Talking about Walking

I attended a city council strategy session last night. Part of the discussion was walkability, making the town a safer and easier place to walk. The main thing that I can see is that so many of the sidewalks need to be repaired, but apparently, there is nothing the mayor and council can do about that since it’s up to the property owner to maintain their sidewalks. The council can do something about the crosswalks, specifically the ends of the sidewalk that lead down into the street. So many of those curbs are broken, or too high, or missing. They need to make them accessible.

During the discussion, someone suggested putting bike paths on the wide streets, but oh, my, what a terrible idea! (And unnecessary in many cases because of existing sidewalks and because many of the streets are so lightly traveled they’re already serving as walking/biking paths.) First, dedicated paths would take away street parking, and second, they are dangerous to pedestrians. Since I’ve walked mile upon mile no matter where I’ve been, I have a lot of experience with bike/pedestrian paths, so I know how dangerous they are. Many bike riders do not give the right of way to pedestrians, whizzing past walkers, and often forcing them into car lanes. So . . . no. I sure hope they paid attention to my expert opinion.

People who don’t walk except to and from their cars, don’t know the challenges of walking or finding safe places to walk. After the meeting yesterday, we got to talking about possible places for me to walk in the area, and one suggestion was to walk in the community center. Apparently, the basketball court is open in the morning to give seniors a safe place to walk, but oh, how utterly boring! And how many laps to make three miles? Sixty? Eek.

Another suggestion was to walk around the golf course. Whether he meant walk around the course on the course itself, or walk around the outside of the course, is immaterial because neither is possible. The golf course is surrounded by barbed wire, so even when no one is golfing, the pathways are inaccessible. And to walk around the outside perimeter? Well, there is a little matter of locked gates and no way around them.

They also told me there was a pond out that way, with perhaps a trail around it, but if so, it had to be inside the golf course because there was no road to a pond. Still, it was a bit of an adventure, walking to an area I hadn’t yet explored.

I was told it is also possible to walk along the dikes next to the river, but no one could tell me how to get there without trespassing on private property, and oh, by the way, there are more gates along the dikes.

I’ll keep looking. There has to be a scenic (and relatively safe) place to walk around here.

***

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.

 

The Trip of a Lifetime

The trip referred to in the title is not a day trip or road trip or any kind of fun trip. It is a trip, as in . . . splat.

It was a gorgeous day with mostly clear skies, a warm sun, and a caressing breeze. I went for a walk because it seemed the perfect way to participate in such bounty at the very beginning of winter. As I passed the carport on the way out of my yard, I noticed the strap that was still attached to one of the support poles. The strap had been used to secure my just-delivered gates and even though the gates have now been installed for a few weeks, the strap is still there. Why? I don’t know. Haven’t a clue why the workers left it there.

There are a lot of tools and supplies spread out over my yard waiting for the contractor and his employees to return to work. Even more than the rolls of fencing or the bucket of ties, that strap suddenly struck me as hazardous, and I thought I really should do something about it. But I didn’t want to interrupt my walk, so I continued on.

Since I was out, I stopped by the grocery store, and headed home with several pounds of apples, a pound of nuts, a pound of butter, and maybe a pound or two of something else. A lot of pounds, in other words. I wasn’t carrying the groceries in my hand but on my shoulders via a BackTPack, which is supposed to be better for the back than even a properly fitting backpack.

A couple of blocks from the house, I felt a desperate need to relieve my bladder, so I quickened my steps. “Just a few more minutes,” I told myself as I opened the gate into the yard. I hurried, bypassing the zigzagging sidewalk and cutting through the carport and —

Yep. You guessed it.

It was the hardest I had ever fallen, partly from the velocity — I was really hurrying when my foot got caught in the strap — and partly from the weight of the groceries I was carrying. Even when I’d destroyed my arm, I hadn’t fallen as hard. Back then, I landed on my wrist, and bounced onto my arm, pulverizing the wrist, destroying the elbow, and splintering my radius. I had no other injury, not even a bruise, since that arm bore all my weight.

