon, tomatoes, okra, cataract eye drops, guests, eclipse, dirt dobbers, national softball championship! Our house and lives did not stay empty long after baby Caroline's departure—partly because of the continued sweet photos of her on Facebook, which Gerald prints out for us but also because of other summer events and endings.

Erin still has time for photos and videos for Josh in South Korea even though her school year has started in Texas. As much as she is going to miss full-time with Caroline, she will not be worried about her because her mother Vickie will be Caroline's week-day caregiver. I wish every working mother had it so good!!

School starts early these times, so like Erin, the other grand kids and great grandsons are already back in school again after the end of their summer jobs and activities.Tara no longer teaches except softball there at the sports complex, but those three sons' school schedules are probably as difficult to keep up with as their summer ball games.  Grandson Elijah is the only one whose school starts after Labor Day, but he is already working in his Chicago classroom preparing for his second year of teaching kids with vision impairment. He was down to catch up with other cousins, and I was able to hear a bit about his last eight weeks of teaching one mainstream class of writing to 8th graders, which happened by accident and won't be part of this year's duties to my disappointment.

Sam was also at Woodsong briefly since he had finished his summer internship located at the University of Texas, where he too taught language arts with a junior high age group in a special program. He loved teaching and delighted his mother by having some of his students call her. He was able to go with his cousin Brianna and her brother Trent to the Saint Louis airport to meet Rachel, Trent's lovely red-headed girl friend from New Jersey. They managed to stick in a Cardinals baseball game before they came back to the Taylors. Next, after Elijah came down, they were off to visit Brianna in her apartment at Murray, where she has already started her senior classes. From there they were off to Nashville, where our granddaughter Leslie was featured as a soloist at a festival there. Then they were back to the Taylors in time for the eclipse mania here.

We did get a very brief visit from Geri Ann when she was here to be in a friend's wedding this summer, but she is already at work at her new job with autistic children out in Portland, Oregon. I have yet to have a summer-end visit from our youngest grandchild Cecelie who spent a month in India helping with children—so I still have something special to look forward to. She has started college already at the community college near Freeport. Rachel had to return home the day after the eclipse, so I was very glad Trent brought her over while we were watching Gerry's Scrap Yard Dogs in the finals of the National Professional Fast Pitch (NPF) softball final tournament. This was not televised, and we had to watch on Gerald's computer screen, so his office was crowded with us, Trent and Rachel, and our eclipse guests Bob and Sylvia Mountz from Arizona.

We had watched Thursday and Friday as the Dawgs won the semi-finals against Akron Racers. Then rain delay made the first game of the finals against Florida's Pride quite late, and sadly we lost 5-0. After church on Sunday, we were soon again glued to the computer watching Monica Abbot lead the Dawgs to a 2-0 victory in 125 degree heat. Although Monica Abbott is considered the best softball pitcher in the world, no one could imagine being able to pitch another complete game in that heat to win the final. Megan Wiggins' lead off home run certainly was not a good beginning. Yet the lead went back forth between these two great teams, and we won 5-2. There was much celebrating at Woodsong. Let me include a quote a sports writer used from Gerry about Monica Abbott:

"You can follow softball for the next 30, 40, 50 years, and I don't think you'll see another performance equal to her performance here this week," Scrap Yard coach Gerry Glasco said. "The heart and the guts she showed, the tenacity on the mound in the heat, in the humidity, weather delays. It's a phenomenal performance, and, I think, one of the greatest performances in the history of softball."

The next day was the much anticipated total eclipse, which our area experienced for the longest period of totality. Naturally there has been great ado about it here with Southern Illinois University Carbondale opening facilities to NASA. Visiting public were welcomed to their stadium and even to a large high-rise dorm that is due to be torn down. Other area towns and campgrounds were packed. Locals were warned that some grocery shelves might be empty and highways crowded. The first was true for me when I shopped before the crowds were supposed to come. Area folk had been stoking up. However, since people came to the area over a period of days, the roads stayed clear—until everyone left at the same time.

