So Much Gratitude!

I spent the morning cooking, which is something I rarely do anymore. I mostly do quick meals suitable for a single person, so I truly enjoyed the experience.

What did I make? Cranberry compote and chili. Odd combination, right? They both begin with “C” so that’s something they have in common! Other than that, not much.

I had to make a cranberry compote to take to dinner at a friend’s house tomorrow. (Cranberries, oranges, apples, honey and water.) And I needed to cook up a bunch of ground meat. Both the sausage and ground beef that my contractor brought yesterday were in pound packages, and because they were already frozen solid, I couldn’t cut them into smaller portions to freeze as I normally do. Hence, the chili.

I figure since I’ll probably be eating all sorts of treats tomorrow, I might as well get started by treating myself today, and since I make chili so rarely, it really is a treat. Even better, I can freeze it in meal-size portions for later on.

Although I know tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and although I will enjoy be celebrating the day with friends, it seems rather . . . I don’t know . . .  redundant. I give thanks every day for my good fortune in having this truly wonderful place to live. Whenever I look around, I see evidence of the help people have given me, whether they were paid or not. I see gifts — both new and hand-me-downs. Truly, other people’s discards are a treasure to those who appreciate them. I bask in the feeling of being home — in the house, in the yard, in the town, and with friends.

It’s hard not to be grateful when one is steeped in things which engender gratitude.

So although I will be thankful tomorrow, I’ll also be thankful today and tomorrow and all the tomorrows that come after that.

***

And oh, yes — on the top of my list of things I am grateful for is my newly published absurdist novel that asks, “What if God decided to re-create the world and turn it into a galactic theme park for galactic tourists? What then?”

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God. Or you can buy the Kindle version by clicking here: Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Showers

The workers showed up this morning before I could take a shower. They weren’t supposed to come until tomorrow — they were needed to help put up trusses on a commercial barn — but the wind prevented them from working at the farm, so they came here. I considered taking a shower anyway. I mean, it’s not as if anything would happen. But when they started working on the other side of the wall where the shower is, I decided against taking the shower even though I have to go to work later. I doubt anyone would care either way, but the idea made me feel a bit vulnerable. Besides, what if something happened that needed my attention, and I was otherwise occupied?

Within an hour, though, hail started pounding the area, so they took off and I got my shower.

And the hail turned into snow.

I hadn’t expected the snow showers. It’s been so warm, I figured it might rain a bit, but certainly didn’t expect it to wet the ground. We haven’t had a significant rain in months, and that was merely an isolated shower. (Hmm. Seems as if I have a theme here — various showers. Too bad I’m going to work and not heading out for a baby shower or a wedding shower, then I could really milk the theme!)

Later, my contractor stopped by with a care package. He’s getting into the butchering business (this guy can do anything, I think, even rodeoed when he was young) and I get the benefits of this new business of his. Maple cured ham steaks. Bacon. Steaks. Sausage and ground beef. All grown and butchered right here, not three miles from where I live.

I also get local honey from my beekeeper neighbors. Such a treat, all of this! Too bad there aren’t many produce growers around here anymore, but I’m going to have a raised garden built, and so I might be able to grow some of my own.

Meantime, I will enjoy the largess of others.

And I will enjoy the snow. If I remember correctly, this is the first inclement weather we’ve had since I started working, so it should be interesting. Still, the walk is only two blocks, I have good hiking shoes that are perfect for walking in the sort of snow we get, and I have a walking stick.

Besides, by the time I need to leave, it might be warmed up enough that the snow turns into a shower.

***

If you haven’t yet read A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel of a quarantine that predated this pandemic by more than ten years, you can read the first chapter online here: http://patbertram.com/A_Spark_of_Heavenly_Fire.html

Buy it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0024FB5H6/

Download the first 30% free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842

Watching Workers Work

I’ve spent a nice lazy day watching men be anything but lazy.

My contractor has a new employee, one who is old enough and knowledgeable enough and conscientious enough to work by himself, so he’s been coming to lay decorative rock and dig pathways to fill with crushed rock called “breeze.” Why is it called breeze? I don’t know. All I know is that it will be nice to have flat paths to walk on as I get old and unsteady.

