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

Lackadaisical

Although I enjoy writing this blog, perhaps because nowadays it’s the only writing I do, I somehow end up procrastinating when I open the computer instead of getting right to work. Today’s procrastination activities centered around a search for a cheap but sturdy outdoor dining set for my gazebo. Not that the gazebo is finished — it’s not. It’s still the same bare-wood, roofless crib that has been taunting me for the past year.

When I talked to the contractor a few weeks ago, going over all the work that still needs to be done, he mentioned he’d be coming to finish the gazebo himself rather than sending one of his employees as he has been doing. I’m sure he will eventually do the work, since eventually most things do get finished, and though I have no real expectations of the gazebo being done this summer, suddenly today I decided I needed an outdoor dining set of some sort for when the thing is finished. I found one I like, but it only comes with two chairs, which shouldn’t be a problem considering how seldom I have company, but I have it in my mind that I need four. So far, I haven’t found a four-chair set that I like, but then, I don’t have a finished gazebo either.

It’s kind of funny, but when my new neighbor moved in and saw how seldom the workers came, he thought they were taking advantage of me. I suppose they are, in a way, but mostly, I don’t care because the longer they draw out the work, the longer I’ll have the excitement of work being done. And then, with my car taking forever to get fixed (one weird mechanical malfunction after another that entails weeks of waiting for the parts to come in), he thought the mechanic was taking advantage of me, too, which is possible, but I don’t really need to go anywhere, so it doesn’t really matter. None of that is what’s funny; what I find amusing is that now he has the same issues with people promising to do things and then not showing up. And a vehicle of his has been in the shop for months now, and no sign of it ever being finished.

We’re not the only ones — a woman has been waiting for several months to get a window replaced, a friend can’t find a contractor to do some needed work on her house, and another neighbor has someone sporadically working on his house when the worker feels like it.

We’ve come to the conclusion it’s the area that somehow fosters a lackadaisical attitude. His dog, a rescue animal, was hyper when they first got here, always wanting to be on the go and running away when she didn’t get enough walks in a day. Now she’s so laid back that she sleeps most of the time.

I doubt the dog has become lazy — I’m sure her somnolence has to do with the heat. And when it comes to contractors and mechanics, I’m sure that’s not laziness, either. In fact, so often the problem is these people have too much to do, not enough time to do it, and too few employees who are willing to work, but they do seem to be able to ignore their broken promises and to make changes in their schedule they don’t bother mentioning.

Still, today, I had to go searching for a patio dining set for a gazebo that might not be finished until next year. Or the year after.

I didn’t buy anything, of course. It would have taken too much effort to overcome my own lackadaisical attitude.

***

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

A Day in the Life of a Gardener

I’ve never particularly liked a-day-in-the-life-of-whatever blogs, either reading or writing them, but it’s finally dawning on me that’s what I do. I started out blogging about a day in the life of a writer, then went on to write about a day in the life of a griever. Later I blogged about a day in the life of a dancer, hiker, traveler, new homeowner.

And now, apparently, I am writing day-in-the-life-of-a-gardener blogs. Although I do things with my days other than garden, I can’t write about my job as a caregiver, because those hours belong to the client. Although I occasionally slip in a blog about the myriad books I’m reading, for the most part, when I close a book, that’s the end of it for me. I also spend way more time than might be good for me on a hidden object game, but it’s not interesting to talk about except perhaps to mention that I con myself into believing that the game is exercising my brain. (I tend to think it’s more ruinous for my eyes than good for my brain, but that’s what a con is — making one believe something that might not be true.)

So that leaves . . . gardening.

With that lead up, I’m sure you can guess what today’s blog is about. Yes, you guessed correctly — a day in the life of a gardener.

It’s not really that exciting a day, to be honest. The night never cooled off much, so it was already hot at daybreak, and the rising sun only added more heat to the day. Even though I was out early, I didn’t have much energy to do anything very arduous, so I watered my plants and then harvested the larkspur seeds that are ready. They are tiny things that look like poppy seeds, but luckily, they grow in a small pod that’s easy to get to. A lot of the seeds will fall wherever they will, but those I harvest will be strewn in strategic places in my yard next fall. The photo, of course, is the way the plants looked before they went to seed. It’s possible that after the seeds fall, I’ll have resurgence of flowers later in the summer.

Despite the ever-rising heat, I still managed to drag myself around the yard to take photos of the newest developments:

A white hollyhock next to the pink.

The latest blooms on the dahlia.

A few bachelor buttons that volunteered to grow in my yard.

And what might be the last cactus flower of the season.

