A Pot of Olio

Olio is one of those words beloved by crossword puzzle creators because it can fill spots where a lot of vowels are needed. That’s the only place where I ever heard the word. One of the definitions is a highly spiced stew originating in Spain and Portugal and made from pieces of beef, mutton, venison, poultry, bacon, pumpkins, cabbage, turnips, onions, spinach, endive, marigolds, and various herbs. The other definition of olio is “a miscellaneous collection of things,” and that’s the meaning I am using here because of the disparate comments and updates I will be including in today’s blog.

Last night, after the “Nite at the Museum” featuring a mystery I wrote, the woman in charge called me all excited because the mystery worked, they had a great turnout, they made money, and people had fun. I think people around here enjoy this sort of mystery where the characters don’t have to memorize anything — they just wing it — and the “audience” can participate or not as they listen to the entertainment, have a bite to eat, and wander around looking for clues. The mystery I wrote for a dinner put on by a guild I belong to didn’t work because no one wanted to participate, some of characters didn’t want to circulate but instead huddled together and mumbled their lines, and very few people knew what was going on. If that guild wants a non-participatory mystery, I will suggest they buy one. But that’s not until next year, and who knows what will happen between now and then.

My grass is still green. It’s turning brown on the edges of some of the sod pieces, but I pay particular attention to those areas to make sure they get plenty of water as well as to make sure water seeps beneath the sod to keep the ground wet in the hope that the roots will seat themselves more thoroughly by winter.

I received email notices that my bulb orders are on their way. I panicked when I saw what I’d ordered — three hundred bulbs? Really? I can only hope my knees hold up! Luckily, the weather will cooperate. Although the week after I get the bulbs will be getting a bit below freezing, the high temperatures will be in the fifties and sixties, so I should be able to take my time with the planting.

And speaking of knees — I chatted with a neighbor for a few minutes this morning about his plans to turn a bus into an RV. I asked if he was going to outfit the vehicle with solar panels, and he said yes since he plans to camp off the grid. Too many places with electrical hookups charge a bundle for the night, and he doesn’t want to pay it. We talked about being able to camp on BLM lands, and I mentioned my defunct plans to go on a year-long camping trip, and he said that I was too old now and my knees are going bad. His comments took me aback, but he’s right. I couldn’t do that sort of trip anymore, and in fact, it’s why I moved here and spent my trip money fixing up the place.

I could do shorter trips, if I wanted and could get the money together, but I have responsibilities now. Grass itself is a huge responsibility! And then there is the house and all the rest of it.

I also made plans for Thanksgiving. A widow friend, like me, feels out of place having dinner with other people’s families, and though we both are pleased to be invited, it does turn what should be a celebration into a reminder of what our lives have come down to. So we’re going to celebrate together. I doubt either of us is up to dealing with a turkey, but we’ll figure something out.

Meantime, happy week before Halloween!

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Peace and Lies

It turns out I am not the only innocent writer being blackened by lies of being a spammer. A friend, the woman who started the Blog4Peace movement, had her site removed by Blogspot for being spam. She’s fighting it, of course, and I hope she has more luck with Google than I did with Facebook. After almost two years of protesting and letter writing, FB still claims my blog is spam. Luckily, all they can do is prevent me from posting my blog link on their site, a ban I get around by copying the link to another blog, and then posting that blog link on FB. I wouldn’t even do that but several people like to see the link in their feeds, and besides, some friends I only “see” on FB.

My peace blogging friend, on the other hand, had to create a whole new site, then replace the defunct URL with the new URL on all fifteen years worth of postings. Ouch.

I had to do that when my original publisher changed websites. Took me months to replace all the URLs on my various sites as well as individual blog posts. (His IT person lied and said they couldn’t do a redirect, but she was just too lazy to do it.) When he did the same thing a few years later, I  gave up and did what every other author does — used the URL for my books on Amazon. At least that URL never changes.

