Happy Thirteenth Bloggiversary to Me!

I created this blog exactly thirteen years ago today, back when I hadn’t yet become a published author, back when I had just acquired my first computer and didn’t even know what a blog was. I had read how important blogging was for authors, both as a way of getting known and as a way of connecting with readers, so I decided to “act as if” I were going to be published in the hopes of making it happen. I had nothing to say, no one to say it to, no reason to say anything, but I didn’t let that stop me. I started blogging on September 24, 2007, and haven’t stopped since.

Did acting as if I were going to get published work? Perhaps, though there is no direct connection that I know of. Still, one and a half years after starting this blog, my first two books were published. I now have eight books available: five suspense novels, one mystery, and two non-fiction books about grief. A ninth book will soon be published, a novel that my publisher said, “is playful, fun and well-written. It spans genres, so I’m not sure if there is an exploitable target audience. I don’t care. I like it.”

Two-and-half years after I started this blog, my life mate/soul mate died, and his death catapulted me into a world of such pain that it bled over into my posts. This blog became a place where I could try to make sense of what I was going through, to offer comfort and be comforted, to find my way to renewed life. And I struck a chord with people who were also dealing with grief. It’s no wonder my top posts are grief related: What Do You Say to Someone Who is Grieving at Christmas? with 82,261 views and The Five Major Challenges We Face During the Second Year of Grief with 38,122 views.

This blog sustained me during the years I cared for my father after Jeff’s death, and it gave me a place to rest when my father died four years later, and I was thrown out into the world, alone and orphaned.

And this blog offered me a place to call home when I set out alone on a five-month, 12,000 mile cross-country road trip, gave me a place where I could talk about all the wonders I was seeing. Often on that trip, when I was between visits with online friends, I thought of William Cowper’s words: How sweet, how passing sweet, is solitude! But grant me still a friend in my retreat, whom I may whisper, solitude is sweet. And this blog became a place where I could whisper, “Solitude is sweet.”

Currently, as I am continuing to settle into a house of my own, it’s nice to know that whatever life throws at me, whatever problems I encounter, whatever challenges and adventures — and joys — come my way, this blog will be here for me.

During the past thirteen years, I have written 2,842 blogs, received 19,481 comments, and garnered 873,352 views. It amazes me that anyone wants to read anything that I write here. This is so much a place for just letting my thoughts roam, for thinking through problems, and (I admit it) for pontificating a bit. It’s been a kick, writing this blog, and I want to thank all of you for indulging my whims and whimsys.

Thank you for reading. Thank you all for your comments, your likes, your support. They have meant more to me (especially this past ten and a half years) than you can ever imagine.

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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.

Old House Noises

I’ve done well adapting to being a homeowner, but I don’t think I will ever adapt to the sudden and unexplained noises that come with owning an old house. I always imagine the worst, though often, the house is simply sighing or creaking or settling into a more comfortable position.

The search for the source of the noises isn’t always successful, but it has always been benign. Until the other day, that is, when the search led to a rather uncomfortable situation.

It was afternoon. I’d done my stint of gardening work that morning — watering my bushes and pulling up weeds — and I was happily reading (well, reading. It was a Dirk Pitt book. Not exactly a happy series) when I heard a loud noise. I went searching through the house, and the only thing I could see out of place was that the basement door was ajar, though I keep the door shut. (The basement is not my favorite place, and unless you like dungeons, it wouldn’t be your favorite, either.) I opened the door wider, glanced down the stairs, and noticed that the electric switch box was open. I tried to close it, and when I couldn’t, I realized what the noise must have been — one of the workers had blown a switch a few days previously. After he flipped the switch, I’m sure he would have forced the cover closed, and the noise I heard was the cover springing open. I don’t know why it had done that. Perhaps a difference in temperature? Or the pressure of being jammed shut got to be too much? (Though how it could have popped the basement door open at the same time, I don’t know.)