Our favorite thing about the eclipse was that we were going to have a visit from Bob and Sylvia. Sylvia had spent her early childhood at the State Forest Preserve west of Jonesboro where her father Ralph Fisher started the tree nursery there. The Fisher children went to the same country school that Gerald and siblings went to. Mrs. Fisher would volunteer in the classroom to identify trees in a wonderful project where the children brought in leaves and bark and nuts for a huge display. (That school was treated to teaching by a young woman, who later taught at SIUC, and was the object of much admiring email conversation by former students from little Miller Pond School and some from Anna Junior High.) The Fisher family lived in a big house on the hill by the park, and I vaguely remember Mabel Norris taking some of us down to play with the Fisher children one day. One of my few memories of the Fishers in Southern Illinois was a huge bill board with the painting of a beautiful stallion that Mr. Fisher owned. But Gerald's family were next door to the Forest Preserve, and the two fathers coon hunted together and worked together on many projects, often with kids along.

Soon after my mother-in-law died, we took Dad Glasco down to see Ralph and Catherine Fisher, who at that time were living in retirement village at Belle Vista, Arkansas. The first thing I saw when I walked into their living room was a very large photograph over their fireplace of the nine Fisher children. For a long time, we've enjoyed Christmas letters from Fenna Lee, the oldest of the daughters, as well as from Sylvia and Bob, and Mr. Fisher himself used to write long letters to Gerald telling of their children's educational and other achievements. With the great letters and two or so visits from Bob and Sylvia down through the years, we have felt close to them, so nothing could have pleased us more than to have them visit us to enjoy the eclipse together. And we did.

In preparation, I had found the chairs for the deck in the garage, and they were full of hardened dirt dobber nests and debris, so I was glad I did this job a couple of days earlier. My first plan was to have a picnic set up on the deck since this two-hour eclipse experience would be during the noon hour. Then as realism hit, I remembered why we have never eaten as many meals on the deck as I thought we would. It is hot out there at noon day! So we had our picnic on the air-conditioned side of the doors to the deck. We were going in and out with our eclipse glasses and watching the black area grow on the bright orb. It was fascinating to watch. We experimented with punching a pin hole in a piece of paper to watch the image on the paper below. And with a colander. I was amazed at how much bright light the sun gave even when almost covered. Then the temperature began to noticeably go down, and then things begin to be slightly less bright. Although at night the deer are often around our lake and even in the garden, usually during the day they stay far away from us. Gerald and Bob saw a buck cross the dam at tne end of the lake, and later a baby deer appeared going into our nearby woods where its mother must have been.

As the two minutes, forty-two seconds of totality was soon to arrive, it was now quite comfortable to sit on the deck. And then the predicted total eclipse came. Because of the word “totality,” I really expected it to be pitch dark. It was not. It was beautifully and eerily dusk. The lake and the clouds above the lake became a lovely soft gray and the frogs were singing to us. It was a couple of magical moments until the moon began to move on.

Bob and Sylvia went on to visit other friends in Union County, and Gerald went back to harvesting garden produce for us and others he gifted with it. He is celebrating that finally he now only has to put drops in his eyes twice a day. On Tuesday, students went back to their college classes that had been canceled for the eclipse. As the crowds left the area, life returned to normal except for the multitude of photographs appearing everywhere of the moon's trip past the sun. People in our area are excited, however, because in 2024, when the path is from the northeast to the south, our exact area will again be given a total eclipse.

Gerald is continuing to fight the dirt dobbers in our garage as Sylvia saw him doing. She was delighted when he gave her a ball cap with one of their dirt nests firmly attached on it. This was her souvenir to take back and wear to show off to her retirement coffee gang. “We need the laugh,” she proudly explained.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Caroline's at the Farm!

Our first great granddaughter, two-month old Caroline Simons, arrived at the farm Tuesday afternoon with her entourage (Mama Erin and Gma Vickie) in tow. Soon our living room was filled with not only us but her Great Grandmother Shirley, Great Aunt Mary Ellen, Great Aunt Chris, and her first cousin once removed Brianna. Everyone cooed and awed over Caroline and took a turn holding her.