As I have learned, the internet gives and the internet takes away. I did as my friend asked and edited my post about blogging for peace to reflect her new site. I am also posting the information here, so if you want to join us in blogging for peace on November 4, all you have to do is:

  1. Choose a graphic from the peace globe gallery http://peaceglobegallery.blogspot.com/p/get-your-own-peace-globe.htmlor from the photos on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BlogBlastForPeace#!/BlogBlastForPeace/app_153284594738391 Right click and Save. Decorate it and sign it, or leave as is.
  2. Send the finished globe to blog4peace@yahoo.com
  3. Post it anywhere online November 4 and title your post Dona Nobis Pacem (Latin for Grant us Peace)

Sounds cool, doesn’t it? See you on November 4!

***

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.

I’m going to Blog for Peace. Will You?

On November 4th, people all over the world will blog for peace. Blog4Peace was created and founded by Mimi Lenox, who believes that because words are powerful, blogging for peace is important.

Mimi began blogging for peace in November, 2006. Thirteen years and thousands of peace bloggers later she — and all those she inspired — are still blogging for peace. On every continent. In 214 countries and territories. In war-torn countries and peaceful villages. Whole families. Babies in utero (yes, really!) Teenagers. Senior citizens. Veterans of war. Poets and singers. Teachers. Classrooms. Authors and artists. Doctors. Lawyers. Cats (many, many cat bloggers). Dogs. Gerbils. Birds. Goats and Bunnies. Scientists. Designers. Researchers. Stay-at-home-parents. Kids. Baby Boomers. From the Netherlands to Kansas. And everywhere in between.

I joined the peace bloggers in 2012. And I still blog for peace. 

This year’s theme is “Courageous Peace in a Time of Great Change,” and that is a theme I can adopt. Although I do not believe in the possibility of world peace (because war and stressful times are never our personal choice but are fostered by others or foisted on us by circumstances) I do believe in personal peace, in finding peace within ourselves no matter what happens to provoke us into chaos.

And yes, words are powerful. And yes, this matters.

How To Blog For Peace:

  1. Choose a graphic from the peace globe gallery http://peaceglobegallery.blogspot.com/p/get-your-own-peace-globe.htmlor from the photos on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BlogBlastForPeace#!/BlogBlastForPeace/app_153284594738391 Right click and Save. Decorate it and sign it, or leave as is.
  2. Send the finished globe to blog4peace@yahoo.com
  3. Post it anywhere online November 4 and title your post Dona Nobis Pacem (Latin for Grant us Peace)

Sounds cool, doesn’t it? See you on November 4!

***

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.

Lost in Time

“Describe one thing you did today. And tell us why you think we should know about it.”

I don’t know where I got that suggestion from — to describe one thing and explain why people should know about. If I had to guess, I’d say I probably got the idea from a book I read, jotted it down, and promptly forgot it. Today, I was trolling around in my notes to find a blog topic, and there it was.

I suppose I never followed through on this suggestion for a blog topic because I always follow through. Wow, that’s confusing! I mean I never specifically set out to follow through and describe one thing I did in response to this particular suggestion. Despite that, it does seem to be the current theme of this blog: to find one thing out of an otherwise eventless day to remark upon. I’m not sure if anyone but me needs to know about anything that happens in my life, but I do think it’s important for me to make note of at least one event or sight or thought every day, otherwise the days tend to pass unnoticed and unwitnessed. And I don’t want to be one of those people who, at the end of their life, look around and wonder where it all went. I’m sure I’ll do that anyway, because it does seem to be something we all think about as the number of our days shrink.

Still, here I am scrambling around in my mind trying to think of one particular thing I did today that I — or anyone — should know about.

I read, I dug, I watered my plants, I took a photo of my ice plant (although it’s pink, supposedly it’s called an ice plant because it shimmers as if icy), and because this is forecast to be the last searingly hot day of the year, I made a point to enjoy the heat.

The most noteworthy thing about the day, though, was how lost in time I felt. I had to keep checking my phone to see what day it was. (Checking a calendar doesn’t help, because if you don’t know what day it is, you won’t be able to tell what day it is.) Not that the day of the week mattered except to make sure it isn’t a work day, but for some reason, the whole concept of time and days of the week confused me today.