It’s interesting to me how everyone who has come to work on this house or yard has become caught up in the planning and offered fun and practical ideas for improving the lot and making the place accessible for the old lady I will become. (Of course, since these men are all considerably younger than me, they probably already see me as that frail old woman.)

I certainly hadn’t planned on doing all this (or rather, having it done), but once I can see where the worker is going with his idea, I can’t unsee it. And so, gradually, my yard is taking shape. It truly will be a mini estate when it is finished, with wild areas, garden areas, grassy areas as well as big bushes and small trees creating various “rooms.” And amazingly, when it is all finished, the entire cost of the house and landscaping will be a tiny fraction of what a similar property in any other part of the country would be.

It also looks as if the foundation will be repaired soon. This same worker who is laying down the rock will be digging away the dirt around the foundation, fixing the cracks, and then putting it all back together. As much as I appreciate the aesthetics of the landscaping (and the practicality of it), I am especially looking forward to having the cracks fixed. The house is sound even with the cracks, but since the biggest cracks are in the corner where my bedroom is, fixing them will give me great peace of mind. Not that I worry about it, but fixing the foundation ensures that I will never have to worry about the house collapsing while I am sleeping.

I’d take a picture of the work, but to be honest, all it looks like right now are rocks and dirt. Hmm. Maybe I need a waterfall. Then I’d have an interesting photo to post!

***

If you haven’t yet read A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel of a quarantine that predated this pandemic by more than ten years, you can read the first chapter online here: http://patbertram.com/A_Spark_of_Heavenly_Fire.html

Buy it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0024FB5H6/

Download the first 30% free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842

When a Door Opens

People often say things like, “When a door closes another one opens” or “When a door closes, a window opens.” Sometimes people don’t use the passive voice, but have God or the universe opening the door.

I know the intent of the quote — to encourage people to look beyond a failure or a loss or a disappointment and to keep trying because, as Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over until it’s over.”

As admirable as the intent might be (I say “might be” because no one likes being jollied into a different outlook after a disappointment), the saying itself is beyond idiotic.

The entire door quote, attributed to Alexander Graham Bell, is: “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Whether you use the long or the short version, the quote completely ignores the nature of a door. When a door closes, you can open it again. That’s the nature of a door. It closes. And it opens.

The worst use of this witless saying is to comfort those who are grieving. (And yes, people do say this to people who lost a spouse or a child or someone else whose death is catastrophic.) Apparently, they think . . . well, no. They don’t think. The loss of a beloved to death is in no way akin to a door closing. An unscalable wall suddenly thrust in one’s path is more like it. Or the sun losing its warmth. Or a tsunami hurling you into a completely different world. There are hundreds of applicable synonyms, but a door? No.

The truth is, though, things do change. Even in a seemingly static neighborhood, every time people open a door to the outside, they see something different. Sun and flowers, perhaps. Or snow and blue skies. Or a car passing. Or shadows that weren’t previously there.

And when someone dies, seemingly destroying your life, you can veer off into a different path and develop a new life.

After all these years since Jeff died, a different path opened up to me — a new town, home ownership, gardening and landscaping. It’s a good path for me, though it’s not one I would have ever chosen if Jeff were still alive. It’s not one that would have ever even entered my mind.

Come to think of it, Bell’s saying is silly on all fronts — not just the door analogy, but not being able to see the newly opened door because we are so fixated on the closed one. The truth is, often we can’t see another way because at that time there is no other way. It took many years, many changes in me and my outlook, several deaths (not just Jeff but parents and siblings) for me to find the new path.

But other than death, from which there is no recourse, when a door closes, just open the dang thing again.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Confusion Is the Name Of The Game

We’re back in near-lockdown again, or rather buildings are in lockdown. For me, that means no library, though if I were desperate, I could send them a list of books and they would hand them out the door when they books were ready to pick up.

I understand that people have died from The Bob, and I know many people who know people who have died, but I don’t personally know anyone. Instead, during this time, I’ve known people who were diagnosed with cancer, heart problems, and a whole host of other horrific diseases. I’m not really trying to be controversial, just mentioning my experience.

I feel bad for people who are having to deal with catastrophic diseases during this time because no one seems to care about anything but how many tested positive for The Bob, even if most of those positives were not accompanied by symptoms.

