Published in the Rains County Leader on August 4, 2022:
David Perkins and I often meet by the water hose early in the morning when I’m watering my skimpy flower beds and he’s giving his very successful garden a drink. Depending on whether we’ve had our coffee or not, we sometimes have some interesting – but not very deep – conversations. One day last week we talked about seating at the Senior Center.
I don’t remember how the conversation began, but we discussed the fact that some people are very territorial about their seats, and as the lunchtime crowds increase, latecomers sometimes find their seat of choice already occupied. This situation is usually met with good-natured joking, but several years ago there was a bit of a conflict.
Two men who shall remain nameless claimed the same seat, and one day the good-natured joking erupted into a not so good-natured argument. The seated man ended by saying, “Well, I don’t see your name on it.” Not to be outdone, the second man arrived extra early the next day and taped his name on the chair. Of course, the label was removed and a more mature compromise was worked out, but people do have strong feelings about where they sit.
Published in the Rains County Leader on July 21, 2022:
The two most often-asked questions in our house are “What’s for dinner” and “Are the dishes in the dishwasher clean or dirty.” The answer to that first question, if it doesn’t include fast food or prepackaged heat-and-eat meals, involves a lot of time and work.
David and I recently made a trip to Greenville, and one of our stops was at Aldi. He rarely goes into the grocery store with me, but this time he made an exception rather than sit in the car in triple-digit temperatures. Besides, he likes to check for sardines and a few other favorites as well as scout out empty boxes for me. On the way home, we discussed how many times you have to handle the groceries – shelf to cart, cart to check-out, check-out to box or bag, bag to car, car to house, house to pantry, fridge, or freezer. It’s no wonder that many of us have become spoiled to home delivery.
As tiring as that first step can be, that is often only the beginning of the work. Several years ago we suffered through an infestation of moths, and I ended up discarding the majority of my pantry stock. After that experience, I store any non-frozen and non-canned food in plastic containers or plastic bags. I’m also a bit OCD about rotating my stock so I use the oldest items first, so putting away my purchases can become a bit of a production.
Published in the Rains County Leader on April 7, 2022:
We’ve had our “new” car for almost five years, and I still really like it. It has all the bells and whistles including heated and cooled seats on both the driver’s and passenger’s side. (In the Pontiac, only the driver’s seat was heated, and David took delight in describing how warm and toasty he was while I shivered on my side of the car.) The Kia has a sun roof that extends all the way to the back seat, but we rarely used it because, well, because it lets the sun in – but it’s still nice to know it’s there. The spacious trunk is perfect when I get carried away at Brookshire’s or Walmart, and my paraphernalia fits nicely when I pack up for a vendor event.
The car is also outfitted with all kinds of electronics and more memory than David and I put together. There are several buttons for adjusting the driver’s seat and mirrors, and at the touch of one of these buttons, the car automatically returns to the preferences of Driver 1 or Driver 2. Like a sea-going vessel, I tend to think of the car in terms “she” and “her,” probably because the voice on the GPS is feminine and because she has an attitude. She’s pretty proud of her abilities and gets a bit sassy from time to time. She tells on me when I forget to fasten my seat belt, which is often, and she sounds an alarm if I try to get out of the car without turning off the engine. She also screeches loudly if I try to lock the door with the key fob still inside. I’m grateful for this one, but I do wish she’d be a bit more discreet.
Her dashboard features the normal gauges with a few extra warning lights thrown in just to show off. And as if TVs, computers, electronic tablets, and smart phones weren’t enough electronic input in our lives, she sports her own screen where she gives visual and audio directions to our chosen destination and tells us the name, artist, and release date of whatever oldie we’re currently listening to on SiriusXM. She also gives reminders and advice on car maintenance from time to time. David has read the two-volume owner’s manual from cover to cover and knows what all these gadgets and messages signify, but even he was taken aback one day last week when she flashed an ominous message across the screen:
Published in the Rains County Leader on September 28, 2021:
In March of 2020 I wrote a column titled The Brendles Unplugged about a weekend when both our Wi-Fi and our clothes dryer went down for an eight count. Thankfully, my resident handyman knew what to do, and after a short wait for parts to arrive, he fixed both issues and had us up and running in short order. His repairs were faultless, and everything was working smoothly – until last week. David had been working outside and came in to take a shower.
“There aren’t any towels,” he yelled from the bathroom. “Should I grab one out of the linen cabinet?”
I was on the computer as usual, so I yelled back. “The new ones are in the dryer. Use one of those.”
“These are still damp.”