This time, I landed flat, a full-frontal drop onto the bare ground. Luckily, I caught myself before my face hit the concrete sidewalk that I should have been walking on. I lay for a few seconds, shocked and scared and hurting and angry at myself and ruefully aware of the irony of the situation (not just the strap that I hadn’t moved when I should have, but also having mentioned just the other day that the last instructions my orthopedic surgeon gave me before releasing me from his care were that I wasn’t allowed to fall). When I took stock, I realized nothing was broken, nothing was sprained, so I clambered to my feet and hobbled into the house. I divested myself of my groceries and coat, emptied my still-full bladder, got cleaned up, slathered my knees with arnica gel, and dug out my ice pack. (Not peas, but a medley of stir-fry vegetables.)

My left knee hurt the most, so it got the attention. Later, though, other pains started making themselves felt. Since I was so stiff and sore and afraid of my joints stiffening up even further in the night, I took a couple of ibuprofen at bedtime. (Oddly, I never even thought of taking pain pills until a friend mentioned she needed to take some to relieve the pain from her fall, which had happened shortly before mine). I managed to sleep, at least as well as I ever do.

Today, I can feel the rest of my body, not just the knees. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Some of the pains I understand, like that knee (which must have been the first thing to hit), and the side of my foot, which might have been wrenched by the strap. Some pains I don’t understand, such as my very sore triceps. Nor do I understand why my deformed wrist and forearm don’t hurt. Don’t get me wrong — I’m glad they don’t — but I distinctly remember landing on that hand, too, and there is a small bruise on my wrist to prove it.

Needless to say, I am taking it easy.

I’m hoping this really is the trip of a lifetime, and that I never fall that hard again. But dare I confess? I have yet to go out and find a way to remove that strap.

***

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.

Adventures at the DMV

This is the first time in nine years that I had to renew my driver’s license in person. The previous time I was able to do it online, but in Colorado, you can only renew online every renewal period, so I had to find a DMV office (next county over) and head out.

I don’t know why I was nervous other than simply having to deal with officialdom. When it comes to bureaucracy, nothing is ever simple. I was also worried about the eye test. I think I see fine, but what if they didn’t think so? I don’t like making appointments in the winter. I prefer being able to drive when it is my choice; i.e.: when the sun is shining and the streets are completely dry, and I didn’t want to have to worry about making appointments to get new eyeglasses this winter.

The first part of the eye test went well. They stopped me even before I finished reading the appropriate line of letters, so I presume I did okay. The next part, testing peripheral vision, was a problem — not the seeing part, the trying-to-figure-out-which-is-my-right-and-left part. So I raised my hand to indicate which side the light was on. Saved me from inadvertently blurting out the wrong direction.

Then, during what should have been the easiest segment of the process — the fingerprinting — things got strange, so strange, almost everyone in the office had to get involved. First, the machine didn’t read my print. Hands too dry, apparently, because after they wet my finger, the machine worked. But the print didn’t match the print they have on file. After a somewhat lengthy consultation, they decided the angle of the print was different this time. Or it could be just the excuse they used to enable them to override the system. The last time they took my print was a mere month after Jeff died, and I am not at all the same person I was back than. Fingerprints don’t change, or so they say. But grief changes our bodies in so many ways, so why not the fingertips, too?

They had asked me if I wanted to list an emergency contact, and I said no, but after she’d finished the “paperwork” and I’d signed the electronic pad, I decided I should add a contact. After all, if I end up dead in a ditch, someone somewhere should be told. So now another person in the office had to get involved because all the people I’d already corralled said it wasn’t possible to reopen my file — but obviously it was possible, because this new person did.

Then the coup de grâce — my photo. No glasses, no coat, no hat, no teeth. (No teeth showing, that is.) The photo is not necessarily supposed to look like us so that any person can check our ID; it’s supposed to look like a machine replica of us for easy identification by face recognition software. And the photo is in black and white. The pretty twenty-something photographer commiserated with the awful photo, then added, “But no one should have to look at it.” To be honest, I don’t know what she meant. That I was too old to have to show my ID to buy liquor or cigarettes? (Neither of which I buy anyway.) That if I drive correctly I won’t be stopped? That I looked like such a homebody I wouldn’t need to show my ID to TSA folk?