On the off chance that something else caused the noise, I went outside to look around the house. And saw my neighbor. And stopped to chat. And got bitten by red fire ants.

Although I am always interested in new experiences and adventures, there are some, such as that one, that I could have done without. I am truly glad I wasn’t aware of how abominable those bites were back when I was reading the sort of books where people were staked out over red ant hills and left to be ravaged by those hideous beasts. Even just thinking of it, now that I know how excruciating and hellish those bites are, gives me the willies.

If the cover to the electrical panel hadn’t sprung open, I would still be blissfully unaware of what a red fire ant bite feels like. (I’ve had other kinds of ant bites before, and they burned for a few seconds, and maybe itched a bit, but nothing like the big red sadists.)

It just goes to show . . . something. Maybe the vagaries of life.

Next time I hear a noise that I can’t ignore it, though, I’ll be sure to wear a hazmat suit before I go looking for the source of the sound.

***

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

Dream Come True or Nightmare

Before I bought this house, before I even considered the possibility of buying a house, I’d planned one last epic adventure with what was left of my savings. I was going to go on a year-long road trip, camping out at the various national parks, staying as long as I could at each (two weeks, generally) before moving on to the next one. I’d planned to go south for the winter, north for the summer, and I thought I could stay in motels or with friends when I got tired of being out in the weather.

After my homeless brother died, the idea of having a home of my own grew on me, and when I discovered how inexpensive old houses were in some rural areas, I decided to buy a house instead of taking that trip.

As it turns out, it was an immensely fortunate decision. Not only do I love my house and love owning the house (which surprised me because I never wanted such a responsibility), buying the place saved me from a ghastly experience.

I would have been on the trip this year, dealing not only with some of the worst winter weather in a while, but also park and motel closures, friends in quarantine, and riots. Oh, my! That would have been an epic adventure for sure, though more of a nightmare than a dream come true. I can’t even imagine the horror of such a trip.

Even though the events of this year do impinge on my life somewhat, it’s not really a problem. Oh, I’ve garnered insults and such with some of my writings that attempted to make sense of both The Bob and the riots, and I feel the restlessness of the world (or maybe just my own), but basically, since I’m alone in my snug little house, life has been good.

I’ll probably never be able see those national parks now, especially the iconic ones that everyone should see like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone (the garage ate up any remaining travel funds), but I have the opportunity to make a park of sorts in my own back yard. It might not be as majestic or panoramic or awesome as some of the national parks, but it will be mine. Even if I don’t do anything special with the yard, owning the property and creating a home for myself is an epic adventure of a different kind, more of a dream come true than the nightmare I always thought it would be.

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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.

Along the Sante Fe Trail

It’s been almost two months since my friend and her sister were here visiting. They came right before all the restrictions, and wow, it seems much longer than that. A lifetime ago. We had a fabulous time exploring the Santa Fe Trail, Bent’s Fort,

and trails along the trail.

I haven’t been on any adventures since then except in books, but today I received a wonderful surprise from my friend, and now I have my own book of adventures to look at when I get tired of the adventures in the Wheel of Time juggernaut.

This friend makes books of all her adventures, so it was a real thrill to get a book of my own highlighting our adventures.

Most of the photos we took were similar, but she took pictures that I didn’t. I knew what the downtown looked liked here, so I didn’t bother with images of the slummy area, but she made the place look quaint and interesting.

We also went on a bit of walking tour in one town and found some interesting stories beyond the Santa Fe Trail mystique.

Her book ended with . . . what else but me and my hat!

I hope she doesn’t mind my sharing parts of her book, but I thought all of us — not just me — needed something fun to think about for a change.

And yes, my friend. Thanks for the memories.

***

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.

 

Wonderful Surprise!

Look!

The workers came to start framing the garage today. Such a treat, having the garage that much closer to being workable, and especially, having something different in my life.

As much of a hermit as I am, it’s still been hard to be so isolated, especially when life has been the same, day after day after day.