“Then I guess you’ll have to get one out of the linen cabinet.” We sometimes have deep discussions.
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.
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.
Published in the Rains County Leader on March 16, 2021:
Three weeks ago this column was about the effects of a week of ice and snow, but this one is about life after Snowpocalypse 2021. After all the snow and ice melted, there was a lot of landscape sadness to be seen. My neighbor Connie lost most of what was in her greenhouse even though she had a heater running, and two other neighbors have small palm trees that look as if they are beyond hope. One yard on Highway 19 is surrounded by a beautiful wrought iron fence lined with some kind of small shrub with reddish leaves. If any of those plants survive, they will probably have to be cut back to the ground. And the two big century plants in front of my church had to be pruned back to one brown-edged, spiky leaf each.
My own yard didn’t suffer much because there’s not much that would really qualify as landscaping. I lost a paradise flower a friend brought me last year. I should have brought it in and let it winter in the bathtub with my hibiscus, but it had put long shoots up through the trellis, and I didn’t want to cut it back. The few daffodils beside the porch are still green, but the buds that were peeping out before the snow are gone. I’ve read that they probably won’t bloom this year and may be thin next year because of sparse foliage, but they should survive. The few garlic bulbs I planted last fall looked a little burned around the edges, but I trimmed away the brown parts, and they’ve put on new leaves. And my irises look pretty healthy so far.
Published in the Rains County Leader on February 16, 2021:
Many opportunities to be grateful have presented themselves this week – a home that keeps us comfortable even in the worst weather, a full refrigerator and pantry so we don’t have to make a run to the store, and Internet service so we can keep in touch when church is cancelled, to name a few. One thing I’m particularly thankful for is warm water. With the temperature in the teens and twenties, cold water makes all the hand washing we do these days uncomfortable if not downright painful. Every time I turn on the water, I debate whether to be ecologically responsible by using the cold water or to be comfortable and wait for the warm water. I also think of a story I heard many years ago when I was selling insurance.
I entered the insurance business as an office manager, but I soon became a licensed solicitor and then a full-fledged agent. Maintaining an insurance license requires a certain amount of continuing education, and our company often supplied that in the form of seminars. The key note speaker at one of those meetings told a story from his childhood. I don’t remember the finer details of the story, but it made a lasting impression on me.
Published in the Rains County Leader on November 10, 2020:
My husband David has been a biker most of his life. He learned to ride his
uncle’s old Cushman motorcycle when he was nine, and since then, hitting the road on two wheels has been an almost magical experience to him. He’s owned several motorcycles, and when we met in 1999, he had a Yamaha Virago 1100 that he rode every day.
Shortly after we began dating, he asked if I’d go riding with him. I wasn’t sure about the bike, but I liked the man, so I said yes. I think we both knew that was the first of many rides together. By the time we celebrated our first anniversary I had my own helmet, boots, and leathers and had put in many miles on the buddy seat.
Published in the July, 2020 edition of The Community Chronicle:
I’ve heard people say, “We were poor, but we didn’t know it.” I’m not sure if you’d call us poor, but we lived in a five-room house with a single-car carport, pine and linoleum floors, one bathroom, no built-ins, and no air conditioning. Dad worked two jobs, and Mom went to work when the mothers of most of my friends stayed home. But I never missed a meal, I wore the latest fashions the Sears catalog offered and we had a black and white TV that we watched in the kitchen because Mom didn’t want us sitting on the “good” furniture. I had all I needed, a few things I wanted, and all the love a child could hope for – and I was content.
Summers were a little bit difficult, though. My brother and I weren’t allowed to go outside or to have visitors when Mom and Dad were at work. Vacation Bible School and Church Camp filled a few days, and an occasional sleep-over or trip to the local swimming pool with a friend was allowed. But mostly the long, hot days of summer were spent reading, watching TV or doing chores, and I wasn’t quite as content then.
On rare occasion Mom took pity on me, especially after my older brother took a summer job, and broke the monotony by taking me to work with her. We had to get up at the crack of dawn, but riding the Continental Trailways bus from Mesquite to downtown Dallas was an adventure worth losing a little sleep. The hours while she was actually working were pretty boring, but on her coffee break I was allowed to choose a treat out of the vending machine, and we ate lunch in a restaurant. (more…)
The story of a lonely, innocent girl who gets tangled up in the sex trafficking trade in a small Texas town. It’s about her relationship with Eric, a slick suburban pimp; Jesse, a Christian tattoo artist and motorcycle rider; and Mrs. G, a compassionate but tough attorney and foster parent.