Doesn’t matter what she meant. I’m stuck with that photo for the next five years.

But, on a more positive note, I don’t have to go back to renew my license for another five years! Yay!

When I got home, being primed for dealing with officials, I went to the local Courthouse to renew my license plates. So now I’m good to go for another year.

Watch out, world. Here I come! Figuratively speaking, that is. I’m not planning on going anywhere any time soon.

***

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.

Such a Great Adventure

Periodically, I write about the frustrations of being a homeowner, but those frustrations are minor, and generally have to do with workers not showing up when they say they are going to. But even that, now, isn’t much of an issue. I’ve simply adjusted my thinking to accepting the vagaries of the repair business. If they come, they come. Either way, being a houseowner is such a great adventure!

For the past few years, I’ve rented rooms in houses in various stages of cleanliness, though I should say in various stages of filth, since most of the places were not at all clean. (My room was always as clean as I could get it, but the ground-in dust made it difficult to get it truly clean.)

The owner of the last place I lived had a maid who came once a week to clean the common areas, such as the kitchen, but an hour after she left, the place reverted to a state of unpleasantness. I could never understand the stickiness of the kitchen floor, the mess in the microwave, the absolutely disgusting sponge scrubber. I couldn’t believe it was that difficult to keep things clean; I even wondered at times if the problem was me, since obviously, I was the common factor in all those places.

But no.

Now that I have a kitchen of my own, I realize the problem wasn’t me. I continue to clean up after myself as I’d done these past years living in other people’s houses, but now the kitchen stays clean. And oh! I find such joy in the spotless microwave, non-sticky floor, pristine scrubber.

I wasn’t always this way, of course. When I was younger, I could barely make it through a day of work, let alone take care of my apartment too, so dishes piled up, clutter seemed to rule the day, and the carpet didn’t get vacuumed nearly enough. (I’ve always disliked vacuuming. Don’t know why, but it just seems too much of an effort to get out the machine, unwind the cord, and push it around. Now, with wooden floors, I don’t have to vacuum. Yay!!)

Somehow, over the years, I’ve developed a sense of order. (Just don’t look at my desk! That is still one place that my natural disorderliness holds sway.) Which makes things so nice in this lovely little house of mine. And makes the adventure of owning a house such a joy.

Shortest Adventure

Yesterday I discovered the shortest highway in Colorado, and one of the shortest in the USA. It runs exactly one mile (1.6 Kilometers).

It seems odd that such a short little country road would be termed a highway, but it leads to a national cemetery and what was once a VA hospital, so apparently, it was an important road, and from what I can gather, is under the jurisdiction of the state rather than the county.

What you see in the above photo is the highway in its entirely. Cool, huh?

It wasn’t much of an adventure, to be sure, but it was short. Nothing actually happened to make it an adventure, other than the thought of such a short highway makes me smile.

***

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.

Event Adventure

I attended a community event yesterday geared toward addressing opioid addiction in the area.

The woman I went with has to take opioids for her severe pain, and hasn’t become addicted. Neither did I become addicted when taking opioids after I destroyed my arm. In fact, back then, the doctor told me I wouldn’t get addicted even though I was on super-high dosages. One thing no one has ever explained is why some people get addicted, some don’t, and how to tell the difference. Despite all the hype, opioids aren’t a problem for everyone, and if those opposed to the drugs manage to get them banned, a whole lot of people will be in a whole lot of pain.

But that wasn’t what the event was about. It was more for those who need the services of the community to help with their present addiction. One big focus was the use of Narcan. A couple of local youths put on a brief skit about how to use Narcan and to show that there are no effects for someone who doesn’t need it. One sober youth fell to the ground. The other went to the rescue, opened the Narcan, and squirted the Narcan up his nose.

(My murder-mystery brain went into overdrive, and I immediately imagined they had killed the poor fellow. He was fine, even though he’d accidentally been given a double dose, but in a future book, he won’t be. Poor guy doesn’t even know he’s going to be murdered in absentia. Not by Narcan, of course, but by some drug that had been substituted by nefarious folk.)