I’m sure the confusion is more of a reaction to three days off with no one to talk to rather than age-related discombobulation. (Surely, I talked to someone during these days, but except for a few brief words with a neighbor, I don’t think I did. Weird.) It will be interesting for me to see my reaction to time when my job comes to an end, especially if I immerse myself in writing another book. Then I really will have to make note of something each day to separate one day from another.

But that’s in the future. Today is . . . today. Monday. And despite the periodic confusion about time, it was a good day. And that’s important to know.

What about you? What did you do today, and why should we know about it?

***

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 Fourteenth Bloggiversary to Me!

I created this blog fourteen 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 nine books available: four suspense novels, one mystery, three books about grief (one fiction and two non-fiction), and my most recent book, Bob: The Right Hand of God. (My publisher said, “Bob: The Right Hand of God 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 91,801 views and The Five Major Challenges We Face During the Second Year of Grief with 40,705 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.

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.”

And when I settled into a house of my own, this blog gave me a place of familiarity in an otherwise unfamiliar life.

Currently, as I am dealing with the infirmities of the encroaching years as well as the many facets of first-time homeownership, 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 fourteen years, I have written 3,207 blogs, received 21,115 comments, and garnered 960,164 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 whimsies.

Thank you for reading. Thank you all for your comments, your likes, your support. They have meant more to me (especially this past eleven 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.

The Last 100 Days of the Year

100Tomorrow begins the last one hundred days of the year. What are you going to do with those days? Will you finally get around to the New Year’s resolutions you made and promptly forgot? Are you going to plant the tulips you’ve always wanted? Are you going to do that house repair project you’ve been putting off? Or instead, are you going to give up and find a new place to live? Are you going to ease up on yourself and take a break from the breakneck speed of your life? Are you going to push yourself to get a better job? Are you going to get going on that novel you wanted to start, continue, finish, or edit? Are you going to make inroads in the pile of books on your nightstand, or finally read some of those ebooks you downloaded? Are you going attempt the photography project you’ve been thinking about? Are you going to make a commitment to blog every day?

That’s what I’m going to do — make a commitment to blog every day. I’ve been blogging every day for the past 730 days, and I intend to extend that commitment to the end of the year. Feel free to join me! We can help each other, offering encouragement or topics when the will begins to wane. And the will does wane. When I was grieving, it was easier to come up with topics than it is now when I am in a more comfortable situation. It’s hard to find lessons in being at peace. I suppose peace is a lesson in itself, but what can you say beyond that you’re at peace?

I read once that reading and writing go hand in hand because reading is inhaling and writing is exhaling. (That’s how I always felt about reading, as if it were a type of breathing.) Keeping up with this blog is how I am exhaling, though I’m not sure what I am actually exhaling. I have little to say, no real inclination to say what I do have to say, and no wisdom (at least not that I can discern) with which to say it, but still, I do manage to find something to write about each day. My sincere apologies for the more mindless posts and my eternal gratitude to everyone who reads anything I write. A special thank you to those who comment, and a heartfelt appreciation for the thought-provoking responses. It’s always good to have more thoughts in my head than simply those I put there.

This has been mostly a good year for me, so it’s not as though I’m counting down to the end of the year in order to get rid of this one. It’s more about making this year count, or at least making the last 100 days count, rather than simply counting the days.

So, what about you? How are you going to make the final days of this year count?

***

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 Itch to Write

I can feel an itch to write coming on — not just to do my daily blogging stint, or to write about grief, but to immerse myself in a story.

I’m not there yet. Too many things are calling for my attention to allow me to let “real life” take a back seat to a fictional life. “Real life” is in quotation marks because no one knows to what extent this life is real. It might be just a figment of our collective imaginations, a fiction that we create together. At least that’s what both the quantum physicists and the tarot seem to preach.