Except for the library being closed, and my feeling bad for those with untreated illnesses because of limited medical services at this time and my feeling even worse for those undergoing various treatments while trying to steer clear of The Bob, my life isn’t any different. And it hasn’t been. I guess it helps being a hermit — one who is quite content reading, playing a computer game or two, and watching one’s property slowly being brought into submission.

Others have a different experience, I know, and I am in no way making light of those experiences, but some of the bureaucratic idiocies surrounding The Bob are appallingly ridiculous. For example, Colorado has implemented a color dial system to let people know how they are supposed to behave, with purple being the most restrictive and green the least. It makes me wonder how many of our tax dollars were spent coming up with such an utterly unnecessary system. Why not just tell people they have to stay home or they can go out but not in groups or whatever. Being told one is orange or red only confuses the issue because then people have to try to figure out what that means. But I suppose confusion is the name of the game. It keeps people focused on something other than that we are still dealing with governors with delusions of greatness and illusions of total power.

It’s funny that no one talks any more about the original projections that put all this insanity into play. If, as was postulated, that 80% of the world’s population would die, then yes, these restrictions would be necessary. But although people are getting sick and dying, the numbers simply don’t add up to such a destruction of normality.

And yes, I do take precautions, but that’s not because I’m being forced to. It’s because I always take precautions when it comes to illness. To force people to stay home, not because they are sick, but simply to protect their neighbors who might get sick if one didn’t stay home is beyond anything I could ever have imagined while steeping myself in conspiracies and government machinations for my first books.

But at this point, there’s not much any of us can do about the situation — and the confusion — except find an acceptable level of isolation and preparedness and interactions with people, and ignore what is anathema.

***

If you haven’t yet read A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel of a quarantine that predated this pandemic by more than ten years, you can read the first chapter online here: http://patbertram.com/A_Spark_of_Heavenly_Fire.html

Buy it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0024FB5H6/

Download the first 30% free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842

So Much Excitement!

People have a harder time scamming me than some would-be victims because I have so few of the accoutrements of modern life that most people need to live, such as a credit card, or dreams of a fabulous and free vacation. I certainly have no interest in talking to a real IRS agent let alone a fake one. And my car isn’t new enough to be caught in the “your warranty is about to expire” scam, though I must admit, such calls do amuse me. After all, my warranty expired almost fifty years ago.

Since we’re talking about my car — I got a Thanksgiving card from my insurance agency, offering a sincere thank you for my business. I must admit, I’d believe the sincerity more if the note and signature hadn’t been stamped rather than actually signed by a real person.

And, still on the topic of my vehicle — a couple of days ago, the contractor came and set the slag around the garage apron to get rid of the four-inch lip the car needed to climb to get into the garage. Looks nice!

He’d actually planned to do the work a couple of weeks ago, but the gas company kept tearing up the alley, first to put in new gas lines, and then later to connect everyone along this stretch. It’s too bad they’d also dug up the the gravel that made the alley negotiable, but perhaps someday they will replace it.

A worker is here right now putting decorative rock around the foundation of the garage. Yay! Even better, from my knees’ point of view, he helped me finish digging out all grass in my “island” and planted the tiled cinderblock I found here in the yard.

The tree is the extra greengage plum tree I ordered, and since we didn’t know where else to put it, it ended up in the island. I liked the way the rock looked around the garage, so I considered filling the island with rock, too, but on the off chance that my plum ever blossomed and then fruited, I figured it would be too messy to clean up. At least, if I plant zinnias or some such, any fruit that fell would only nourish the soil.

So much excitement!

I’m not really being as ironic as it might seem. Having any work done around here is the highlight of my day, so much more exciting than calls from scammers or cards from insincere insurance agents.

***

What if God decided to re-create the world and turn it into a galactic theme park for galactic tourists? What then?

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God. Or you can buy the Kindle version by clicking here: Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Betrayal?

Jeff and I had such a deep, seemingly cosmic connection that for many years, I thought I’d be pulled into death when he died. It didn’t seem fair because he was five years older than me, and I thought I’d be cheated out of five years of my life.