After that sixty-second training course, we were given boxes of Narcan to use on all our drug-addicted friends. So, if you come to my house and fall down in a drugged stupor, I’ll be able to revive you — unless I murder you first for bringing drugs (and bad karma) into my house.

Although we were told that Narcan is safe, I can’t imagine there is any drug that is perfectly safe for everyone, so if by chance you did come to my place and collapse from your addiction, and if by chance I allow you to live, I won’t give you the Narcan. I wouldn’t want it to interfere with all the legal drugs the doctors have you taking.

To be honest, I was more interested in the coloring book that was being given out at one of the booths. I remember when coloring books were for children — now they are for adults. Apparently, kids have better things to do than color someone else’s artwork.

Oddly, many years before the adult coloring fad hit, Jeff and I thought coloring might be a soothing activity, so we got coloring books and crayons. Despite the intriguing designs in the books, we were both bored out of our skulls. So, if you do come to visit, and if you don’t expire from drugs (or from me), you can color in what is sure to be a still-pristine coloring book.

By far the most interesting thing about the evening is that while we were standing in line to be served dinner (free to all of us who attended), two different people came and talked to me as if they knew me, though I had never seen either of them before.

One of the people, wearing a shirt saying, “Don’t meth with me,” mentioned he always saw me walking by his house, and another asked about my car. Admittedly, I do sort of stand out, what with my hats and my vintage vehicle; nevertheless, it’s discomfiting to find out that I know fewer people than who know me.

And here I thought that by settling down my adventurous days would be over. Who knew community events in small towns are their own 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.

Happy Twelfth Bloggiversary to Me!

I created this blog exactly twelve 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, though admittedly, I don’t post as much as I once did.

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.

Nine and a half years ago, 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. This blog sustained me during the years I cared for my father, and it gave me a place to rest after my father died, when 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 settling into a home 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.

Although I’d planned to post every day when I started blogging, during the first four years I only managed to blog three or four times a week, but exactly eight years ago today, I made a 100-day commitment to post a daily blog, and once that initial commitment was fulfilled, I continued to post every day for four and a half years. I probably would still be blogging every day except I got out of the habit of daily posts while on my great adventure because so often on the road, I had no internet connection, not even with my phone. And now that I am embarking on the new adventure of homeownership, complete with internet, I have few internal (or external) conflicts to give me blog topics.

But still, the blog is here, always welcoming me when I do find something to say, generally once or twice a month, but perhaps, when I get tired of my new offline world, I’ll be back here every day.

During the past twelve years, I have written 2,480 blogs, received 17,489 comments, and garnered 780,711 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 nine and a half years) than you can ever imagine.

***

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.

Tarantula Hunt

Ever since I started researching southeastern Colorado as a place to settle down, I’d come across references to the tarantula migration. I was so excited at the possibility of seeing masses of tarantulas wandering around, that I wrote the dates of the migration on my calendar for if/when I moved to the area.

Well, I did move here (been here six months!) This year’s tarantula migration has passed its peak, and so far I haven’t seen a single one of the creatures.

I’d heard that they were often sighted near the Comanche National Grasslands, so I set off on a quest to hunt for tarantulas. My plan was to go to Vogel Canyon in the grasslands for a hike, even though it’s much further than I would have liked to travel for what was to be a rather short walk. The thought of getting back on a trail, however, as well as the possibility of seeing tarantulas made me discount the distance.

I followed directions, turned off the highway onto the well-marked dirt road for the long drive to the canyon, and stopped. My vintage car runs well, but it is — as much as I hate to admit it — very old, and dirt/gravel roads shake up the poor thing. I always imagine one of those cartoon-like scenarios where I am driving along, and the sides and roof fall off the car. There I would sit in the seat, clutching my steering wheel, with the pieces of my car all around me. I have been assured by mechanics that such a thing would never happen, but I can’t take a chance, especially since I when I am on my own.

Disappointed (this was the third time I went searching for a place to hike only to be stymied by bad roads), I headed back home, keeping a watch for tarantulas. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a single one.

