On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Published in the Rains County Leader on December 8, 2022:

Early last week I saw the following Facebook post from a young friend:

These uncaffeinated women at Starbucks in the morning have me laughing ….they really think beating me to the front door is going to make a difference. Lol. Joke’s really on them because I’ve already ordered my drink on my phone

I don’t usually get involved in any kind of social media exchange that could lead to an argument, but I couldn’t resist this one.

I have my coffee at home – less than 30 cents a cup including Italian Sweet Cream, I can drink it in my PJs, and I don’t have to fight anyone for it!

My young friend replied:

House coffee is great but having my coffee crafted by a barista is a whole other level of appreciation.

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Published in the Rains County Leader on December 1, 2022:

On November 10 the Leader published a feature article titled “Dirk Schutter, loyal citizen or unlawful presence.” The gist of the story was that Schutter, after having been a lawful resident of the U.S. since 1949 and a naturalized citizen since 1960, had been denied the renewal of his driver’s license. The numbering system on the Certificates of Naturalization had been changed, and his records could not be located in the computer, even though he had a certified copy of his Certificate with him. At the writing of that column, which was submitted on November 5, he was waiting or a response from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and/or Pat Fallon, U.S. Representative from Texas.

On November 7 he received an email from Fallon’s office indicating that he had an appointment with a Mr. Pierson at the Dallas office of the Immigration Service on November 10. There was no address or contact number for Mr. Pierson, so the Schutter’s set out at 4:00 am that morning, hoping to find the office with the help of GPS. However, they ended up at the Irving office. They were told there was no Mr. Pierson and that there was no record of an appointment at that office. However, Schutter was determined to find some answers, so he talked his way past the officer at the door to an agent who was sitting behind a window with a slot at the bottom similar to those at movie theaters.

At first the agent insisted he could not talk with someone who had no appointment, but Schutter’s insistence was more persistent, and the agent finally did a computer search. He was able to find an “A” number which is the number on the original immigration document. This opened the door to Schutter’s computer records and proved that he was who he claimed to be. The agent gave the number to him and told him that DPS should be able to use it to find him in the computer, verify his status, and issue a renewal driver’s license.

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Book #3 is nearing completion. If you haven’t read the first two, if someone on your gift list hasn’t read them, or if you just want to read them again yourself, now is the time. Tatia’s Tattoo and Fallen Angel Salvage will be available in ebook for just $.99 from November 25 through December 1. Don’t miss out!

Tatia’s Tattoo, Book #1:

As a successful D.C. lawyer, Tatia’s mission in life was to destroy the sex trafficking trade in small-town America. She knew where to find it. She’d been there. With only apathetic foster parents to protect her, she fell prey to the local pimp. Trapped in the sordid underbelly of a small Texas town, she survived by sheer will. Her friendship with her fellow victim Cindy was the only light of humanity in the darkness until she saw a familiar face. Would Mrs. G, a mama bear of an attorney, still think she had strength and potential? Would Jesse, the young Christian tattoo artist and biker, still look at her with a twinkle in his eyes? Or would they both see only the mark of shame Eric had etched onto her forearm?

Fallen Angel, Book #2:

He ruined her life once; will he do it again?

Tatia and Jesse have a perfect life in Chicago. Her testimony put Eric in prison in Texas twenty years ago. How could anything go wrong?

A mysterious envelope invades their home with news of a trafficker’s parole, and a handwritten note asks the ominous question: Is Joy as brave as her mother?

An old black van. A missing child. Tatia and Jesse race through the city streets with a band of bikers while Johnny and Jade dig through the dark web and Detectives Nelson and Martin pound on doors.

Will it be enough? Or will Joy become another statistic?

Salvaged, Book #3:

Tatia’s family is recovering from Joy’s dramatic rescue when their quiet Sunday afternoon is interrupted by the doorbell. Madison collapses into Joy’s arms, bruised and trembling with symptoms of withdrawal. Who is this mysterious girl whose phone call saved Joy from kidnappers and traffickers? And why is a Chicago crime boss looking for her?



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 November 24, 2022:

Last  week I shared a post I called Counting or Complaining about counting your blessings. This column will be in the edition released on Thanksgiving Day, and I want to share one of my favorite stories about gratitude from a column I shared in 2014.


On Sunday, Pastor Jason preached about being thankful – yours probably did, too. The sermon was enlightening and inspiring, but what really stuck with me was a comment he made in his introductory remarks: “I’ve always thought we should devote 364 days a year to being thankful and set aside only one day for grumbling and complaining.”

This time of year, a lot of people talk about cultivating an attitude of gratitude, but sometimes the resolve doesn’t last long. It takes time to develop a daily habit of being thankful. In keeping with that thought, I’d like to share a story about a lady who knew what it meant to be grateful. This true account of Anna, a woman who was born into slavery in Maryland, is used by many ministers this time of year, but it was originally told by Fulton Oursler.

Oursler remembered eating with Anna as she sat in his home with her hard, old black hands folded, “Much obliged, dear Lord, for my vittles.”

“But Anna,” he pointed out, “you’d get your vittles whether you thanked the Lord or not.”

“Sure,” she responded, “but it makes everything taste better to be thankful.”

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Published in the Rains County Leader on November 17, 2022:

It’s that time of year again. Yes, it’s time to begin preparations for the holidays, but it’s also time to complain – about everything! As I finally sat down to write my column after a busy week, I scanned through that valuable source of inspiration – Twitter. As sometimes happens, among the usual time-wasting nonsense, I found a gem – Concentrate on counting your blessings and you’ll have little time to count anything else.