About a year before he died, I hugged him and accidentally touched his left ear. I know now cancer had metastasized all the way up his left side and into his brain, but at the time, all I knew was that he pushed me away, wincing in agony. Some part of me closed down at that moment, and a voice deep inside me said, “He might dying, but I have to live.” During that year, we went our separate ways, he to dying, me to living. Then, six weeks before he died, he made the connection with me again. He needed to talk about what was happening to him so he could gather courage to face what was coming, and during that daylong conversation, I remembered why I’d fallen in love with him all those years ago.

Because of the disconnect during our final year, a year where I felt dissociated from him and our life, I didn’t expect to grieve, so the depth of my pain stunned me. I struggled for many years to deal with the wreckage of our shared life. Although he did not pull all of me into death with him, apparently he did pull part of me into the abyss, and that hole — that amputation — will always be a part of me.

During my grief struggles, I felt at times as if I’d betrayed our love because in the end, our connection wasn’t strong enough to keep us together, not in life and not in death. I did get my five years. And more. I continued to grow older than Jeff ever would, to develop my own unshared and solitary life.

As of today, I have lived exactly six years longer than he did. It doesn’t seem right, not that I have lived all these years, but that he didn’t have the choice. Well, neither of us had a choice. That voice inside me didn’t say “I want to live.” It said, “I have to live.’

I no longer feel any sense of betrayal. We each did what we needed to do, both when we were together and when death ripped us apart.

During those last weeks after we reconnected, we tried to support each other, each of us thinking the other was getting the worse of the deal. I thought he had it worse because he had to die in pain; he thought I had it worse because I had to live and suffer through life — and grief — alone. I still don’t know who got the better deal. I had these years, but I will also have to deal with dying one of these days.

But not today. Today I am honoring the six years of life that were given to me, years that were denied to him. It’s not exactly a celebration, but it is something worth reflecting on.

Or not. In the end, we each live our allotted years the best we can, and hope we can meet the end with courage.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Everyone Should Like My Books

If someone doesn’t like one of my books, I feel as if I should apologize, as if I fell down on the job as an author.

Because everyone should like my books, right?

Well, no. Of course, I would like it if more people read my books, though inevitably that would mean more people would dislike one or two. And I would like it if everyone who read my books liked all they read, but that’s not always a feasible expectation.

People don’t all dislike the same book. For some, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare was too girlish. For some, Light Bringer was too complicated. For others, Bob, the Right Hand of God is a bit . . . I don’t know . . . blasphemous, maybe, though it wasn’t intended as such.

I do appreciate the candor (as long as they keep their disappointment between us) and despite my urge to apologize, I try not to take their assessment personally. After all, it was my vision I tried to put into words, not theirs, and to that extent, I succeeded. So, I have no need to apologize or feel bad or have any opinion about other people’s opinions.

I once saw a plaque that I disagreed with when I read it, but now I see the truth of the saying.

What other people think of me is none of my business. I suppose this is the same with my books — that what other people think of them is none of my business. It feels as if it should be my business, since after all, other people’s opinions are what fuels the book market. And writing is my business.

I do know that if one writes to please other people, one ends up pleasing no one, least of all oneself.

Still, I hope you like my books. Or at least one of them anyway.

***

Please check out my new book!

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God
Click here to purchase the Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

The Secret of the Cards

After almost six months of picking a daily tarot card to study, I’ve seen some trends — out of a total of 78 cards, about one third have not yet shown up, about one third have shown up sporadically, and the final third are constant companions.

One of the cards that turns up frequently is the queen of wands. The court cards (the face cards) are traditionally linked to those asking the question of the cards. In some readings, the court cards are removed except for the card that most represents the querent. (The querent is the one asking the question.) I’d like to think that the queen of wands represents me, both for what I know I am as well as what I would want to be. For example, the queen of wands is adaptable, kind, generous, warm-hearted to her friends, intelligent and capable. Her ways of thinking are varied and complex, but she can grasp the moment and make what she wants of it.

Sounds like someone I would like to be! One thing the card has wrong (or at least one interpretation of the card that is wrong) is the advice not to be afraid to speak up and be heard; no one will silence me. That makes me laugh because Facebook and its minions or algorithms or something has effectively silenced me since it has blocked any link to my blog from the site. In an effort to overcome that block, I reblog this blog onto another blog and post that link, but apparently, their computers can pick up that it isn’t the original link, and hence they subdue it. Instead of the hundred or so people who used to see my blog on FB, now only a handful do.