As it turns out, “tarantula migration” is a misnomer. Tarantulas don’t migrate. They live in burrows, and when the nights turn cool at the end of summer, the males go in search of mates. The females stay home and hope for visitors. Or maybe they don’t hope. Maybe, like me, they are perfectly content to be alone. In fact, the hairy beasts aren’t even tarantulas. True tarantulas, apparently, are small wolf spiders that live near Taranto in Southern Italy, hence the name. What we call tarantulas are bird-eating spiders or Theraphosids.

Despite the name “tarantula migration” being doubly wrong, my intent was still the same — to see the so-called migration of the so-called tarantula.

Although I didn’t accomplish what I wanted, it wasn’t a wasted trip. It was a beautiful almost-fall day, the drive was pleasant, I saw an area I hadn’t yet visited, and I got a photo of the hills that the canyon hides behind.

Still, as adventures go, this was a rather tepid endeavor.

***

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.

Upsizing

I’m sitting here at an open window — my window — enjoying the pleasant breeze. Later, I’m sure, it will be hot, but for now, it’s perfect weather. (Meaning I am neither huddled in layers of clothes nor dripping with sweat.)

It’s odd to think that I own a window. Actually, seventeen windows. (Eighteen if you count the board on the garage I painted to look like a window.)

It’s odd, too, to think I own a floor.

I haven’t become entirely used to thought of owning a whole house, but the idea is growing on me. Still, when I was admiring my freshly mopped floor the other day, it struck me that the floor belonged to me. I’ve always rented or lived with someone else, and I assumed I’d always live in a house or room someone else owned. I’ve also always been a minimalist since possessions tend to weigh me down, but here I am, upsizing when so many others are downsizing.

So now I own windows, floors, ceilings, walls, roof. And furniture!!

I also own a town. Well, I don’t own it in that I don’t have a deed to the town, but I own it by dint of walking the streets, buying at the stores, volunteering for various events, talking to people I meet.

All this ownership has masked one lack — there is nowhere close by to hike. I could drive long distances to go to the mountains, and someday I might, but for now, I stay close to home.

I did find a nice loop walk, though. It takes me along the edge of town and out to the country. The views are simple — I live too far east of the mountains to catch even a glimpse of a peak.

I’ve almost always lived within view of the mountains, so this viewlessness is rather a change, but (juggling hands, here) my own house . . . or . . . mountain view. Not a hard choice!

***

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.

Being Found

During all the years of feeling lost after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I wondered how one restarted a life. I knew I couldn’t continue being a virtual nomad, knew I needed to go somewhere, but where? When you can go anywhere, how do you choose? And once you’re there, how do you start over?

Well, here I am, in the midst of my new life, and to be honest, I still don’t know the answer to my quandary. It’s as if I was lifted out of one life and plopped down in the middle of another, with no real transitional period.

Within just a few days of being in my new home, I made friends. Although many of the people I’ve met have lived in this area their entire life, they are not at all cliquish, but have welcomed me into their midst. And each acquaintance, each friend, has introduced me to others, so that I am building a strong base. It doesn’t seem as if I’ve been here less than four months. I’m right smack dab in the middle of . . . well, a life.

Recently, I ended up going on a train ride through the Royal Gorge sponsored by a senior group. The only way to see the gorge from below is by that train — the walls of the gorge are too steep to hike down, and at the bottom, there are only the engorged Arkansas River and the thin line of tracks.

As I was sitting on the train, staring out the window, I had a hard time making the mental adjustment from the desert to the river. It didn’t seem real. How did it happen, that such a short time ago, I was a somewhere else, and now I was here?

Mostly I don’t think about such things. I just go with the flow, though occasionally the miracle, the blessing of my current life — like the Royal Gorge — strikes me as being so very immense.

I once was lost, and now I have found myself living a life I could never have imagined. I always aspired to a simple life. Owning not much of anything.

I suppose in some ways I pictured my life as that Royal Gorge trip — traveling light, going with the flow, seeing what there is to see.

But the train stopped.

And now, when my peers are downsizing, I am upsizing. I never wanted to own a house — way too much responsibility! I never even wanted to own any furniture, and yet here I am, with a house full of furniture.

It makes me wonder how else the years of grief have changed me.

For the better, I would hope.

***

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.