In my tarot readings this month, I’ve been getting the moon card rather frequently. The moon stands for imagination as a force. It also warns against the pitfalls of believing too much in what we perceive as reality, because what we observe can only reflect what is real the way that the moon reflects the light of the sun. This card might be echoing my interest in writing, or it might be that the card is creating that interest in me. It’s hard to tell with the tarot. Either way, it does seem to indicate a time of illusion.

Not that any of this has to do with writing specifically. It’s just that when I am focused on the outward life I see, I cannot focus on the inner life I might perceive.

As time goes on, my focus will change. As the hardscape of my yard becomes more fixed and my gardens become more viable, I will have a lot more free time (mental free time, that is), especially in the winter. My job will be coming to an end at some point. I originally agreed to a year and then contracted for another six months, but as I get even older, I’m not sure if anyone will trust me with their elders. My senzaburu (1000 origami cranes) will be done by the end of the year. And the hidden object game I have been fascinated by for the past year is becoming less fascinating now that I’ve opened all the locations. There is a new location every month, which revs up my interest, but even that might not be enough to overcome my creeping boredom with the game.

As my current areas of focus gradually become blurred, that’s when one of the stories rattling around in my brain will take root.

I’ll be interested in seeing which idea plants itself. (If you have a preference for any of these story ideas let me know.)

1) A sequel to Bob, The Right Hand of God, perhaps? If you end up with two characters named Adam and Eve, it seems almost an obligation to write their story. 2) A sequel to Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare? After all, the main character (me!) is alive and well in Colorado, and seems to be calling out for a new episode in her fictional (and oh so murderous) life. 3) A ghost story? The only ghost I ever created is a ghost cat in Light Bringer, so it might be interesting to bring a different sort of ghost to life. It’s possible 2 and 3 could be the same story. 4) A novel of psychological terror where the poor protagonist isn’t sure if she is going crazy or if she is seeing ghosts? It’s possible 2, 3, and 4 could be the same story. 5) A story based on a tarot reading, with each twist and turn dictated by the cards? It’s possible 2, 3, 4, and 5 could all be the same story, a combination of any two or three or each could be a separate tale. 6) A completely different story, one that hasn’t made itself known to me yet.

All that is in the future. My current foci — my house, my yard, my job, the hidden object game, the tarot, the senazburu, my daily blog offering — are still with me.

But someday . . .

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times

Standing Still

For lack of a better topic, today I’m going to write about . . . me. That, of course, is a joke because all I ever write about is me, in one way or another. Writers are often told to write what we know, and pretty much all I know is me, at least to the extent that any of us know ourselves.

Oddly, I seem to be standing still, always in the same place, waiting for workers to come on Friday, waiting for my brakes to be fixed on Monday. I’m not sure what the problem is with the workers not showing up — probably the contractor, as always, is way behind, and so has no one to send over here. Getting the brakes fixed is a different story every week — either the part didn’t come in or the wrong part was sent or the mechanic is dealing with lingering “Bob” issues from his very bad bout with the virus or . . . something.

And so, once again, I am standing in that same place, where the workers are supposed to come on Friday and I’m supposed to take my car to the mechanic on Monday.

On the brighter side, one of my new day lilies has bloomed!

And one of my original daylilies has bloomed again.

Surprisingly, my cherry tomato plants are fruiting. I didn’t really expect to get any tomatoes; I just planted them because I could. There aren’t a whole lot, just a small handful every other day, which actually is perfect for me. Never having planted tomatoes of any kind before, I am amazed at how big the plants get! I might need to invest in tomato cages next year to keep them contained because stakes and string don’t really do the job.

Despite these small successes, I seem to be standing still in regards to my gardening, too, always planning for next year — what to try, what to do differently, how to battle the ever-encroaching weeds.

I suppose standing still isn’t so bad. At least I’m not running in place, wearing myself out, and getting nowhere.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Today’s Tarot

A new month means only one thing to me — a new tarot deck. Otherwise, one month is pretty much the same as another. Well, August is certainly not the same as December, but August is similar to the end of July and the beginning of September, so the months slide right on by without a lot of fanfare. Or at least they did until I started changing tarot cards at the beginning of every month.

