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. http://leslieeilerthompson.com/marketinghome/ 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!

















































Tuesday, May 02, 2017

"Oh, Didn't It Rain"

Our family celebrations are much smaller these days with most of our family no longer in our community But we did have a pleasant Easter with the Taylor family. Trent and Brianna were both home from college and died beautiful eggs for us. After worship, we six gathered for dinner at the farm, and later I took plates into Katherine and her aide and visited there. Grandson Sam had surprised us oldsters by flying home for his birthday weekend, so he showed up at the farm coming and going while spreading himself thin to see both sides of his family. Getting to see her son unexpectedly definitely made Katherine's holiday. Sam did not surprise his cousins because they all keep in close touch thanks to cell phones.

Last Wednesday was Katherine's bithday, so I made her a cake I sometimes made her years ago—an angel food with a bouquet of real flowers with the vase hidden in the center hole of the cake. We took chicken and dumpling dinners from a local restaurant and had birthday dinner in her bedroom with the help of her excellent aide. As I had not been organized enough to know the time to send to Mary Ellen with Brian in the field, they dropped in later to sing “Happy Birthday” with us when we cut the cake. With gifts to open, a call from Sam and others, and all the cards in the mail and Facebook greetings, that was the best we could do, and Katherine was smiling and appreciative.

The Taylors are without a kitchen right now as they are replacing floor and cabinets and doing other rehab work. When Gerry came through here on his way to a softball weekend at Lexington, Mary Ellen came over to see him and brought Fifi to enjoy a bit of country life running in the fields since her life has been torn up too by all the workmen in the house with her. Before Gerry and Gerald took off in his rented pickup carrying the team's pitching machines, there was a demonstration of bird dogs brought up to the farm from Knoxville. Mary Ellen and I had to laugh to notice that Fifi was not intimidated by those big dogs. She marked her territory to let them know this was her farm. Gerry brought in four quail eggs for Mary Ellen to fry for Brian, which she laughingly and graciously accepted although she had never served such before. Then she remembered she had no kitchen—so I am saving them for her.

I listened to Friday night game on the computer and was pleased with the A&M's victory over Kentucky, and someone put a photo of Gerald at the game on Facebook. But weekend began going downhill when I learned that our Jeannie and husband Rick were driving home from Rochester and they would be going back Sunday afternoon to have same-day surgery yesterday morning to repair a problem caused by the port left in after her chemo. Jeannie kept emphasizing it was “not a big deal,” but I did not believe her for a minute. So when it stormed all night, I felt as I often do that nature was upset as I was. I do not know how much it rained because our rain gauge was run over at five inches when I emptied it the next morning.

We are on a hill side, so we do not worry about flooding. I was grateful that my diligent husband had noticed and made a point on Thursday to repair the very tiny “wanna be a gully I grow up” on the side of the slope on our lane. He also cleared the debris off the filter on the emergency overflow pipe on the far end of our lake. The first thing he asked when I told him about the rain storm was whether the water went over the dam. And I was able to tell him the overflow had worked perfectly thanks to his work.

But many people in our area as well as other areas of the nation did not fare so well. Lakes formed beside many roads here, and some roads became lakes. Our homeless shelter and many other homes were flooded. The Catholic church opened for those needing shelter, and the Red Cross came in with emergency shelter. And people are still hurting and coping.

Katherine had one aide out sick and another who had a car wreck, so I took the highway into her house to avoid the closed roads. We listened to the A&M-Kentucky game together on her TV screen, and we felt together the pain of defeat. Of course, we assumed we'd win again on Sunday, but we didn't.

I went back to town through light rain that evening to give Katherine night pills, but then drove home through torrential rain. I knew then I would stay home the next day and not venture out unless necessary. I slept very late and poured out another over five inches of rain from the gauge. Fortunately Katherine's aide was back, and I had the restful Sunday I needed. I prayed for Jeannie's surgery coming up, ate up left-overs in the fridge, found a play-by-play game account on Kentucky's website that let me follow the game, and looked forward to seeing Gerald and Gerry when they arrived that evening from Lexington.

Despite a fall the night before from catching his foot on a stob in an unofficial walkway between the outdoor pizza place and their motel, Gerald was in a good mood. With his hand he had bandaged up very professionally after he picked the gravel out, he and Gerry had me laughing during snacks at the kitchen table as they told of their misadventures. (Gerald had a regular doctor appointment today, and the doctor said his hand looked good.) I am sure Gerry was exhausted because he went straight to bed after his shower instead of running over to visit a friend as he wanted to do, and I think he and Gerald slept as good as I did the night before.

Yesterday after we saw Gerry off for Texas, I was focused on waiting for Rick's call that Jeannie's surgery had gone well. The good call came, and I relaxed. They stayed at their motel in Rochester last night, and today they were on their way home. I thank God for that. Gerry and the pitching machines are back on campus today, and he is cheerful on Facebook. Gerald has picked the asparagus in his garden and cleaned out the overflow filter again. He is ready for the next deluge.  

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Enjoying Spring's Beauty

Leaving behind the twittering martins swooping over our lake and the many resting on the telephone line up our lane, Gerald took us on a springtime ride to visit a cousin-in-law and his daughter before they headed back to North Carolina. He deliberately chose roads we don't usually travel to get there.

Seeing the roadside platform placed to view the geese brought memories of a long ago stop there with my visiting cousin Doug and a grandson sitting in back in his car seat with his sister buckled beside him. Somehow unbeknownst to us when we got back in the car, an insect mnaaged to get under the grandson's little leg. We could not figure out why he was crying although we kept trying to correct any problem. When we finally arrived at the family cemetery where we were headed and got him out of the seat, we saw the terrible red bump on the under side of his leg and the squashed insect. Other memories of that day are more pleasant, including explaining to his not much older sister why she could enjoy but not pick the pretty flower arrangements off the graves. That wildlife viewing platform reminds me of the sad little story that tore this grandmother up. Fortunately, the grandson survived just fine and is now teaching in Chicago, but I don't think we ever stopped again.

Soon we were crossing the highway over the eastern end of Crab Orchard Lake. Fluffy white clouds in the blue sky rounded down to the edge of the lake, and I inhaled the beauty and the peaceful change from the earlier sorry memory. Springtime beauty kept increasing as we drove through the many hills and hollows with roads now lined with the silver-green leaves of the autumn olives.(Or were those shrubs Russian olives? I don't know the difference.) Behind these short pretty little trees which are now deemed invasive, were the tall dark trees left over from winter with only a few giving us a hint of green leaves forming. The purple-pink redbud, however, was at the height of its glory, and an occasional patch of bright yellow blooming mustard plant added more color. After this bountiful blessing of roadside beauty, we arrived at the hill-top destination home out from Cobden. There we had a long and good talkative visit with Bill, who had recently suffered a serious fall, and with Glenna who was there to make sure he was taken care of as he recovers.

We left going back home a different route of hills. These provoked even older memories of when curvy Old 51 was the only way we had to go to Carbondale back in our college days. Gerald had an errand there at a favorite hardware story, and then we stopped in Marion to use one of our Christmas restaurant gift cards.

Only a couple of days later driving into Katherine's, in addition to all the early-season yard sales going on, there were dogwoods now in bloom adding white delight to the landscape along with the colorful redbuds. Many more tall trees were green with early leaves.

More recently in one of the older neighborhoods in town with its ancient bricked street that I love, I saw a large pink dogwood blooming beautifully in someone's yard. That reminded me of a lesson I learned a few years back. I like simple things, and I like old things. And I am not too good about changes. I had not grown up with pink dogwoods, so I thought pink dogwood had to be a variation some over-eager botanist had created-- just like our food manufacturers are no longer satisfied with plain oatmeal, but must now befuddle us with many variations. This wide array of choices makes going to a modern grocery mind-confusing and time-consuming. So I resented the pink dogwood as a one too many modern variation. Then I found out that I was wrong. It had been around for a long time. I looked it up just now and found that this lovely pink variety was noticed and recorded by a plant hunter named Marc Catesby in 173l.

I am now trying to remember that getting old should not make one crotchety and critical of inevitable changes that will come when needed or maybe when not. I can be grateful for caffeine-free tea for those who need it and the quick-cooking oatmeal or other products for those in a hurry—sometimes me.I can be grateful for healthier choices on our crowded long grocery aisles and I need to look at changes with more openness. There is an excellent smaller store with fewer and shorter aisles in town, and I often choose to go there. I am also aware that many people in small villages or poor city neighborhoods have no store that is easy to get to, and that makes my complaints about too many choices seem even more petty.

Rejoice in your blessings. Cope with your problems. And have a pleasant Easter everyone.

























































Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Celebrating Gerald!

A few years back, Gerald decided he needed to go see a softball series to celebrate his birthday. I cannot remember whether that trip was to see our son coach or one of our granddaughters play. Nevertheless, a tradition had begun. I think he has managed to go see games for his birthday ever since.

This year the softball series nearest his birthday was March 18-20 when Texas A&M would play Ole Miss. Nephew DuWayne was ready to be a willing driving assistant; the two of them always have a good time watching Gerry's teams. I was not up to sitting on cold bleachers instead of following the games in the comfort of home, so I declined.

I thought I ought to start the project of uncluttering my office. However, as always, I became too interested in old papers and would have to read them, so I did not get far on that project. I did manage to fill a big tall wastebasket and get those papers into the trash barrel in the garage. This is good for me because I am addicted to paper, and it hurts me to part with long-ago drafts or saved interesting articles that I might want to use someday for research. Long before researching on Google was possible, I had files of saved research on family history and other interests for writing I have never had time to accomplish unfortunately.

Since A&M swept the weekend series, Gerald came home in great spirits Sunday night. The shared the bleachers with fans, who with gave them credit for helping win and urged them to come to all the games. I heard the radio broadcaster telling how great the food on the Oxford square was, which was what Gerald had told me the night before. Vickie had primed Gerry to be sure Gerald had a birthday dinner there. With only one game a day, Gerry had time for visiting with his cousin and dad, so the whole weekend was successful. Gerald slept good that night back at the farm.

By Monday, the texts, phone calls, Facebook greetings, and birthday cards had started. Gerald gave me DuWayne's message that not only would Gerald's birthday breakfast be in Marion for our convenience, but they would even delay it until eight if I could come. I was flattered and embarrassed at the same time, and I assured Gerald to tell DuWayne I could surely make it to a 7 o'clock breakfast once a year! When Ernestine was here, I told her she was the only one I would go clear to Jonesboro early in the morning to eat breakfast with, but that was an exaggeration-–a synonym for a lie. Actually there are many people I would rise early for, but just not on a regular basis. Ha.

So on Tuesday morning, Gerald and I calmly traveled to town to share breakfast and laughter with his brother Garry and Vera and five of our nephews—DuWayne, Tim, Kerry, Bryce, and great nephew-in-law Eric. We felt even better when we learned that oddly all of the younger generation were actually working up in our neck of the woods that day anyhow, so coming up to Marion instead of Jonesboro for breakfast worked out well for them too.

Gerald continued getting birthday messages all week, and Wednesday brought the most beautiful one of all. This brightly multi-colored handmade card was an elaborate fold-down one with even its large envelope brightly decorated by our artist daughter Jeannie. Gerald had to take it in to show Katherine on Thursday.
Gerald's last official party was one Mary Ellen cooked up for Saturday night. Brianna had been on spring break all week, but at the same time, Mary Ellen was selling real estate and finishing up their April issue of House2Home's magazine. They had hoped to find time to look for Bri's apartment for next year at Murray, but they were pushed shopping for her upcoming trip to a roommate's California beach wedding at the bride's grandparents' home this weekend.

Our Freeport granddaughter Cecelie was also on spring break from high school, and her brother Elijah had put her on a train in Chicago to travel down for a week's visit their sister Leslie in Nashville. So on Saturday, Leslie was bringing Cecelie up here to catch an early Sunday morning train in Carbondale back to Union Station, where Elijah would meet her. So I was looking forward to seeing them.

Naturally they were planning to see Brianna and Trent. Mary Ellen and Brian invited us all to meet and have pizza together to celebrate Gerald's birthday. We were shocked to find when we arrived at the designated pizza place, there was not a single parking place available—not one! We hastily called Mary Ellen, who called the others, and we all ended up at another favorite place, where parking was available. And their pizza was delicious as always. We had a good time talking and laughing, and the younger four got together for even more visiting while we went home to contemplate our blessings. Cece ended up staying all night with Brianna, and I enjoyed a wonderful end-of-the-evening talk with Leslie hearing all about her new work as an independent worker in her home office. Going rogue she calls it. She and Gerald visited briefly over the coffee pot the next morning, and I assume Cecelie caught her 7 am. train and Leslie made it home to Nashville and Mike.

This week has not been so pleasant for Gerald as he had serious dental work yesterday, which was checked again today. He looks great in his new dentures, and he has seemed to enjoy soft meals I've served him of mushroom soup, jello,and ice cream.

Before they left for Mississippi, Gerald had hurried to get some CRP ground burned off, a storm-damaged shop roof repaired, and a couple martin houses cleaned out. The martins are already nesting in them. Today he was replacing a handle on the downstairs toilet that had quit working. No wonder we celebrated that 87-year-old man!!






























Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Fun Weekend

The fun started when we learned that Geri Ann was flying from Oregon into Saint Louis around midnight Thursday with plans to drive a rental car down to the farm. Erin was to be surprised since she did not know her younger sister could make the upcoming baby shower. Gerald told me with emphasis not to tell. Imagine my horror Thursday night when I texted Geri Ann asking if she were in Saint Louis yet, and almost instantly I received a reply from Erin saying: “No, I am not flying into Saint Louis until Saturday morning.” (I knew this already from her call to Gerald, but she probably thought he had not told me all the details, which included her plan to meet her mother-in-law there, who was flying in from Minneapolis.)

Since my copy of the sent text showed plainly it was to Geri Ann, I was afraid Erin would see that if she looked the text a second time. I did not want to be the guilty one ruining the surprise. Fortunately, I have now learned that the name of the intended recipient does not show, and so Erin did not suspect that I was really talking to Geri Ann!

I have a terrible time with modern technology, and I did not dare text either sister again Thursday night. I went to bed puzzled. It took me until the next morning to figure out that I had put Erin's phone number not only under her own name but also under Geri Ann's. Obviously, I am not too familiar with texting, and I guess I had not texted Geri Ann recently to discover my error. (I dropped and broke my phone and had to put all phone numbers in a new one.) Ah well. It is corrected now. Geri Ann was asleep in the brown room when we got up the next morning.

(The brown room is where people choose to sleep if they need to sleep in. Our house has a walk-out basement and lots of light enters, but three back rooms have no windows—a bedroom and my office and Gerald's office. The bedroom has tan walls and ended up being called the brown room to distinguish it from the bedroom in front with yellow walls.)

After a nice visit, Geri Ann was off to Johnston City to visit her long-time friends Cierra (Cece) and Dustin and little Matt—Geri Ann's god child—now a toddler. We knew our daughter-in-law Vickie and the third sister, Tara, were starting from Texas after attending Tara's three boys' school musical, and they might be arriving sometime after midnight depending how soon they were able to actually get on the road. However, some time during the night, Gerald had a text saying they had decided they better stop at a motel before continuing. I think Geri Ann came back late after visiting Gma Shirley and spent the night again in the brown room. Quite frankly, that was the last I even tried to keep track of those coming and going!

Saturday morning Vickie and Tara came through Anna and picked up the special cake with a pink elephant on top with at large pink bow (all made of icing) and Caroline's name on it. They went onto the event center at West Frankfort where some entrepreneur had revitalized the Old Fire House for celebrations such as this. Geri Ann was directed to go there to wait for whenever she was revealed to Erin!

A huge high ceiling-ed room awaited them there that had once housed fire trucks, and they wanted to make it pink and pretty for little Caroline's first party. So they were busy unloading table cloths for the many circular tables, table flowers with peanuts holding them in their vases, tables for signing and gifts, and bags of animal crackers for favors. They also had to gather various foods and set up to feed us the next day! I am not sure who all showed up to help. Gma Shirley was there to visit and help, and Mary Ellen and Brianna showed up before the day was over. Since the hostesses did not want Erin to have to prepare for her own party, we had the pleasure of a long visit with her during the afternoon before we took her down to spend the night at her Uncle Louie and Aunt Chris's house.

Sometime in here, Elijah had arrived from Chicago, and he and Trent were briefly at our house before they went shopping for baby gifts, I think. Before the evening was over, Geri Ann and Brianna had joined them for whatever mischief they had planned. Having Geri Ann with them was a special treat, though they missed Cecelie and Sam, who could not make it. By then we had learned that their cousin Leslie and husband Mike would not be coming up from Nashville until Sunday, so there would be a bed instead of a couch available for Lige. Tara and Vickie arrived at the farm after a late night supper in town. I knew they must be tired after their previous 36 hours of travel and party efforts. We quickly agreed to leave the door open for whoever showed up later and went to bed as soon as possible.

The next morning Gerald went over and picked up Erin as we both wondered why we had not thought to just let her borrow the truck the evening before. (But we had enjoyed taking her and, thus, visiting a little longer.) Because of our colds and also because I had been needed at Katherine's house, Gerald and I had missed church for a couple of weeks. So we headed out while Vickie and her three daughters were able to visit a bit at the kitchen table. Rather than eat in town as we usually do on Sunday, Gerald and I came back for a quick light meal before we headed to the Old Fire House to join everyone there.

Gerald was pleasantly enthusiastic about going to his first baby shower. While some of our men thought they just were not meant to attend such a party, a lot of them showed up. There were Glasco, Martin, Johnson, and Borum family representatives there as well as Crab Orchard high school friends of Vickie and, of course, her daughters' school friends from Johnston City. I was relieved we did not play some of the games that have been invented in recent years, and instead we just enjoyed visiting and table hopping and lots of eating. I loved seeing people I had not seen in way too long although I am no longer nimble enough to do much of the table hopping.

I did appreciate Gerry's cousin DuWayne keeping me up on the scores of Gerry's game going on down at College Station.  A highlight for me was seeing little ones there that I especially wanted to see in person rather than just on Facebook--one of whom was DuWayne and Vickie's pretty little granddaughter Camy. And now we have photos of them that Gerald took. Erin looked so pretty and healthy, and she proved she was ready for motherhood when she raced to the big heavy outside door and rescued her cousin's son Bentley, who had managed to open it—even though he is not yet two!

The big event,however, was seeing Erin open so many gifts and seeing the sweet tiny clothes that are so abundant for today's babies. I remember making six flannel night gowns for our babies—and they all four wore those gowns before I gave them away to another mother to use. I also had cute diaper sets given to me—little plastic-lined ruffled pants with tiny cool tops which were a new item in those days. Little girl babies traditionally wore soft light-weight pastel dresses made in the Philippines. I was blessed with an abundance of those because my sister-in-law Ginger had received a carefully hoarded supply from her family in Missouri when her daughter Vicki Sue was born. Ginger passed them onto me, and I think I remember ironing fifteen of them in the living room of our little rented house and laying them on the back of the couch to enjoy before I hung them up. I did enjoy that work although no one needs to iron baby clothes now. I am sure I passed those on also although I would enjoy fondling one of those little dresses again.

Now babies are dressed in soft footed sleepers as well as exquisite clothes for going out and about. Yet young mothers are still passing clothes on since babies grow so rapidly that newborn clothes are too quickly outgrown to ever wear out. Erin loved going through the large shopping bag of her cousin Sarah's beautiful clothes all carefully laundered and ready for Caroline now that Lily Mae no longer needs them. I saw Erin go through that bag twice enjoying those clothes showing them off, and I am sure back in Texas now, she is handling and dreaming over the pretty new things she was gifted with Sunday. Gerald's overalls (size 6-months)and a couple of other farm outfits for Caroline were especially appreciated by all—or at least giggled over. I want to see up close all the books Caroline received if we someday get to visit her Texas home.

I was at Katherine's house after the party, but family members gathered to eat party leftovers that Vickie fed everyone at our dining room table. I am sure they were all tired but happy,  I arrived home in time so enjoy this too.

On Monday morning, although it quickly melted, there was snow on the ground. Vickie and Tara were already long gone before I woke up at 8. Erin came over from Chris and Louie's, and we had a good visit before we had a final early lunch in town with Erin and her mother-in-law Roxanne before they drove back to Saint Louis to catch their respective flights back to Minneapolis and Dallas. I know Erin was very eager to get back home. Her husband Josh had been on a training event in California for a month; and as service people's lives would have it, he returned to their home just two hours after Erin had to go to Dallas to catch her flight here. So he was being “dog daddy” for their little bull dog while Erin was up here. He had to return to base the next day after she returned home, but she was hoping he would have some time off later this week while she is on spring break from her school. And if so, I am sure she is showing him Caroline's clothes.





























































































Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Springtime in Winter

Bright yellow daffodils and the white blossoms on pear trees continue to decorate this late winter landscape. 
Gerald and I have both had our first cold that we have had in a year or two, but we cannot blame it on the weather. This has been an unusually warm winter here in Southern Illinois, and I have kept expecting it to change.Yesterday's rainy weather while I was out and about doing errands after I had a semi-annual check up with the heart doctor made me think of April--not winter.  Last night's wind storm did some slight damages here, but nothing like the tornadoes a few days ago over at Elkville and elsewhere.

Other areas have not escaped winter. After Gerald's sister Ernestine and husband Don stayed around for some final family visits here before they left our warm weather and headed back to Wyoming, they were dreading the snow and ice-covered roads between here and there. They made it back safely, and we were grateful. Last Sunday, I noticed our son was wearing a coat at the softball game down at Texas A&M while we were still able to opt out of jackets.

I just hope we do not have one of our March blizzards this weekend when family is coming up from Texas and Tennessee for granddaughter Erin and Josh's baby shower. Preparing for the new baby girl coming into our family's lives has been such a joy during our season of sorrow. First the dining room table and then the bed in the guest bedroom has been covered with sweet frilly clothes and girly gift bags, and now I have to get that room back in operation before company starts arriving for this weekend's party.

 The last baby girl in our immediate family when out granddaughter Cecelie was born—and she is a senior in high school this year! We have delighted in our three great grandsons since then, but we are definitely ready to welcome a little girl into the mix.

Erin's sister Tara has suggested instead of using a card with our gift that we inscribe a children's book—one we already have and cherish or one we choose just for Caroline Marie, That has been a fun idea. (I have been concerned when I realized how much cards cost these days. I loved the gorgeous cards given us for our anniversary party, but was shocked when I realized how expensive they were. They have been re-read more than once and are carefully stowed away for future enjoyment.) With cards costing more than some books, Tara's idea is an excellent one. I can just imagine how much pleasure Josh and Erin will have reading to their little girl.

Regardless of whether spring weather stays or not, our hearts are warmed that we have a new birth coming up to celebrate.












Thursday, February 23, 2017

Keith DuWayne Glasco, Sr. (Aug. 8, 1937 to Feb. 16, 2017)

On a beautiful rural hillside caressed by balmy warm weather, we said goodbye to the body of Gerald's youngest brother after his long fight with heart problems. We knew Keith was in a better place and no longer in that beautiful wood coffin as we listened to the final words of his pastor. Barbara's parents and others of Keith's family were already buried in this rural cemetery not far from Keith and Barbara's home where the long funeral procession had stopped briefly for Keith's dog Hash to join us for this final farewell.

Our great niece Jennifer Jade Escue from Kansas City hurried to our car and joined Gerald helping me tranverse the upward climb on the soft thawed groud to the tent waiting over the grave site. Before we left, all were invited to go on to the church fellowship hall a hill or so away. Amid the visiting, some were taking a rose from flower arrangements to remember Keith with. Keith had been honored in every way his many friends and family could accomplish.

From Thursday morning when Gerald along with others of Keith's family saw Keith peacefully breathe his last breaths shortly after his pastor had visited and offered what turned out to be a final prayer with him, everyone wanted to remember all the good things Keith and Barbara had done for others.

Our granddaughter Leslie was already up in northern Illinois for the high school state speech contest on Saturday that her sister Cecelie was in, so Les had planned to stop at the farm on way home to Nashville. Now our daughter Jeannie and husband Rick also came down to grieve with us. It was good to be able to worship with them on Sunday morning. Although a previous appointment made it impossible for Leslie to stay over for the funeral, she did delay her drive back to Tennessee until after the visitation for Keith.  There she was not only able to see our daughter Mary Ellen and husband Brian but her cousins Trent and Brianna as well as more  distant cousins--some of whom she had never met.

Sunday evening we gathered at the funeral home on the Jonesboro Square, where in the past we have said goodbye to so many family members and friends.The line of grievers soon reached the bank next door, and the people kept coming until time to go home. While some had arrived from a distance, most were neighbors and local friends. Barbara and her sons and their spouses and the grandchildren and great grandchildren were hugged over and over as they listened to the expressed grief and affection. Sometimes tears came down the cheeks of those already missing their friend, and sometimes laughs and smiles were shared.

The next morning we gathered there again for a funeral service that was joyful and reassuring as we bid farewell to the dear one peacefully lying there with his hands holding one of his late brother Kenny's pocket knives and also a little metal angel a great grandson wanted Grampy to have. The pall bearers had been asked to wear jeans with black shirts, and the word had gotten around so those garments were seen throughout the congregation as well. I was silently thanking God that our son Gerry had arrived safely at 4:30 that morning after driving all night. His cousin DuWayne had tried to dissuade him from making that hurried trip, so I did not bother. I did try to not take away any of the very brief rest time he had at our house, but I was glad to visit with him a bit at that bountiful feast the church provided in the large fellowship hall packed with people. Soon Gerry would start the trip back to Texas to be at batting practice the next day, and we took Jeannie and Rick to their car to start their long trip upstate.



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Laughter and Stories Keep Us From Crying

Winter has brought many good memories and wonderful stories while we gather together and and listen to one another talk of life and happy times.

What can be better than being at table with friends enjoying chili together on a cold winter day? A pretty table with bread made by the host is icing on the cake, but the true cake is enjoying each other while we make new friends and hear life stories. (The lemon cake served for dessert was very good, but still not as good as the stories, Laughter and stories cannot be surpassed. ) How will we ever forget that the long-married couple across from us first met when they were just eleven and nine?

He was visiting her church and playing the piano. He looked around and saw her and thought she was the cutest thing possible even though he had come with another girl who was considered his “girl friend.” Sealing the deal, the little girl he thought so cute winked at him!! She seems quite proper today; but even in the church house, she knew the proper response to his admiration at that early age! They married a few years later, and have led a productive life rearing two fine sons and sharing their many talents wherever they have lived. Since their childhood homes were miles apart , I do not know how they continued that love at first sight. If we are fortunate, maybe we will someday learn how that was achieved. There was another great story about his car break down when he tried to visit her as a young teen. Obviously, this successful couple both knew who they wanted, and the world is a better world because they did!

Last week besides his own doctor appointments, Gerald made several trips to Cape Girardeau to visit his brother Keith at the hospital. His heart disease had become seriously worse. Then at the end of last week, sadly Keith was sent home with Hospice help.

Actually he and Barbara have wonderful help already there on their rural hilltop. (They have wonderful help because Keith and Barb have always been quick to provide help to everyone they know.) Both his daughter-in-law Glenda and his granddaughter Lauren are outstanding experienced RNs and live almost within shouting distance of Keith and Barbara's, and they are very attentive and devoted. Their granddaughter Amanda also lives at the foot of the hill with her parents DuWayne and Vickie, so they also have a trained beautician for manicures and pedicures along with many other services that the nurses and granddaughter Andrea are happy to provide for the grandparents they love. Their granddaughter Tracy has years of experience in the dental field and was able to give Gerald some advice while she was down from Saint Louis to see Keith and Barb. Sons Tim and DuWayne, grandson-in-law Eric, and grandson Greg are all close enough to visit and help and be involved taking care of cattle, dogs, poultry, or anything else Keith would want done. Grandson Mark, though not living adjacently is within a few miles of Keith and Barbara's farm as is our brother Garry. Add on to that Keith's cousins nearby and all the friends he and Barb have collected and you have a community of help available.

Tim and DuWayne encouraged Gerald to come down when he can because they feel like the brothers--only Gerald and Garry now since we lost brother Kenny to leukemia-- make Keith laugh more. (Our kids always loved to have the brothers together to hear all the laughter that was produced as they talked of childhood exploits and neighborhood characters.)

As soon as Ernestine and Don heard how seriously ill Keith was, they started here from Wyoming. Ernestine was the only girl in that family. They were able to bring along their daughter Leah and granddaughter Emmerson called Emmie since Leah is home schooling Emmie this year. Despite living so far away, Emmie has made close ties with the Illinois relatives because she loves the farms and especially all the horses and dogs and kittens and chickens and ducks that she finds on the Union County farms. The Gamble clan arrived late Sunday night to Garry's place exhausted but eager to visit Keith and Barbara. Gerald was eager to see them, of course, but decided to stay away on Monday, so Ernestine could visit that day without competition while Keith was most strong. Those two were the youngest siblings.

Yesterday, however, we could stay away no longer. After a quick visit with Katherine, we took her hugs down to Keith and Barb. I was able to repeat to Keith the loving memories that Katherine had of him. “He always hugged me and whispered in my ear, and I had no doubt he loved me,” she said.

Tim had stayed with him again the previous night since DuWayne is scheduled for future nights. Family were pleased that Keith had slept better than usual the night before. The established routine for Keith was to get up and dress and have breakfast before going to his recliner. The TV screen is adjusted for his chair where he continues his habit of watching his favorite cowboy movies which Barb said he probably has memorized by now. Visitors come sit near him and tell him what they need to tell him, and he responds with typical love and laughter. When he tires, he lapses into sleep and that is good. Lauren, who was on duty yesterday, was quick to anticipate his every need. After lunch he goes into his bedroom to sleep if he wants to, and people visit him there. Once I glanced in to see Lauren lying on the adjoining bed laughing with him and the visitor.

Before Ernestine and Don, Leah and Emmie arrived, Barbara had told us how much fun seven-year- old Emmie had with our warm weather allowing her to play in the yard the day before. (Snow was deep when they left Wyoming.) She took good care of all the kittens, and with permission and encouragement from Barb had created what she called a “kitty buffet” with piles of food for each cat. The zenith of her visit though was to see a chicken fly up into a pan of straw there in the yard and then leave it cackling gleefully! Emmie was amazed to find a warm egg left there, and so was Barbara as she said they were not laying right now. Barb asked her if she would like her to cook that egg for her, and Emmie was delighted to eat the egg she had gathered.

When their family arrived, Leah reported Emmie woke up talking about that egg and said if she found one today, it was going to be for her Uncle Keith. Soon Emmie was carrying out cat food for the kitties again and snuggling with each one by one. Next Vickie Sue arrived from their home up near Carbondale on Rocky Comfort Road, and she had a Valentine gift for Emmie and colorful decorated cupcakes for all.

Just as Gerald had explained of his previous visits, their adjoining dining room had a table full of food that loved ones had carried in. (DuWayne was not above sending Gerry way down in Texas the mouth-watering photos of his Aunt Opal's famous egg custard pies that she and Bryce took down to them.) All the people coming and going were fed freely if they were hungry, and people usually were when they looked at the food. Garry had brought in buns and pork from Jonesboro's famous Dixie Barbecue along with pies. We had just finished eating, and here came our cousin-in-law Morris with this huge huge pan covered with foil explaining he wanted to get it there while it was still hot from the oven. People started exclaiming that not only did it smell good, but this home-made tea ring was a work of art. Lauren was quick to hand out servings to everyone, but I had to go look to see how beautiful that tea ring was. Barbara explained that Morris and cousin Judy are known as these generous cooks who regularly show up with tea rings and home-made pies for the sick and their families. Morris always donates a similar large tea ring to the local fall festival, which raises money for the school, and people will bid it up to fifty dollars or more.

After lunch, Emmie was quick to go back outside in the warm weather. One by one, each kitten was carried in and visited with us. Since there were three dogs n the room (Keith's beloved Hash, Lauren and Eric's little Murphy,and Don and Ernestine's Finnley), there were a few snappy interactions if the kitten escaped Emmie's arms. That provided a bit of excitement, but the best part was the kittens inspired Barb to start telling Emmie about all her pet animals down through the years. Barb pulled her wheel chair toward Emmie, who was soon enthralled.

I remembered sitting in their living room long ago and suddenly seeing a terrapin come crawling slowly out from under the couch. I assumed that like most farmer's wives, Barb had baby pigs and calves inside to warm up. But I had forgotten about the pet ground hog. Barb said Keith had found a tiny pink animal no bigger than your hand out in the yard and brought it in. They had no idea what kind of an animal it was, but Barb got out the baby bottles and the formula she used for baby pigs and started caring for the tiny thing. It turned out to be a ground hog and remained a loving pet for a long time until it was full size. It finally bit her after she had been asked to take it to school for the kids to see, and perhaps that excitement over stimulated it. There was also a story about a raccoon although it must have been a short story because I cannot remember how that animal showed up, but the photograph of it high up the wall sitting atop their horse collar lamp was adorable.

But the best story was of the pet skunk Barbara had briefly as a little girl. The family saw it on the highway, and Barb's dad stopped and retrieved it and handed it to Barbara. She loved it, of course, and the only time it ever sprayed was once when a dog threatened it and once when it hurt its foot on a loose wire. She kept it until her mother found Barb had it inside her bedroom and decided it was time for the skunk to go elsewhere. Perhaps the sweetest part of Barb's stories was getting to watch wide-eyed Emmie hearing them. A tiny little thing, Emmie has huge blue eyes in a little elfin face and almost a perpetual smile. Her enthusiasm for life is contagious.

It was getting late in the afternoon; and though we were reluctant to go, we needed to. But then Keith and Gerald's cousin Irma and husband Jim arrived from Jonesboro, and we wanted to visit with them when they were not in the bedroom visiting with Keith. At Gerald's suggestion, I had put on my coat and gone into the yard where he and Irma were visiting, when Gerald realized his cousin Joyce, who was driving over from Cape Girardeau, was almost there. So while Irma and Barbara directed her on the country roads to find the farm, we were back inside for yet another family visit.

I loved being in that familiar living room again. Let me tell you about it. While they were adding this room to the house the Holly Sitter family had left behind, a swallow had found one of the overhead beams they were using on the ceiling. They enjoyed watching her build her nest of mud attached to the beam and raise her babies there. Barb would not allow them to clean the beam after the bird family left. The nest has remained these many years with a tiny cloth bird sticking its nose out of the top. The outside wall is all rock with a fireplace in the middle, and three mounted deer heads from long-ago hunts. The room-length mantle is filled with framed photographs of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, horses, and other beloved animals. A pleasing collection of baskets hangs down from the mantle.

Beside the carpeted room with lots of seating is a long tiled walk from the front door to the kitchen and dining room, and that wall is filled with more photographs and memory-filled art work made by the grandchildren. Perfectly clean now, I know that tile walkway has had much traffic from muddy farm boots and the muddy barefoot feet of a host of happy children.

Oh, I must mention the two large gray hornet's nests—one on each side of the beam separating the living room and dining room. I have never seen a hornet's nest in anyone else's living room, but I love the looks of them in this room. Oh, now I do remember part of the raccoon story. Her nephew Kerry had giving Barb one of the hornet's nests, and that raccoon climbed up there and started to destroy it. He quickly became persona non grata, and that was the reason for his departure.

Today brother Garry phoned that Keith was much weaker this morning, so Gerald and Mary Ellen went down after lunch. Vicki Sue was there and had posted on Facebook she was sad, so I am dreading today's report when they return. I hope Garry and Gerald were able to make Keith laugh again today. Regardless, their hearts will be warmed this cold day by the love in that house on the hill, but at the same time their hearts will also be broken as they watch their brother's health deteriorate.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

January Happenings at Woodsong

A nurse at one of Gerald's routine appointments asked him if he had had anything good happen to him. He was quick to tell her that we had just learned on Sunday that we are going to have our first great granddaughter expected at the end of May.

Although Erin and Josh were eagerly waiting to find out what the latest ultrasound showed, their only expressed desire was that the baby be healthy. Since Josh was on base, Erin scheduled her mother for a visit to go with her to the doctor for this important check-up. We immediately got that the good news that all was well, but that it would be announced on Sunday whether this infant was to be a boy or girl.

It was awfully late in the day when that video finally came on our Facebook accounts. Before it did, there were some worried texts and phone calls. Anticipation in Illinois was high. Finally the video announcement came showing Erin and her mother standing in front of Erin's travel softball team and opening a large box to release balloons, And they were PINK with a few red ones mixed in. Those who know Erin will not doubt that her child will probably be properly represented by a few reds mixed in the the pinks.

We were thrilled—just as we would have been if blue balloons had come out of that box. With three great grandsons already in our lives, we know how wonderful baby boys are. And we could imagine how much fun a little boy cousin would have with those three. But it is also easy to imagine how they will enjoy taking care of a little girl. (Many years ago, Erin and her big sister Tara relished taking care of baby Leslie. Those were our first three grandchildren, and the two older ones made Leslie a little princess. Forgive the digression please, but one pleasure of being old is that everything brings up memories.)

Being able to know the baby's sex is a relatively new possibility despite old wives' tales trying to convince us about how we carried our babies—low or high. Now that young parents can find out scientifically, they often want to announce to the world whether it will be a boy or girl. Others choose to not know ahead of time or not to share it if they do. Knowing does help to decorate the nursery or what kind of shower gifts to buy. (Way way back in time, all infant clothing was usable by either sex, which is why there are some adorable long-ago photographs of little boys in sweet dresses.) Gerald's next big project is finding Caroline Marie her first paid of overalls. He has already checked out the infant aisles at Rural King.

I am not sure why I have not blogged in January very much. I have not been that over busy. Christmas decorations were put away a couple weeks ago. I think the only one still out is a favorite small table cloth I use every year that talented Joyce Beasley made me long ago. Candle wax spilled on it, and so it is in the garage where I am gradually picking off the wax down to the cloth, and then I have to figure out what the next step should be.

Listening to the news has taken more time than usual. I think it is very important that we all be very watchful right now since our democracy may be at stake. It has always been important to be watchful, of course, but we have not previously had Russia trying to influence our election in addition to destroying Aleppo while threatening Europe. Nor have we had politicians' spoke persons defending “alternative facts.” Accurate information is always difficult to come by because the whole truth is often cumbersome and almost impossible to discover. But defending untruths is not only disgusting but about as unpatriotic as one can get. I cannot get over the reporter who falsely reported that President Trump had removed the bust of Martin Luther King. I am sure that reporter feels terrible about his admitted mistake, but my sympathy would not keep me from firing him if I were his editor. He has caused so much trouble by his sloppiness and laziness in not checking out what he was writing even if he did not mean to write an untruth. Others are deliberately spreading falsehoods. So though I would like to watch less television now that the election is over, I feel a responsibility to pay attention. That is one reason I have not blogged.

Despite often falling asleep when I sit to read, I have read considerably this month since an excellent aide has reduced the time I've needed to help care for our daughter Katherine. I did go in this evening to feed supper, give night pills and help her get comfortable and pick her choice from the guide of TV shows for night watching. I have read quite a bit of the book I asked Gerald to give me for Christmas and have continued reading a couple others I already had started.

This afternoon I finished the third volume of Lawrance Thompson's biography of Robert Frost. Thompson died before completing this third volume. Consequently, R. H. Winnick, a student and then assistant of Thompson, worked with him and finished Robert Frost: The Later Years, 1938-1963. I still need to finish an Appendix containing Thompson's personal notes about this well-loved and troubled sensitive poet who lived a long life despite many health and other problems. As I read about his final days, I felt tearful. And then I turned on the TV to learn Mary Tyler Moore had died. Who could not admire her beauty, her talent, her courage, and all she did to make us laugh? Thank you Mary Tyler Moore for all you did to advance the cause of women and to fight against diabetes. While we recognize the extreme importance of government, we must never forget the importance of the arts.








Thursday, January 05, 2017

Twelve Days of Christmas--or More

Our Christmas was different, but it was a good one. Our first pre-Christmas guests were Gerry and Vickie and Geri Ann, who had already had their family celebration at College Station. We had a good breakfast with Glasco kin at Cracker Barrell the morning after they arrived around midnight. There was a second Glasco breakfast there a week later when was Jamie Escue was home from Louisiana, but I was at Katherine's the evening before and didn't get to go to that breakfast. Gerry and Geri Ann were giving two softball clinics in this area while here, and Gerald even went along to the second one and was impressed. As well as to be with the Johnson and Glasco family celebrations, Vickie was here to help her mother who was recovering from surgery

Gerry did not stay as long as the other two.Vickie took Gerry up the Friday before Christmas to catch a 4:30 a.m. plane to south Texas for hunting and bird dog work, which Gerry loves so much that it is more fun than work. We fed him favorite foods that we had stuck in the freezer to save for him since he could not be here for the Thanksgiving feast. On Christmas day, he was texting Vickie trying to get pity for missing the family dinners and claiming to eat from a bag of chips, but I refused to feel even a mite of pity. His hunting work continued through the New Year celebration when Vickie and their three grandsons joined him for the weekend, and he really enjoyed himself then.

Jeannie and Rick with Cecelie came through Woodsong for a brief overnight visit on their way down to Nashville to spend Christmas with Leslie and Mike. With Geri Ann here from Oregon and Sam here from Baylor, and the Taylor kids off school, they made the most of Cecelie's visit. They also made plans then for a second cousins' celebration the day after Christmas when Cecelie would be back through and Elijah also would be driving up after his Nashville visit. In fact, Vickie agreed to stay an extra day just so the six youngest of the cousins could have yet another night together, and Sam's special friend Anna joined them since they consider her one of the cousins. (When I say night together, I am not exaggerating. They started early and left Woodsong for dinner in Carbondale and a movie and I think a bowling alley visit and ended up at Woodsong where the hardiest of them stayed up till 4 a.m. I was told. Since that was about the time Vickie and Geri Ann were gathering up their suitcases and three dogs to drive to College Station, I am not sure Geri Ann ever went to bed.) That same night Jeannie and Rick and I saw the same movie, Fences, in Marion. That was a late night out on the town for me, but I think we were probably home soon after l0, and Jeannie and I did not talk too late since they were also driving home the next day.

Christmas Day itself was a small affair for us, but quite lovely for me since once again Mary Ellen had us over to their farm for dinner. Vickie and Geri Ann enjoyed the Johnson celebration on Saturday, and her mother was up to that gathering.  On Sunday, they attended church at Stonefort with her brothers' families and were very happy to hear Louie and Terry sign together. The Taylors and us worshipped in Marion together and enjoyed beautiful music, the sermon, and seeing friends. While the Taylors went on to the farm and check the ham and last minute meal preparations, we were able to go by Katherine's and give her pills before lunch. Later Mary Ellen and I took her in Christmas dinner, and Mary Ellen fed her, and we all enjoyed the Christmas tree Sam had put up in her bedroom  the night before for the special dinner he prepared and the evening they had together. Geri Ann and Brianna came adding to the afternoon  festivities, and our visit probably wore her out before we finally departed.

Mary Ellen's house was decorated inside and out this year; and when we drove by, we had already been enjoying Brian's white star on the barn—the same star the Rix family put up there for years. As we stepped into their large kitchen and were greeted by Fifi, our eyes were delighted with her lovely colorful table with its many candles and places waiting for the nine of us. Our noses were delighted with the wonderful smells, and soon our mouths were rewarded with all the good food they had waiting for us. Sam arrived from going to church with Anna and Vickie and Geri Ann were there.  Like Gerry, Fifi wanted us to feel sorry for her not having the yummy food; but remembering her vet's warning after she got sick on human food, I did not give her a mite of pity either. After we had indulged in the dessert table with its colorful fruit, pies, Brianna's angel food cake and the chocolate covered peanut butter drops she had also made, we all gathered by the tree in the living room to exchange gifts and stories. (I love the stories about the pinball machine decorating one back corner of their living room.) We were all having so much fun and laughter that Trent almost forgot that he was supposed to be at work by 2, but he wasn't very late.  Sam was able to go on and help his little niece celebrate her first birthday at his brother Davie and Krissy"s house.

The day after Christmas I enjoyed visiting with family still at the farm, but I was saddened to attend the funeral of a writer friend.  Jari Jackson had asked for a "journalist funeral."  The funeral director and her pastor were not sure what that meant, but Mayor Bob Butler, Jon Musgrave, and  Pastor Bob Dickerson did an excellent job of creating one for a long time journalist who wrote for big city papers and then retired in her hometown and continued writing pro bono promoting good things here.

Gerald and I celebrated New Year's Eve by driving into Marion and having our evening meal at the new I-HOP, which we had not yet visited. Waitresses with bright clothing and bright smiles greeted us warmly as we entered, the food was delicious, and everything was so new and clean. We were surprised at how large it was, which will be great next summer for the baseball crowds.


Altogether it was a very nice Christmas season despite our no longer all being together on one day and despite the horror of multiple sclerosis. Our one tree is still up and quite beautiful to me. I usually leave a tree up until New Year's Day because that is what we did at our house when I was a child in Jonesboro. Once or twice, however, when the weather was so bad the kids had school cancelled, I left a tree up till Old Christmas that I learned about from Jesse Stuart, a day some English immigrants continued down in Kentucky and which some Amish still do.  Tomorrow is Old Christmas or Epiphany and our tree will be there to help us celebrate. The truth is I am leaving it up till I get around to it, maybe during the weekend or maybe afterward. Taking off all the ornaments and putting them away in their proper box and then pulling the tree apart takes up a large part of a day, and the family room will be a jumble until the job is finally finished. So my twelve days of Christmas may stretch out to fourteen or so.