A tiny little thing, she is definitely adorable, and I think one of the most active babies I've known. Her little legs and arms are in constant motion Her eyes too are always on the move following all her loving admirers and their noises used to attract her. She likes to be held against your chest looking outward, so she can see everything around her. I do not dare try to walk with her, but she seems quite comfortable on my lap watching all going on. Gpa Gerald is completely captivated even though her mother has not yet agreed that Caroline needs to be out riding the Kubota or tractor with him.

If not for Caroline's visit, Gerald would be the object of most attention around here because he had his first cataract surgery yesterday. (Another is scheduled in September.) So even though it took almost all day with hours of waiting for his turn to see the surgeon, our sympathy and concern for him was probably diluted by enjoying Caroline's presence and commiserating with her when she needed to burp or her tummy hurt her as it frequently does. We go back to see another eye doctor this afternoon and hopefully she will assure that all is well whether he got much attention or not. With Caroline in the house, it has definitely been easier for Gerald to follow doctor's orders to stay in and not be outside working as he usually is.

We had expected to be home yesterday by noon, and it was probably four before we were able to have a lunch, which, of course, was Gerald's first meal of the day. I did not have to cook because our Texan visitors had gone over to Gma Shirley's for supper Wednesday for her chicken pot pie, and Shirley sent home a meal of it for Gerald and me. Oh, yes, and zucchini bread! (Katherine got to enjoy that pot pie too since I took a serving to her.) Because they went last night for Gma Shirley's yummy meat loaf, there is now a meat loaf waiting for us in our fridge.

Of course, we have played the who does Caroline look like game and agreed she looks very much like Josh, her daddy. but with Erin's eyes. I am so glad modern technology allows her to see her daddy over there in South Korea and talk to him as she did this morning. Are there any sounds any sweeter than those a baby makes when looking at you and talking back answering your baby talk? I have gloried with her breaking into smiles during our conversations.

Once they survived getting up at 3 a.m. and arriving at and through the air port Caroline handled her first airplane ride here very well because she slept. In the morning, our three visitors will get back in the rental car to drive to Saint Louis for their flight home; I hope that flight is just as good. Here at Woodsong, our house will seem too quiet and empty for a few days as we adjust to her absence.

Monday, July 24, 2017

July Blessings at Woodsong

Our month started with gratefulness for the safe arrival of our grandaughter Brianna from her month of required study in Spain. Trent was home for the Independess holiday weekend, so he and Bri's parents drove to Chicago to meet her plane. Her cousin Elijah was there to join them while they were in town. They drove home in time to invite us to celebrate the Fourth with them and with Brian's mother Dot. Brian's grilled steaks and sweet corn and Mary Ellen's side dishes were good, but being with their family to hear about June's activities was even better. That gang went onto see the fireworks in Marion; and in deference to our age, Gerald and I went home to go to bed.

(Brian's mother Dorothy is here with him and Mary Ellen not only to escape the hot Arizona summer but to visit her Illinois family and pursue her camping enthusiam. Dot has a small camper behind her car that she sets up herself. I find that very impressive, and she has camped in most national and many state parks. When she is not away camping this summer, she is comfortably encounced in the Taylors' air-conditioned larger home-away-from home camper in their back yard. I have not yet seen her as much as I'd liked with all her camping activity, but we did enjoy that holiday feast.)

Mid-month Jeannie and Rick made an unexpected trip down because of a college friend's funeral. That gave us an opportunity to catch up a bit with them. Jeannie was working on plans and painting a huge wall decoration out in our driveway for a women's conference at their church the next weekend, and I enjoyed hearing about that. Of course, she did some bycyling while here.

One Saturday afternoon on a “just to get out of thehouse” car ride, Gerald took me up and down country roads skirted now with July's deep green trees and shrubbery. Some of these roads were familiar, but some I had never been on before. Gerald remembered them from childhood trips from their farm on the edge of the Mississippi bottom area up to the very hilly roads where his relatives lived in the same county. Most of these roads had begun long ago by early pioneers getting to their farm homes that were beloved even with the lack of electricty or an in-house water source. Now the few homes that remain are lovely and lived in by people who work in town but like being close to nature. Despite the roads' narrowness, they were all in good shape in this 21st Century. On the rare occasions that we met another car, it only seemed as if there might not be room for two cars to pass. We always made it.

Another pleasure this summer has been watching a mama goose and her growing babies, which are now almost as large as she is. At the beginning, there was no male goose with the family, which was unusal. We wondered if he had been killed since male geese are very diligent fathers. Later in the summer, she has been joined by a male, so we had to conjecture how that has happened. When they are not swimming in the lake, they are gorging in the middle of our neighbor's soybeans across the lane. Much like the deer we frequently see, if they are on one side of the lane when our car approaches, they seem to think they will be safer on the opposite side. So we have to slow down to let them cross.

Seeing deer is so common that it is not as big a thrill as it used to be. However, I love this summer's memory of seeing a mother doe on the road to Katherine's house one evening. She was followed by her young triplet fawns.

When I cut through the country to go to town, there is a small piece of shaded road through a swampy area just west of New Dennison. (New Dennison used to be a railroad destination with a general store but is now a cluster of houses and a church building built by early German farmers and much later used by Baptists and now called Living Stone Community Church. The country doctor who delivered babies in this rural area lived opposite that church house, but his home has since burned near the end of his daughter Marguerite Lashly's life. Dr. Burns would meet the Presbyterian minister who came on the train from Carbondale and drive him with his family in his buggy to Shed Church. After Sunday dinner with the doctor's family, the minister would catch the train back to Carbondale.) But I digress.

This rural road west of the village has trees that meet over head, and I love driving through there. This road is sometimes closed after heavy rains with a creek going under it and thick woods and swamp area bordering it. Marylea Burnham told me how bad the mosquitoes used to be when she'd ride her horse down that road. However, now I frequently wave at dog walkers there. New lanes off the road lead to a couple houses and one lot preparing for a new house, so I hope the mosquito population is less. It seems like the perfect place for deer, but in all the years that I've gone through there, only once did I have a deer cross in front of my car. Recently, however, I saw a fawn way ahead crossing at the far end of the road by the stop sign joining the Old Creal Springs Road, so I now remind myself to stay alert as I drive through. What I did see one late night coming home from Katherine's was four tiny animals crossing single file to get to the north side of that swampy woods. I have no idea what kind of animals they were, but I now own an indelible mental photograph that I enjoy while I hope to see them again sometime.

Garden produce has also been a summer pleasure. Gerald brings in zuchinni and blackberries and now big round red tomatoes. Three zuchinni plants produce way too much for us, but if Gerald had planted only one or two, they might have died and we'd had none. So we are kept busy shredding them for the freezer to make zuchinni bread next winter or giving the away. Gerald came home from his latest breakfast with Union County family with a huge container of sweet corn from his brother Garry, who carries on their father's tradition of growing give-away vegetables. Garry also sent a supply for Gerald to give to our sister-in-law Opal, and that visit resulted in a large crock pot full of her garden's abundant supply of green beans at our house. Some of those went into the freezer.

Because refinishing the outdoor furniture on our front porch and then the door has not been enough to keep Gerald busy despite all the grass mowing he does, Gerald husked all the corn Garry sent us and has become an expert on shredding zuchini. I am grateful for his help and glad these two activities kept him out of the extreme heat we have been experiencing at least for a little while. He also spends considerable time following the Scrapyard Dawgs softball team by reading about their games and Monica Abbot's piching and discussing this with Gerry. And we both follow photos and bits of information about our new great grandchild Caroline, who is scheduled to come for a visit next week.

Mary Ellen has been able to see Caroline before us. At Erin's baby shower here last spring, Vickie's high school friends Connie Dahmer and Joan Mangan met up with her. Together with Connie's younger sister Brenda and Mary Ellen, they plotted for the group to visit Vickie in Texas. That happened this week and resulted with many photographs on the Internet. Bill and Beth Jordan were in Houston at this time, and so this Crab Orchard gang were able to attend one of Gerry's Scrapyard Dawgs softball games. We have enjoyed their trip vicariously, but it will be more fun as they come home today and we get to debrief Mary Ellen on these Crab Orchard adventurists.

We have loved hearing about Brianna's Spain journey and seeing all her really gorgeous photographs gathered in a photo book, which she is pleased has room for many more travels. She took these photos with her phone, which just goes to show that exponential progress in technology that Thomas Friedman wrote about. When I told her and her mom about my Internet friend Anne Born's walk through Spain, they started exclaiming because they had just been talking about that walk that Brianna would like to do someday.

Yesterday we picked up Brianna to go to worship with us, and it is always a joy to sit in a church service with a grandchild. At dinner afterwards, Brianna asked questions, and Gerald recounted for her some of our adventures and hardships getting started farming. One of his professors had told him it would be impossible to start farming without $10,000 capitol; and though he had saved well during his four years in the Air Force, that was much more than Gerald's savings. It was also commonly said in those days, as it is today, that you needed to inherit a farm to make it farming. Gerald proved all the naysayers wrong, and I bet there are some young farmers out there today also proving negative folk wrong.

It is indeed a blessing to receive phone calls and hear about our grand-kids' and great grandkids' activites. It is also a blessing to have them ask about our histories because we know how almost everyone requets when it is too late to ask loved ones about their lives.

Well, it has been a good July so far, but I need to stop now and go upstairs and fix some of those garden veggies for our lunch.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Time Is Flying and Brings Many Changes!

When I look out our kitchen window each morning, I feel as if the neighbor's corn plot just on the other side of Gerald's neat garden has grown a foot over night! Next Gerald's garden takes my eye and absorbs my mind. I drink in the beauty there. Such a variety of plants of various heights with nary a weed in their midst is truly as beautiful and fascinating as a painting.

Gerald is starting to bring in a handful of blackberries each day and laying them on our kitchen table. A short row of staked berry plants defines the south end of his garden for the first time. Loaded with red berries, this new crop will soon need to be put in cobblers or the freezer.

We have almost used up the excess okra put in the freezer in 2014, so Gerald planted a row of that vegetable this year. I will be happy to restock the one vegetable that I know our grand-kids all like. They even like the way I frequently burn it a bit when I fry it and the cornmeal crust gets crunchy and brown.
Watermelon and cantaloupe vines hug the ground like patches of lacy green, and further behind are staked tomatoes with ripening fruit I am eagerly anticipating. At my urging, Gerald is trying to cut down the size of his garden although he has always enjoying giving away its bounty. We have needed to admit our age and cut back on many things. There is not longer time to do all the things we used to enjoy and also keep all the dental, eye, hearing, and other doctor appointments now required.

I always bragged about the weeds back in the day when I gardened. Gerald never complained, but I knew he was offended. They definitely were not pretty; but despite them, I raised plentiful crops and the weeds represented hours I did not spend hoeing and weeding. I did everything with a hoe as I was not one to learn to use riding equipment in a garden, although Gerald probably would have liked the excuse to provide it if I had wanted it. He has never met anything on four wheels that he does not enjoy. That is why our lawn just keeps getting larger every year.

Gerald got back his tractor this week—with all new parts wherever the fire did damage before he valiantly ran up our lane to get a bucket to put out the fire. We were certainly grateful for insurance that covered the thousands and thousands beyond the first thousand deductible. He always carried a fire extinguisher in a combine, but he had never had a bird nest start a fire on a tractor before. Now he is carrying a fire extinguisher on the tractor too. He enjoyed using the larger tractor the insurance provided for him while ours was being repaired, but he admits he does not need that size any more. That is a difficult admission for any farmer to make.

I have always heard folks say that life seems to speed up as one ages, and that feels true. I have trouble admitting all the advanced ages of our grandchildren and that great grandchildren are now bringing memories the previous generation used to make. However, I have just finished Thomas L. Friedman 's latest book Thanks for Being Late. I heard him promoting it and asked Gerald to give it to me for Christmas. It has taken me this long to finish it 461 pages, and I must admit that it was only the last part of the book that talks about things I understand. Remember: I liked to garden with a hoe. And though I really love computers, changing the ribbon on a typewriter is what I understood. Computers are way above my pay scale, so Friedman is absolutely correct that life has accelerated way beyond my comfort zone. Nevertheless, he is an optimist and gives me hope that this acceleration will bring answers to many worrisome problems that maybe we do not need to be worrying about since fortunately there are great educated minds out there working on those problems right now!