Apparently, there’s not a lot of blessing counting going on these days, because a lot of people are finding a lot of time to complain. Since the mid-term elections were just held last week, politics seems to be the focus of many complaints: the process is not fair, the voting requirements are too strict or not strict enough, there’s no one good to vote for, the counting process takes too long, the wrong candidate won, and too many other complaints to list.

But surely there are political blessings in there somewhere if we concentrate hard enough. We have the right to vote, and we have a variety of times and methods to accomplish that process. And even when all your favorites didn’t win, some did. If you didn’t like any of the choices, you have the opportunity to get involved at a grass roots level to get behind a candidate you can really support.

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Published in the Rains County Leader on November 10, 2022:

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, a day to honor those who have served their country in the military. But after eleven years of writing, it’s difficult to come up with a fresh way of saying thank you. However, sometimes it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel when repeating a heartfelt tribute will do. So here is a combination two past favorites.

David spent eleven years in the Navy, two tours of active duty and the rest in the Reserves. His experiences give him an instant kinship with other service men and women. It’s amazing how many hours can be spent sharing stories and memories. They complain about the rigors of basic training while congratulating themselves on having survived it. They talk about who was where during which campaign and how close they were to each other, and they brag about who got in the most trouble while on liberty. Sometimes they even talk about their combat experiences, but there are some parts of the stories they don’t share.

David’s first tour was spent as a corpsman on the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), and he loved it. He loved being at sea and seeing exotic ports. He loved presiding over sick bay, learning to discern between the slackers and those who were really sick. He especially loved the time when he was allowed to drive the huge carrier for a little while. Then came January 14, 1969. Wikipedia describes it this way:

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Published in the Rains County Leader on November 10, 2022

Dirk Schutter, resident of Rains County since 2001, has been a citizen of the United States since 1960. But because of an expired driver’s license and three missing digits on a bureaucratic form, he is now classified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as “lawful presence not verified.”

Schutter was born in Wilp, Holland on July 18, 1937. When he was twelve years old, in order to find a better quality of life for their children and better healthcare for Dirk who was recovering from polio, his family immigrated to the United States. This was during a time when immigrants were required to have a U.S. sponsor who would guarantee a place to live and a job for at least five years. Upon arrival in New York, new arrivals were processed through Ellis Island before being sent to join their sponsors. In the Schutters’ case, their sponsor was in Terrell, Texas.

Schutter had completed the fifth grade in Holland, but he spoke almost no English. Instead of making special provision for his lack of language skill, the school system dropped him back to first grade. He learned quickly and almost caught up to grade level, graduating from high school at the age of twenty. By that time, he had met Patricia Moore and had fallen in love. However, her mother wouldn’t allow her daughter to marry a non-citizen, fearing he would take her back to Holland. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Schutter attended naturalization classes, and on August 29, 1960, he became a citizen of his adopted country.

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Published in the Rains County Leader on November 3, 2022:

You know your weekend wasn’t very exciting when you have to look on Facebook to see what you did that was worth writing about. Even then, it’s often not what you did that is interesting but rather the reactions of your Internet friends.

I’ve mentioned before that our neighbor David Perkins has raised quite a garden this year. One of his most successful crops was cucumbers. We had lots of salads, especially tomato and cucumber, and I made several batches of cucumbers and onions in vinegar. Perkins and I even worked together and made eight pints of bread and butter pickles. But after a while, the cucumbers get too big for pickles, and neighbors begin to run when they see you approaching with another offering of excess produce. Then Gennell brought her annual treat of candied cucumbers to the Senior Center, and I was inspired to try some myself.

I searched Google, my favorite cookbook, for a recipe and was a little intimidated when I discovered the long process involved in making these tasty treats. But keeping in mind that I learned to ride a motorcycle when I was fifty-two and published my first book after I began collecting Social Security, I tackled the project.

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Published in the Rains County Leader on October 27, 2022:

Another FOL Book Sale has come and gone, and we are a tired but happy bunch of volunteers. Thank you to everyone who worked and everyone who shopped to make the event a huge success. Final figures have not been announced, but the first day was so busy that total sales, dues, and donations were expected to reach a record amount.

Most of the mechanics of the event are familiar enough to have become routine, so they no longer provide much writing material. However, the roadside signs are usually worth a story or two. Putting up the flag signs is especially challenging because parts seem to go missing from one sale to the next. They’re probably hiding in some corner, giggling along with the missing socks and plastic container lids. This time we couldn’t find the screws that tighten the tie-down clamps – a very important part, especially on a windy day. But creative use of duct tape came into play, and both signs survived both sale days without incident.

One of the best parts of the sale is the customers. Friends who only see each other twice a year at the sale renew friendships over a common love of books, and new friendships are formed because of the same common interest. The book sale is a much anticipated event for some families, and it’s fun to watch the children grow between sales. The baby who was still nursing a year ago is now walking, the middle child who was listening before is now reading on his own, and the older boy is now big enough to carry the boxes of books to the car without help. And another family will have a new book lover by this time next year.

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Published in the Rains County Leader on October 20, 2022:

Last week I went into Subway to pick up lunch for myself and the young lady I visit at the school each week. The only person I saw was the woman at the counter, and I asked if she was working alone.

“Yes,” she replied. “We’ve had a bit of a turnover issue recently.”

“Everybody seems to be having that problem.”

“I know,” she continued. “No one wants to take a job, and if they do, they don’t want to do anything when they get here.”

The same story is heard from many employers that are short-handed. Another story that I’ve often heard among those who are looking for work is I’m not working for $7 an hour. That wouldn’t pay half my car insurance. Both stories were enough to send me on a trip down memory lane.

I received a small allowance when I was a child – I think it was around a dollar a week. That amount wasn’t contingent on any specific jobs, but I was expected to help with general household chores. When I grew tall enough to reach the ironing board, Mom taught me to iron and I earned ten cents per piece for that chore.

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