But today, things were not the same. Nor are they the same tonight. While three of the men worked on the garage, one worked in the basement, concreting the floor beneath the water heater and fixing a leaking pipe. I was all set to be without water tonight so that the concrete could cure, which I could have handled — sort of like an indoor camping trip — but they managed to seal off the hot water pipes. So I have water! Cold water, but it’s still water.

They’re supposed to be back tomorrow to do more work, which will be great. Not just because of additional progress on the building project, and not just for the entertainment value, but to start using up the materials that have been littering my yard for months. It wasn’t so bad in the winter when I didn’t go out anyway, but now that I have a few plants to take care of, I do have to go out, and it’s rather unsafe trying to meander around equipment and stumbling across uneven ground.

I’m looking forward to having my yard back. Meantime, tomorrow should be another wonderful day filled with joy.

***

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.

An Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue Day

I’m still restless today, desperately in need of something new to do, to think, to see, to say. Just anything new. I’ve never been one to go shopping for shopping’s sake, but I understand the urge for something . . . anything . . . new and different. But shopping, in this time of isolation, isn’t a possibility, and anyway, I don’t need any “thing.” Just a bit excitement, maybe.

Yesterday my bit of excitement was going for a walk, which turned out to be very nice. There also doesn’t seem to be any additional damage to my knee. Actually, the knee seems to be fine; somehow, though, in all that limping the past few weeks, I seem to have pulled a calf muscle. Sheesh. But even that is not bad. I just need to rest the leg today.

So what did I end up doing for excitement today?

I shoveled dirt.

Nope, not with a Cat — that was returned to the rental company a long time ago — but with a plain old shovel.

The ground behind the garage where the last segment of fence was erected was not level, so there are huge gaps between the fence and the ground, which sort of defeats the purpose of a fence since anything could wiggle its way into my yard. So today, I shoveled dirt to try to fill up some of those spaces under the fence.

It might not have been something new since I’ve done a lot of dirt slinging over the years, and it might not have been exciting, but it did need to be done, so it was satisfying in its way.

Hmm. This is beginning to sound like that wedding charm — something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Since the shoveling was both an old and a new experience, and the shovel was borrowed (the workers left it behind when they went off to do another job) so the only thing left is blue. And oh! How blue the skies were!

I also talked to the neighbor across the alley for a few minutes (keeping the requisite six feet apart). And then later my next door neighbor paused while walking her dog to exchange pleasantries, so this turned out to be rather a good old, new, borrowed, and blue day.

***

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.

Looking For Excitement

It seems such an affront that not only are we dealing with a virulent disease, lockdowns, and isolation, many of us also have to contend with allergies, various small infirmities . . . and weather.

April snows are not uncommon in Colorado, but still, you’d think we’d be given a pass on inclement weather if nothing else. I know we need the moisture (as long as the cold doesn’t kill my plants) and to be honest, the snow has almost melted, but still, I’m not really in the mood for gloom and doom. I need something exciting to do, though I’m not sure what that “excitement” would look like.

I still have plenty of “emergency” books to read, but the reason they are as yet unread is that I wasn’t all that excited about reading them in the first place. I still have some DVDs I borrowed from a friend months ago, and I suppose I could watch them so I could get them back to her, but the last time I mentioned them, she assured me that she’s not in any hurry for their return.

I could start writing a new book, I suppose, but anything I might write during this time would have a maudlin undertone, and that’s not the sort of attitude I want to perpetuate.

I could bake something, but I certainly don’t want to get started down that road — it’s hard enough to keep from gaining weight because of all the activity without tempting myself to indulge.

So what’s left? Maybe I’ll bundle up, grab my trekking poles, and take a risk with my knee. If that doesn’t calm my restless spirit, any resulting aches in my leg and knee will certainly make me more accepting of my indolence and isolation.

So, that’s what I’ll do. Wish me luck as I head out on my exciting adventure.