The last part of his book was more understandable to me, and I found it very important. He reviewed the values he grew up with in Minnesota. I have spent little time in Minnesota, but I recognized the values that Friedman valued as the same ones I knew in small town and rural Southern Illinois. I suspect many Americans recognize these human values he grew up with.

We need to see people and help one another feel that we are all part of the human group or as he worded it, “people embedded in a community.” People need to be “protected, respected, and connected.” We must listen to one another, include one another, and eventually learn to trust one another. In other words, follow the Golden Rule and recognize that we are all God's children.

Friedman praised the emphasis on good schools in his childhood community that outgrew its previous prejudice against Jewish families such as his family and then provided outstanding teachers that have produced many present-day successes now serving society. We need to embrace one another to reap the benefits of other groups than our own. If we really value education, we must be willing to embrace life-long learning, so I am now beginning to re-read the first part of his book that was difficult for me. Now I am beginning to understand the consequences of the word “exponential” and I know what Joe Biden was talking about recently when he mentioned Moore's Law. Yes, everything is accelerating and time is flying and things are changing. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, and we can embrace the speed and changes.

For example, before I finished this column, I went up to the kitchen and found not a handful of blackberries but a bucket with enough for a cobbler. That is definitely a good thing!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Troubles Abound But So Do Joys!

Photos of beautiful baby Caroline, our first great granddaughter are all over our house. Vickie is again helping Erin today during this difficult time. It is still a wonderful time but also a difficult time because the military leave for Caroline's father has ended. Today Josh returns to base for re-deployment to South Korea. So much sadness in the world because of hate and evil! My breakfast was ruined as I learned of the horrible shooting of our Republican congressmen while they were practicing for the traditional ball game tomorrow night that raises money for charity. I also know from Internet headlines that there has been a shooting and deaths in San Francisco; and as I write this, I am avoiding facing that knowledge until later.

One of the scariest things about such shootings is that a single crazed individual can wreak such terrible harm while the majority of Americans works so hard to make things better in the world. Finding out the shooter was from Belleville in our area of Illinois was further upsetting. An acquaintance of his was taped saying he was not an evil man. I think I understood what that acquaintance meant—that he had not previously done such horrific acts to warn us of how dangerous he was. But with Steve Scalise's life and another victim's life in critical condition, we know this so-called ordinary man did a very evil thing. And we have to determine to live as happily as we can with danger just as previous generations had to do as they faced dire problems and many dangers. So Congress says the baseball game will go on tomorrow night.

We were pleased that both “our” women's college softball teams were in the final eight who went to Oklahoma City for the national play-offs. Our granddaughter Geri Ann, who will be graduating Sunday from the University of Oregon, was a student coach this season for the Ducks, and we were pleased to see them go into the semifinals although our son's Texas A&M team was done on Elimination Saturday. We wanted in the worst way to go to the tournament, but common sense prevailed and we stayed home and watched on television.

Although Gerry managed quick visits to love on baby Caroline on his way both to and from Oklahoma City, he had to hurry on to Houston where practice for the Scrap Yard Dawgs was well underway. This is the second season for this new professional fastpitch women's softball team, and Gerry is coaching them this summer. Since those games are not on television or our computer, Gerald is following the Scrap Yard Dogs by phoning Gerry and by checking their website. I follow them through Gerald's reports, but may find more time to read about them soon.

I am spending a lot of time looking at photographs of places in Spain. Our granddaughter Brianna and her friends, who are studying there, are taking and posting astonishingly beautiful photos of places and colorful events in Grenada and Seville. The rich ornamentation on the centuries' old buildings and the lovely elaborate gardens are fantastic. I did not realize Spain was so full of loveliness, and I am enjoying it all vicariously.