And FB isn’t the only one who has silenced me — left-leaning folks tend not to like what I say, and override me if we’re in person, or insult me if we’re online. Nothing is worth that. Well, that’s not true — I never let anyone silence me when it came to my grief writings, even though more than one person told me it was time for me to drop the mantle of grief and move on.

But I’m straying from the point, which is learning the tarot.

Although most people use a single deck and learn the cards by the interpretation in the booklet that comes with cards, I use a variety of decks (a different one each month) and a variety of sources, so the interpretation of the card becomes deeper than the few simple words that generally are used to explain the deck. And what I am learning from this is that the tarot seems like a great story and character generator.

Cards have an up and down (called dignified and ill-dignified). I shuffle the cards so they all face the same direction thinking that the world is unfriendly enough without focusing on the shadow side of the world, but the ill-dignified aspect of the cards, especially the face cards, adds an additional dimension to the character — a shadow side. (I prefer to think of it as a shadow side rather than a “flaw” because it isn’t a “flaw” it’s part of the person, just not something to be proud about. For example, the queen of wands can be jealous and domineering, perhaps obstinate, and tending to imagine wrongs done to her.

I’m not yet ready to embark on writing another book, but when I do, I will use the tarot to help flesh out my characters, give them depth. The other cards will help direct the action, sending the characters on various adventures.

Until then, I will continue my study of the cards. Who knows — I might discover something else. The secrets of the universe perhaps, or maybe the secrets of my heart. If nothing else, I will discover some of the secrets of the cards.

***

Please check out my new book!

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God
Click here to purchase the Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Quantum State of Grief

It’s kind of funny that after all these years after Jeff died, after all the years of grief and then the subsequent years of no grief (at least not more than a momentary pang or two of nostalgia), I still sometimes fall into the magical, quantum state of grief where Jeff seems to be both alive and dead.

I know he’s gone. I feel it in the very depths of my being. But sometimes, when I’m going about my daily life (that doesn’t seem anywhere near as ill-fitting as it once did), I find myself thinking one of those quantum thoughts.

Last night, as I wandered from room to room preparing for the night (checking to make sure the doors are locked, turning down the bed covers, making sure I have a glass of water on the nightstand), I thought that I should call his mother to find out how she’s doing, so I can let him know the next time I see him.

The realization of the illogicality of the thought didn’t send me into a spiral of grief, it just made me wonder why that thought, and why now. (Come to think of it, a friend called and mentioned that a mutual acquaintance inherited the care of her hated mother-in-law, which is probably what put the thought in my mind.)

It just goes to show that even when the pain is gone, the habits of grief and grief-thinking linger. That’s not the only stray thought — on more than a couple of occasions, I have found myself wandering through the house, wondering how and where Jeff would fit when he got here.

Hmm. I see a pattern here. I tend to think these thoughts when I am simply wandering from room to room, but that’s no reason to stay put. I do like wandering around my house, feeling the “home” of it. For so long, after he died, I never felt at home anywhere in particular (he had been my home), though I did learn to feel at home wherever I was because . . . well, because that’s where I was. Back then, I had to break myself of the habit of saying I was going home when I returned to one of the places I was inhabiting because it wasn’t home, just a place to roost. I still catch myself editing out the word “home” until I realize that hey! I have a home! It’s not just a place to go back to, but a place to settle into. A place to make my own.

I do wonder what Jeff would think about all this — my moving here, my owning a house, my getting old. (In three days, I will have lived six years longer than he lived.) But mostly, although he’s in the back of my mind and the back of my heart, thoughts of him and his death and my grief no longer dictate my life. Others things dictate the terms now, such as keeping up the house, keeping up my health, trying to hold back the infirmities of an aging body as long as I can. You know — life. Even though I knew from the beginning (odd that I still call his death and my ensuing grief “the beginning”) that the business of life is living — or do I mean the business of living is life? — I never really felt it. I felt the nearness of death and the winds of eternity more than the importance of my continued life.

But here I am, living, despite the occasional and brief lapses into the magical realism and quantum state of grief.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator