On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 22, 2021:

It’s summer in Texas which means one thing above all others – it’s HOT!

Many conversations begin with “It’s so hot that…” followed by some tall tale that has been passed down for generations. When I was a kid, the big claim about hot weather was that you could fry an egg on the sidewalk. I remember one ambitions reporter who tried it without much success, but I have friends who claim to have baked brownies or cookies by placing a pan of dough on the dashboard of a closed car parked in the sun.

Summer in Texas is the time when closed cars really do become solar ovens on wheels. Sunglasses left inside can leave permanent scars on the bridge of a nose, and the wise driver doesn’t touch a door handle or steering wheel without protection. The same can be said for sitting on vinyl or leather seats while wearing shorts. It’s also a good idea to stand back as the door is opened because the blast of hot air might singe eyebrows and eyelashes.

July and August are the months during which water bills soar from watering lawns, flower beds, and gardens and from filling wading pools for children, grandchildren, and fur babies. We never had a swimming or wading pool, but we often played in the sprinklers or just squirted each other with the hose. I also tried more than once to fill up the huge cracks that appeared in our yard during the drought in the late 1950s. I never managed to fill any of them, and now I wonder how Daddy managed to pay our water bills.

Indoor Texas pets are as reluctant to go out into triple digit temperature as they are when it snows or even when it rains. I once had an old cocker spaniel who didn’t really enjoy walking in the best of conditions, but when the temperature began to climb, he hated it. He watched for spots where sprinklers were watering the sidewalks and laid down on the wet spot with all four legs stretched out so his tummy could enjoy the full effect of the wet cement. It’s a good thing he wasn’t a Saint Bernard because I often had to carry him home.

Darren Boucher/Getty Images

I’ve always heard the really hot part of the summer referred to as the dog days. I had a vague idea of what that meant – that it was hot – but I didn’t know specifically. Wikipedia agrees with my definition – hot – but it adds a bit more. There’s something related to astrology that I didn’t understand, but I understood the part that said it’s connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck. The official dog days of summer for 2021 are July 3 through August 11. As those days approach with threatened brownouts and power outages, the powers that be have asked us to conserve by keeping our thermostats at 78 or above. If 78 is still too hot for comfort, do what we did before we had home air conditioning. In the hottest part of the day, strip down to your underwear, lie down under the ceiling fan, and take a nap. Of course, if you’re not retired like David and I, your boss might frown on that method, so you might have to settle for a big glass of ice cold sweet tea.

Blessings,

Linda

Kitty’s Story

Fallen Angel Salvage

Tatia’s Tattoo

Mom’s Long Goodbye

A Long and Winding Road

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 15, 2021:

My Daddy and me – 1947

My father has been in Heaven for ten years, but I still miss him and think about him a lot. He’s especially on my mind in June when there is so much emphasis on fathers, so in honor of the special day we just celebrated, I want to share some of my favorite memories of the man I called Daddy.

  1. I was Daddy’s girl, especially when I was little. When he went anywhere, I wanted to go with him. In the time before seat belts and child seats, he was my child restraint system. I remember standing beside him, tucked “safely” behind his right shoulder. As shocking as that may be to our safety conscious society, I felt completely safe and lovingly protected.
  2. Another of my favorite memories is something that today’s children, strapped and restrained as they are, will never experience. From time to time, he would let me sit in his lap and drive the car. Of course, all I was doing was holding onto the steering wheel while he continued to be in complete control. Still, it was fun, it was a great confidence builder, and it was great practice for my later life as a Christian when I finally realized who is really in control.
  3. I loved going to work with Daddy. The first job I remember was at a lumber yard, and when Mom would take his lunch to him, my brother Jim and I would go climb on the stacks of lumber. Later, he took a job at the Post Office, and he sometimes picked me up from school. While he cased his mail for the next day, I’d sit on a stool at a work table and practice my letters or put my fingers through the air holes in the crates of baby chicks and pet their fuzzy yellow feathers. I’m sure we broke lots of OSHA and Federal regulations, but being a real part of his life was worth being a bit of an outlaw.
  4. A friend once told me that, when God made me, He forgot to put in the higher gears. I’m not sure exactly what she meant, but perhaps she was referring to my tendency to nod off in either a car or a church. In the early years, as soon as the sermon began, I put my head in Daddy’s lap and went to sleep. Sometimes, though, I stayed awake and sat in his lap. I amused myself, and totally ruined his ability to concentrate, by playing with his tie. I would begin at the bottom, roll it up to the knot, and release it. After it rolled out to its full length, I repeated the process. Maybe that’s why, for every gift-giving occasion, I gave him a tie.
  5. When I was five, we moved into a house where I had my own bedroom. Until then, I had slept in a crib in my parents’ room or shared a bed with Jim in the living room. For a few months, I had occasional sleep-walking episodes during which I assume I was looking for companionship. Several times I woke up sitting on the side of Mom and Dad’s bed with Daddy sitting beside me, his eyes full of sleep and his hair standing on end, trying to stop the flow of my tears and reassuring me that everything was okay.
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I also jotted down five memories of how Daddy provided support and practical aid later in my life when I was single again. Before I completely exceed my allotted word count, I’ll summarize:

  • He often hung curtains and pictures, installed ceiling fans, and finished many other things on my “I don’t have a honey to do” list.
  • In addition to caring for his own yard, he mowed, trimmed, and edged mine. He also removed and disposed of tomato worms that tried to take over my patio tomatoes.
  • Although he wasn’t in a position to offer financial assistance, he didn’t hesitate to co-sign a note when my old car bit the dust.
  • Daddy always had a key to my house, and more than once he got up out of bed and came over to unlock my door when I locked myself out.
  • Daddy showed me how a godly man should love his wife. His love for Mom was one of the defining realities of his life. He loved her as Paul told the Ephesians to love their wives and would have given up his life for her. He told her every day how beautiful she was and how much he loved her, and he never tired of kissing her or holding her hand.
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There’s much more, but these are a few of the things that added up to a lifetime of love and care. Daddy led by example and loved by acts of service. Happy Father’s Day to the first man I ever loved.

Blessings,

Linda

Kitty’s Story

Fallen Angel Salvage

Tatia’s Tattoo

Mom’s Long Goodbye

A Long and Winding Road

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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