Such great beauty in the world reminds us of the good that has abounded in past generations along with all the wars and evil deeds. Talking to a far-away cousin's daughter this week, I heard her explain that as a retired RN with their four children reared, she now spends her time volunteering in her church's food pantry and soup kitchen and other such community projects. I see Susan Geisler's postings about jobs available in her area and know she is trying tohelp those needing employment. I read the long article she posted about the sad problem we have in our nation with infant mortality, and know she is trying her best to improve that problem. I see my college debate colleague's post encouraging parents to read to their children. Now retired from a life in educational theater, I can tell she still cares about other people's kids and wants to spread any information she can to help. We have choices to make in life. We can be negative and despair because of the evil that exists or we can strive to be a part of those who work to create beauty and improvement in the lives of others.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Strawberry and Softball Season

We have been eating strawberries often lately. This is the second year that Gerald's garden has produced all the strawberries we can eat. He grew them and picked them and sometimes even burred them; but unlike the little red hen, he shares them willingly with me. Once again we have several bags in the freezer for next winter.

I make strawberry shortcake the way Gerald's mother taught me. Instead of using pie crust or the little sponge cakes from the store, she always used crackers in her shortcake. I started out using pie crust or the little cakes, and once I even make the plate-sized shortcake from my bridal cookbook. But I found I liked Mom Glasco's best of all, and that is what I still do today. Except now instead of sugar, I use Apriva and I use wheat crackers which weren't available when I began. I did use sugar for the shortcake that I fed granddaughter Leslie when she and Mike dropped in briefly on their way home from Cecelie's high school graduation. The beautiful Mother's Day plant that they brought me from Jeannie is definitely the highlight on our front porch.

This is the first year for the asparagus that Gerald planted in his garden, and he brings in a cutting of it almost every other day. It tastes so good and fresh. After I wash it, I stand it upright in a narrow pitcher with water in it just the way Mom Glasco taught me years ago. We eat it sparingly,however, because the Vitamin K interferes with our blood thinner meds, so I've put many meaks' worth in the freezer.

As always, we have watched a lot of college softball this season usually on the computers in Gerald's office. We watched on his bigger screen but turned off the sound of the announcers. That was so we could hear the radio announcers on his other computer because our granddaughter Erin was one of them. The two programs were not always in sync, but we did not care because we liked hearing Erin's sweet voice and laugh. Our thoughts are with her and Josh because in the morning, baby Caroline is to be born.

For the last three days, we were able to leave the computers behind and watch softball on the television screen. Texas A&M played Tennessee in the super regionals at Knoxville with fourteen other teams battling it out in their supers across the nation. The winners of two out of three games advance to the Nationals in Oklahoma City starting Thursday.

Friday evening's game was a big disappointment because A&M played poorly and lost.8-1, a lopsided score that should not happen in the super regionals. Then we thought we had lost again yesterday when Tennessee got ahead early. But seeing A&M come back and win that second game 6-5 set the table for an exciting game today.

I tried not to be too optimistic lest I be disappointed; and when Tennessee quickly got ahead again this afternoon, it looked like this would be our last game of the season. Then the Aggies came alive and pulled ahead. Then behind. Then ahead. There was one rain delay and there were the frequent delays that Coach Karen Weekly is known for. Katherine and I watched together in her bedroom. With the rest of the entire softball nation, we could not help but marvel and be inspired by A&M's pitcher Trinity Harrington, who had missed their regional tourney to spend the last days with her father as he lost his battle with cancer. Her team had rallied the best they could to show her support last week, and they knew how she wanted to win this one for her father, who had been a great supporter of her softball career. And with the help of her teammates, she did. The camera frequently flashed to her mother in the stands, and it was hard to stay dry eyed.

When Tennessee made their last out, the A&M tears were tears of happiness as they became one of the eight teams heading to the Women's College World Series, something little girls playing softball grow up dreaming about.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Busy Times for Farmers and Grandkids!

Dust is flying in the fields as farmers here hurry to get seed in the ground. They often have to be on the roads as they go from field to field or farm to farm. Although I usually cut through the country, the other day coming home from Katherine's after I had filled my gas tank, I took the highway. There I slowly drove a long way behind a tractor. I reminded myself, “If you like to eat, be grateful for farmers.”

Mary Ellen and Brian are not only super busy in the field and with their kitchen redoing, but they somehow managed over last weekend to move two kids out of their apartments as their school year ended.
I was only away from home last Saturday morning less than an hour running in to do an errand at Katherine's house. Yet I missed all the excitement here. Gerald was down at the end of the lake mowing the bank there when he realized his tractor was on fire!

He had to jump off and hurry up our long lane to get to his shop for a bucket. Riding his utility vehicle back down, he was able to dip lake water and put out the fire. Scott Cully, our good next door neighbor, came and helped when he realized what was going on. Brandon White was going by a little later and saw something amiss from the road and ran up fearful for Gerald. By then Gerald had things under control, but Brandon stayed until he was sure all was well.

A bird had built a nest inside the tractor and caused the fire with considerable damage to wiring. Scott and Sonja were here again that afternoon helping, and the repair folks brought down a replacement tractor this week when they took ours to be repaired. Gerald was amazed as he had never had such an occurrence before, but he has since learned that this happens more than we were aware. I used to have to lay down on the garage floor and coax out kittens from the inside of the car engine before I drove the car, but I did not know you need to check tractors for birds' nests.

Grandkids' summer plans no longer allow coming to the farm first to attend Vacation Bible School when they were very young and then in later years to help out with VBS in our village. This summer their plans are diverse and exciting. Trent was the first to begin work. Brianna and Mary Ellen drove with him to Kansas City to get him settled in a sweet little loft apartment in someone's home, and yesterday Trent began an internship at the AMC Theater Support Center, as their new headquarters building is called.

Brianna has a few days yet to get packed and ready for a hot summer in Grenada, Spain, where she will be immersed in Spanish at classes at the university there. (This trip is to fulfill a requirement for TESOL students at Murray.)

Sam is temporarily here from Waco and was able to with his mother on Mother's Day. He will be interning this summer teaching motivated kids from the inner city at a program in Austin. His group will be meeting at the University of Texas, so he is pleased about that.

Elijah is finishing his first year of teaching, and he will be supervising the Illinois Normal interns just as he did last summer. This is the program he participated in two summers ago which led him to teaching in Chicago.
Cecelie, his younger sister and our youngest granddaughter, will be graduating from high school in a few days and will be going the furthest this summer. She felt called to go on a mission trip to help in an orphanage in Kolkota, India. (I did not even know Calcutta was now called Kolkota.)

Her older sister Leslie is busy developing her new dual business—going rogue, Leslie calls it. She free lances in both marketing and music work. One most recent client is her dad, for whom she created a website to promote “Mr. E's Bees.” She continues to perform as she has all her life (even as a a toddler when her mother said she always acted everything out instead of talking) and now she uses her university training to work as a music copyist.

Because the University of Oregon is on a term system rather than semesters, Geri Ann does not graduate until June 18 on Father's Day. She made the decision not to play pro ball again this summer, and I am hoping she gets a little time to rest up before she joins the work force. I know she is coming this way to be in a friend's wedding, and I am excited about that.

Tara, our oldest granddaughter, will continue what she does all the time—getting three boys to their ball games and cheering them on while also working full time at the new sports field house she has been involved in for the two years it was built. Fortunately, she has lots of help from her husband and also her mother, who lives near by.

However, Vickie may be busy elsewhere this summer although I an sure she will attend plenty of boys' games. I am saving the best for the last! Granddaughter Erin will be having her baby girl very shortly now, and I am hoping she will have a wonderfully busy and happy summer ahead of her bonding with Caroline Marie Simons before she has to adjust to going back to her teaching job.

Oh, I forgot to include Sam's girl friend Anna, who is planning a trip to see a friend in Germany, after a summer of employment caring for six children during the day. As I have anticipated the grandkids' summers, I have had to study up on my geography and look at maps to see where they are all going to be. I look forward to hearing their reports to enliven my quiet elderly stay-at-home life style. And I look forward to holding that first great granddaughter!