This month, the deck I am using is one of the classic decks: the Rider Tarot. Also known as the Rider-Waite Tarot or the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, it is one of the most widely used tarot decks in the world, with over 100 million in print. The deck was created by Arthur Edward Waite, illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith, and published in 1909 by the Rider Company. In 1971, US Games Systems purchased the publishing rights, and that is the deck that I have. The copyright on the original deck is in the public domain now, so the only rights US Games Systems owns are any changes made after 1971.

One of the decks in my collection is a color-it-yourself deck — the B.O.T.A. deck. I thought coloring the cards would be an interesting way to learn the tarot, and since I didn’t want to ruin what might be a collector’s item, and since the B.O.T.A. deck is still under copyright, I downloaded a black and white copy of the Rider deck to color. Although I printed the cards on cardstock, they are too flimsy to use, and anyway, I only got through the major arcana. Someday, maybe, I’ll finish coloring the cards. But for now, this month, I’m using an official deck.

I’m also continuing my two-card reading, though I changed the layout from “Need to know/need to let go” to “situation/major challenge.” The question I ask, as always, is “What do I need to know today?”

Although many people use the tarot to learn the future, I have a sure-fire method of discovering what the future holds — get up each day and live to the best of my ability. Because, of course, today is yesterday’s future. Learning the future by living the future is a better way of foretelling the future than the tarot, because the tarot is not meant to be a divinatory tool. It’s supposed to be a way to connect one’s inner and outer life, to find guidance and gain insights, and to help with personal growth. I haven’t noticed any difference in me or my life since I’ve been doing a daily reading. Either I already know me or I am too obtuse to see anything I don’t already know. I suppose I could ask the tarot which holds true, but I’m not sure it would help to know either of those things about myself.

In the final analysis, the tarot for me is more about the discipline of it, and the curiosity — seeing what cards show up with what frequency.

In today’s reading, the nine of pentacles tells me about my situation: a time of comfort and luxury, discernment and deep satisfaction. The hierophant tells me my challenge: to learn to embrace the conventional, at least some of the time; that it’s not necessary to always be unconventional.

Does that reading help me at all? Not particularly, though it does seem to have an element of truth. It did, however, give me a blog topic, which is a help. After 679 straight days of blogging (3,155 days total), a blog topic is not always easy to find.

***

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

Call to Adventure

As I’m sitting here, mentally sorting through my recent activities to find something at least vaguely interesting to write about, I hear a train whistle as it passes through town. This train whistle has an old-fashioned mournful sound, evocative of summer days and faraway places.

I’m glad the trains that pass by within a few short blocks of where I live use that particular whistle. The last place I lived before I moved here was also close to the tracks. It was actually about a mile away rather than a matter of blocks, but there were no houses between me and the train to absorb some of the sound, so sometimes, the train sounded as if it were racing past my window, a few feet away from where I slept. From what I understand, there is a variety of horn or whistle sounds that can be used when a train goes through a town, and trains in that particular area used a horrendous screeching noise. Sometimes, I’d be awakened by what sounded like banshees shrieking outside my window. At first, it scared me until I realized what it was — no monsters, just a train making a monstrous noise.

I never did understand why those trains shrieked rather than wailed; perhaps the train rushing through a populous area made it imperative. Luckily, that train is a thousand miles away. Even more luckily, at least for now, the trains trundling through this town use the more traditional sound.

It’s too bad the trains just pass through. There is a station here that once was used for passenger traffic, and if it were operational to this day, I could walk a few blocks, get on the train, and head . . . somewhere. As it is, the train stops at a town about twenty-five miles away, which isn’t far but would require a concerted effort and some planning to take a trip rather than the impulse of the moment.

It’s just as well, I suppose. I’m still working, still have a house to take care of, still have a yard to landscape. Besides, there truly isn’t any place I would rather be than where I am at the moment: in my own house, on my own property, listening to the train calling me to adventure.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God