Friday, December 30, 2011


Grandma Elsea Rocking and Singing to Me in 1978
(I was 19 years old and a little too big for her lap)
December 30, 1911 was a rainy day, so the doctor suggested to Florence Phelps that she and Hugh name their baby "Rainy." They politely told him that her first name was to be Clara.  They did acquiesce to some extent and gave her the middle name Lorain, deviating a bit from the common spelling. And so it was on that dreary winter day in Fredonia, Kentucky that Clara Lorain Phelps was born to a tobacco farmer and his wife. They had ten children in all, but Clara was the most special to me. After she grew up to the ripe old age of 17, she got married. Then when she was 18, she had a child of her own; my father. My Grandma Elsea was one of the most loving people I have ever known. She made the best fried chicken, green beans, and coconut cream pies I have ever eaten. She had a ringer washer until I was about 7 or 8 years old, and she hung the clothes on a line to dry. The clothes line prop was a sturdy, forked tree branch.  That was good enough. She worked in a factory. She filled Mason jars too numerous to count with vegetables harvested from their garden and fruits from their orchard. She didn't like antiques, though she had several in her basement. "Take any of that junk down there that you want. I've had old. I like new," she once told me after I was married and had a child of my own. She could whistle through her teeth loud enough to get Grandpa's attention when he was down at the barn. She tried to teach us how to do it, but we never mastered it the way she had. More importantly, she whistled or sang happy tunes while she worked to prepare the meals. After she lost her hearing, she sang off key. We didn't care -- it was still nice to hear it. When Grandpa would get too grouchy, she would return to her bliss by simply turning her hearing aids off. She laughed with gusto. She taught my son and nieces how to blow bubble gum bubbles. She told stories of her growing up years and the good times she had with her brothers and sisters and in-laws and friends. She was selfless. She worked hard and loved us and loved life. She was a Christian. She passed from this life in 1988, and after these 23 years, I still miss her every day. So today, Grandma, on your 100th birthday, I pray that you are sleeping in heavenly peace.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas ... Uh ... Not So Much

So was today Autumn's Last Hurrah for us?  We shall see.  I think I set a personal record.  It's December 3rd.  I started the day as usual with a cup of coffee (two actually), got dressed, went to the bank, went to the store, went to Dierberg's to pay my power bill, stopped at the Donut shop (because I hadn't eaten anything yet), went to the gas station, and then came home.  By then it was noon and it was 60ยบ.  As much as I wanted to stay inside and clean the house so I could finally start decorating (okay "wanted" might be stretching it), I knew time was running out to get the essentials done outside.  So the personal record I set was that this is the latest date in the year that I've ever mowed the grass.  You've got to remember, this is Southwestern Illinois and just on the southern edge of what I consider the Central Illinois Ice Belt. December isn't typically this warm.

I'm going to share a few blurry pictures (sorry 'bout that) of some tenacious little beauties.  Allow me to introduce you to Winston Churchill the Dianthus, Winston Churchill the Petunia, and Winston Churchill the Wood Violet.  They're all Winston Churchill because he said, "Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.''  As much as I'm not looking forward to it, I wouldn't go so far as to call the rain and sleet which is in our forecast for tomorrow night and/or Monday "the enemy," but these little guys haven't given in (yet).  Again, sorry for the blur, but it's too dark now to go out there and try again.

Tomorrow -- Church, Inside Cleaning, and finally Christmas decorating!