On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 8, 2021:

During my formative years – many years ago – developing a good work ethic was a very important part of becoming an adult. My family believed in work.

Dad was never without a job as far as I can remember, and most of my high school years he worked two jobs. Even after he retired from the Post Office, he continued in the work force in various part-time jobs as long as he was able. Mom went to work the same day I entered first grade and continued to work until she turned 50. My brother Jim began to work as soon as he was old enough to have a paper route, and at the age of 78 he still pastors a church. My first baby-sitting job was shortly after my twelfth birthday if I remember correctly, and I applied for my first “real” job at Woolworth’s on my sixteenth birthday.

Work has been a part of, not just my life, but all life from the beginning, and it appears that it will continue into the afterlife. The first book of the Bible says that when God neared the end of His work of creation, He created man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Then He created a companion to help him with this work. Of course, after the fall his work became much harder, but that’s another story. The last book of the Bible says that God’s servants will serve Him in Heaven – so those who expect to spend eternity lounging around on a cloud may be in for a surprise.

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Published in the Rains County Leader on June 1, 2021:

Many Facebook posts this past week have been devoted to graduations. These pictures of and congratulations to children and grandchildren have sent many of us on trips down memory lane to our own high school and/or college graduations. I graduated from high school in 1965, and before you spend too much time counting back, that’s fifty-six years ago. And yes, that means I’m older than dirt.

My high school years were not the happiest time of my life. I was too shy and too worried about academic and social failure to venture into unknown territory or to take the risks that can make those years exciting and rewarding. I had not yet found the courageous part of myself that in later years led me to finish my Bachelor’s Degree at 51, to jump into the dating pool and find the love of my life shortly thereafter, to learn to ride a motorcycle at 56, and to publish my first book after I began to collect Social Security.

Most young people today seem a lot more sophisticated and street smart than I was at their age, but up close and personal, many of them seem just as unsure and insecure as I was in lots of ways. With that in mind, I want to share a few bits of wisdom that might be of help as they venture into the world.

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Connections | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on May 25, 2021:

Writing is all about communication – about sharing thoughts and ideas through the written word – and about the connections that are made through that sharing. A writer often doesn’t know when those connections happen, but one of my favorite parts of writing is when a reader reaches out through a review, a comment on a blog or Facebook post, or an email to let me know about a connection.

An early connection happened when I was just beginning to be active on social media. Facebook groups had not yet popped up, at least not in the numbers that exist now, so I contributed occasional articles to several independent websites. One article was about my anger as a caregiver. I admitted lashing out in frustration and anger at my Mom when I first began caring for her only to realize later that my anger, and the underlying fear, were really about the Alzheimer’s that was taking her away from me in a way I could neither understand nor control.

Shortly after the article went live, I received a comment from a young woman whose mother had suffered a fatal heart attack many years before when she was a teenager. The older daughter had driven them all to the hospital, and the teen was confused by her sister’s apparent anger at her mother. After the mother’s death, the sisters were not completely estranged, but they never talked about the situation, and their relationship had not been the same. After reading my article, the younger woman approached her sister, and they talked. After exploring their feelings and reactions on that night that had changed their lives so many years before, healing began and their relationship was restored. Although we exchanged a few more comments, we didn’t strike up a friendship. Still, those written words established a point of connection based our similar experiences.

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Published in the Rains County Leader on May 18, 2021:

From a different event, but the one from the Expo had my thumb in it!

East Tawakoni held their first Arts & Crafts Expo on Saturday, and I was one of about fifteen vendors. Since there were no assigned spaces, I planned to get there well before the 9:00 am opening to get a prime spot. Apparently, I didn’t plan well enough, because I was almost the last one to arrive.

I parked and scouted the area before unloading. There were two rows of spaces facing each other, and when I saw an open one between two vendors, I asked if the spot was available. I was told no, that I needed to go to the end of the row. I sighed and trudged back to my car, not looking forward to the long walk carrying my table. It’s not heavy, but it’s awkward. It folds in the middle and has a carry handle, but when you’re height challenged you have to hold your arm in an uncomfortable position to keep from dragging the ground.

Then I noticed that other vendors had parked behind their booths. Even if I had to move my car after set-up, the ease of unloading would be worth it. The table went up easily, and while I was putting the finishing touches on my display, I looked around to see who my neighbors were. To my right was Sadie’s Place Animal Rescue with two beautiful, well-behaved rescue dogs, and directly across from me was My Favorite Day Dog Rescue with several cages of small dogs and a pen full of raucous black puppies. To top it off, a Kona Ice truck pulled in and parked to my left across the walkway so it could be seen from the front. I knew then that I had landed a prime spot after all. Everyone in attendance would be coming in our direction to ooh and aah over the puppies or to get a cool treat – or both.

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Published in the Rains County Leader on May 11, 2021:

Mother’s Day weekend was extra special to me this year. Saturday was the 50th anniversary of the day I first felt my baby move. I was four months pregnant and had been waiting for that faint butterfly feeling I had heard other expectant mothers describe. But my son has always been different, even in utero. The first movement I felt was a definite rhythmic tapping, and that tapping continued off and on throughout the next five months. My doctor smiled when I described the feeling and said, “It’s probably hiccups.” He was right – Christian continued to have hiccups regularly for his first several months.

At that time, ultrasounds were not performed unless there was a problem, so I didn’t “see” my son until he made his public appearance, but I saw his shape many times. I had always enjoyed a warm, relaxing soak in the tub, and as the pregnancy progressed, the bath became an important source of relief for my aching back. He seemed to enjoy it, too, because as I lay back in the water, he would stretch like a cat getting up from a nap. During delivery I learned that he was “sunny side up,” or facing front instead of back, so as he stretched I often saw the shape of a little foot or fist move across the surface of my swollen belly.

Christian’s birth was difficult and required a last-minute C-section, so I didn’t see him until the nurse brought him to my room a few hours later. She held up that little bundle that had startling blue eyes and blond hair that stuck up as if he’d stuck his finger in an electric outlet, and I said, “Well, hello there.” When I spoke, his eyes lit up with recognition. For the next several weeks, before he learned to differentiate faces, his unfocused eyes would search for me if I wasn’t holding him, following the sound of the voice he had listened to for nine months.

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Published in the Rains County Leader on May 4, 2021:

Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday, and as I thought about what to write, I wanted to write a tribute to my mother. I’ve already written a lot about her – she’s the main topic of both my Alzheimer’s caregiving memoirs. But as I looked through years of blog posts and articles, I couldn’t find a tribute paying homage specifically to her as the woman who gave me life and played a huge part in molding me into who I am today. I found one I wrote about Daddy and several I’ve written about friends, but no single tribute article for her.

With that in mind, I gave a lot of thought about how to begin her article, but I ran into one mental or emotional road block after another. Maybe I’ve said everything I have to say about her, or maybe the things that haven’t been said are too personal to share – or maybe it’s just complicated. Whatever the reason, I finally gave up the idea and decided to share a chapter from my second memoir. The chapter is titled Southridge Village’s Tribute to Mom.

After Mom died, we received a lot of sweet, heartfelt expressions of sympathy. There were emails, notes on Facebook, cards, phone calls, and personal words of support. All of them meant so much and helped us deal with the grief, but none of them meant any more to me than the one we received from Southridge Village.

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Published in the Rains County Leader on April 27, 2021:

Several years ago David and I watched a documentary that projected, in the event humans went extinct, how long it would take nature to reclaim the earth. It seemed fanciful to watch computer animations of trees breaking through major highways and vines creeping up and over crumbling infrastructure and collapsed skyscrapers in a century or two. However, after a walk around our property last weekend, it no longer seems so impossible.

When we first saw the 2.3 acre plot that has been our home for the past ten years, the front acre was clear enough that, after the removal of a couple of large trees, we were able to place our mobile home with enough space left over to park several vehicles. The rest of the lot, however, didn’t look as if it had been cleared in recent memory.

We rented the house twice over the next couple of years, but neither tenant stayed long or did much in the way of outdoor maintenance. By the time we became permanent residents of Rains County, the wilderness had advanced significantly, and we knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. We were not yet entrenched in the community life of our new home, so we spent a lot of time working outdoors. Within a few months, David had burned up his city push mower and had invested in a riding mower, a chain saw, a machete, and various other trimming tools. After several close encounters with poison ivy and sunburn, we also learned to wear hats, gloves and long sleeves regardless of the temperature.

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Published in the Rains County Leader on April 20, 2021:

Being President of the Friends of the Library has been a learning experience, and I’m still learning even though I’m almost half-way through my three-year term. Last week was doubly enlightening as I learned what actually goes into preparing for the Semi-Annual Book Sale and also all about Little Free Libraries.

Actually, the Book Sale lessons began early last year when Jane Dillon, who had been in charge of the FOL’s biggest fund raiser for ten years, announced that she was stepping down after the October, 2020 sale. I was involved in last year’s sale, but nothing shows how little you really know like acting as the go-to person when you don’t know where you’re going. After studying the detailed notes Jane had left, I attempted to coordinate communication, publicity, inventory, facility details, transportation of books from storage to venue, hospitality, the financial operation, and the sale itself. Thanks to Jane’s generous tutoring, advice, and hands-on assistance along with an amazing group of experienced and inexperienced volunteers, we had an extremely successful sale – and a lot of fun as well. One of the really fun parts was learning more about Little Free Libraries.

Before the Sale, Little Free Library was just another item on a Board meeting agenda. Someone else took care of any related issues, reported back with an “all’s well” kind of report and we moved on to the next item. But we’ve had several new members join us in the last few months, and they haven’t yet learned that I have no idea what I’m doing. When they have a question, they come to me, and since it’s difficult to gracefully dodge a direct question, I try to find an answer.

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Published in the Rains County Leader on April 13, 2021:

Christmas around the Square is usually a major event in Rains County featuring food, live entertainment, a Santa parade, and vendors – where else – around the Courthouse Square. In 2020, however, the festival which was supposed to raise funds for the Sandy Creek Playground became a non-event due to the pandemic.

The playground is a Keep Emory Beautiful Project and the brainchild of Heather Rollins. She started this mission with permission from the City and the support of the City Council in late 2019. Shut downs and cancellations wreaked havoc with her plans, so she was very disappointed by yet another roadblock in December.

Rollins isn’t a person who gives up, though, so she scheduled Spring Fling as a make-up event. It was a simple event with vendors only, but the hope was it would be enough to put the project over the top. Since I had registered as a vendor for the original event, I was grandfathered – or grandmothered – into the new one, and I looked forward to the first opportunity of 2021 to offer my books in public.

Last Saturday was the big day, and everyone involved held their collective breath as thunderstorms blew through the area toward the end of the week. But Saturday dawned bright and sunny, and hope was restored. True to unpredictable Texas weather, though, March winds made an encore appearance.

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Published in the Rains County Leader on April 6, 2021:

Naps are not a normal part of my routine, but I made an exception Sunday afternoon. In my defense, it had been a hectic week. Keeping in mind that hectic has a different meaning to retired people than to those still in the work force, here’s my story.

Monday’s schedule was normal with nothing more hectic than an afternoon workout at the gym. But Tuesday we drove to Bonham for David’s 2nd COVID shot which meant leaving the house shortly after sunrise. On the way home, we stopped at the Library to pick up a movie for later and at Brookshire’s for our contribution to lunch with Bill and Susan. They are regulars at our Friday night Bible study and recently invited the group to their home for a hymn sing. I was nominated to play the piano, and although I thoroughly enjoyed her Baldwin baby grand, I’m very rusty after ten years without a piano in my home. She loves to sing, so she invited us to come over for burgers and a practice session.

We had a great time, but we had to stop when my arthritic hands began to protest. By the time we made it home, it was time to get ready for movie night. One of our neighbors had offered to bring the makings for nachos if we would provide the venue and the movie. We watched The Matrix Revolutions and discussed things we had missed in previous viewings. It was a fun day, but hectic by our standards.

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