***

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.

Trail!

I have missed trails, missed following a path into unknown wonders, so when I found a nature trail at Bent’s Old Fort when my friends and I visited the historic site, I took the opportunity to head out on an adventure. I’d felt as if I had stepped back in time at the fort, and the short hike in the prairie and along the Arkansas River did nothing to dispel that feeling.

I looked back once and saw the fort, but even that sign of civilization soon disappeared from sight,

and all was as it had once been. Prairie, and trees,

and the Arkansas River.

Unless I want to travel a hundred miles or more, or traverse gravelly roads for long distances, this trail seems to be the only trail that is available to me. It’s still further than I want to drive for what is a rather short walk (though with my tweaked knee, that mile and a half seemed like a far piece.) Still, when my garage is done (if it ever is) and I can easily get on my “horse” and head out without having to uncover the vehicle and unlock gates, I’d like to visit the place more frequently. Maybe even find a place where I could take a photo each time I went so I would have a visual presentation of the slow-changing scene.

It could be an interesting project, and even better, would help me overcome my aversion to driving to a place merely to walk.

***

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.

Bent’s Old Fort

In 1833, William and Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vrain, built the original fort on what was then the border of Mexico so they could trade with Plains Indians and trappers. For many years it was the only primarily white settlement on the Santa Fe trail between Missouri and Mexico. The fort was abandoned in 1849 because of disease and disasters. It was resurrected in 1976. The reconstruction was based on archaeological excavations, various drawings and diaries. Supposedly, the original plans for the fort were found in an attic in Germany, though I don’t know it that’s the truth or was merely an interesting story peddled to visitors.

My visiting friends and I went on an excursion to see the fort. I didn’t think it would be much of an adventure since the fort is a reconstruction and not the real thing, but once I stepped inside the gates, I was glad I went.

I felt as if I’d stepped back in time.

The whole place was as authentic as possible, with a general store

And stores

A blacksmith shop, with the huge bellows hanging from the ceiling on the upper right and attached to the adobe stove on the left

The maze of catwalks and ramps leading to the various sections on the second floor

The guard tower from the outside looking in

And the from the inside looking out

The resident peacock

and peahen.

In the summer, there are some encampments where the fort is filled with the various characters, such as the Bent brothers, as well as fur traders, the blacksmith, and the blood-letting doctor rather than the single character who entertained us. Should be fun!

***

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.

Adventure!

A friend is here visiting, taking time from a disappointing road trip from California. Their trip was planned months ago, and they had no idea there would be any but the usual problems of long-distance travel. But we are in the time when things are shutting down to keep people from congregating, so many of the places they’d planned to see were closed. Now, they face additional closures, and are unsure of how and when they will be able to return home.

But in the middle of all that turmoil came their visit here, to southeastern Colorado. Considering the problems they’d encountered elsewhere, their visit here might stand as one of the highlights of their trip.

We didn’t do much, just spent time together and went exploring. One of the places we visited was Fort Lyon — an army fort turned into a naval tuberculosis sanitarium turned into a VA neuropsychiatry hospital turned into a Colorado prison turned into the Fort Lyon Coalition for the homeless. Whew! A lot of history!

One interesting little building on the grounds is the Kit Carson Chapel. Carson didn’t really have anything to do with the chapel, other than his dying in Surgeon General Tilton’s quarters on May 23, 1868. When that particular building started falling apart, the VA made a new building out of the rocks. Originally, the building was a museum, then eventually was designated the Kit Carson Chapel.

When Colorado took over the facility, one of the agreements was that they would move the chapel to a more accessible location by the entrance. The building is available for weddings and funerals. Although it sits in solitary splendor, when one drives from Fort Lyon National Cemetery through a tree-lined road one sees the chapel in an entirely different aspect.

Although the return trip for my friends seems fraught with uncertainly, one thing is certain — we had a good day.

***

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.