I’m also starting to make a list of things that will need to be done in the fall besides plant the larkspur seeds, such as replant the New England aster. I notice there are several plants now where there once was but a single plant, and I’d like to spread them out. The photo is from last year. Because they are a fall-blooming flower, I won’t see any blossoms for a few more months.

It amazes me that I am starting to think of myself as a gardener. I’m really just a dilettante still, but with practice, I will become more expert. And then there will be more and prettier photos for my day-in-the-life-of-a gardener blogs.

***

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

Browsing for Browsers

I waste a lot of time trying to undo things computers do to me, such as change settings that aren’t supposed to change. For example, I prefer browsers to open with Google or even a blank page, but suddenly, for some unfathomable reason, Edge decided to forget my preference and instead open with the Microsoft page. I don’t mind Edge, but I do not like Bing, and even though I use Microsoft products, I don’t like the name jammed down my throat to gag me. Which is why I want Google as the opening page.

I spent what seemed like hours searching for the instructions on resetting Google as my homepage (though it probably wasn’t more than half an hour). As it turns out, the setting is still the same, with Google set as the default opening page. Edge has simply decided to ignore it.

You’d think, then, that I would switch to Chrome to get the opening page I want, but I always seemed to have problems with Chrome, though it could have been my old computer that had problems with it and this one would like it okay.

Although many people over the years have recommended Firefox, I never was that fond of it. I do use it as an alternative browser, though, so I can keep two different sets of sites going at once. For example, on one browser, this blog is kept logged in, and on another browser, a different blog is kept logged in. (That’s the blog I have to use to reblog this blog so I can post a link on Facebook so my friends there can keep current with me. Confusing, right?)

With previous browsers, a new tab would open to my default opening page, but Microsoft removed that option, so now it takes me an extra step to get to the Google page on subsequent tabs. I imagine I’ll get used to doing the same thing when I open the browser. It’s not as if an extra click is that onerous, it’s that computers are supposed to be increasingly easy to use without having to make those extra clicks.

I could go with a completely different browser — I’ve heard that Opera is good — but like Edge, it uses the Chromium page-rendering engine. (From what I can gather, the only holdout is Firefox.) So why bother with any browser other than Chrome?

In my case, it’s laziness. Edge came with my computer, and so that’s what I’ve been using, though, as you can see, I’m rethinking that particular option and browsing for browsers.

***

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

Thought-Provoking

This is a hurry-up-and-write-something-post-so-I-can-say-I-wrote-something post. I don’t normally have a busy day, but this is one of those rare occasions. I had to water my garden, go check on a friend’s house and water her houseplants, check with my car mechanic about the brake part he ordered, and stop at the store to pick up a few groceries. As if that isn’t enough, I have to go to work early today. Which means there’s no time to write a thought-provoking post, or rather try to think of something thought-provoking to post (though I often fail in the thought-provoking part, I do try).

Hence, this bit of silliness.

I did get a chance to check out a neighbor’s roses as he suggested. He’s rightly proud of them, and I’m glad I got a chance to see them at their peak

And, since I was wandering around with my phone in hand, I stopped to take a photo of my larkspur. (Which, incidentally, originally came from the rose neighbor’s yard.)

Now that I think about it, I’d take flowers over a thought-provoking post any day.

***

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.

Showing My Life

People often express concern about my posting photos of my house and my yard. They think I am setting myself up for theft or home invasion or some such, and perhaps that’s true. However, most people who read this blog don’t know exactly where I live — in fact, most live in distant parts of the United States or in other countries — and those who do know where I live, know because they have actually been to the house. Despite that, I realize anyone can find anyone nowadays, probably with just a few keystrokes, so it behooves all of us to be careful.

In a way, posting photos works in my favor because although my rooms look inviting, it’s quite obvious there’s nothing of value in the house. The furniture is old, handed down from relatives; the kitchenware was inexpensive when I bought it decades ago; and whatever tools I have are both handed down and inexpensive. Still, when it comes to a more expensive tool (expensive compared to old rakes and shovels, but still relatively cheap), such as the lawn mower I use, I make sure not to post any photos, though truly, that’s not the sort of thing that goes missing around here. The tools people like to steal are the sort they can pocket and perhaps pawn — or maybe even pawn off on an unsuspecting buyer.

I am careful, though, at least as careful as I know how to be. If I were to go on a trip, I wouldn’t talk about it until I returned home again. It really is nuts the way people post their vacation photos while they are away, as if to tell the world, “No one’s home. Feel free to break into my house.”

I did post photos when I took my cross-country trip, but even then, I waited until I’d moved to my next stop before I posted the previous stop’s photos on the off chance (the off, off, off chance) that someone would be stalking me. At the time, I had no home, so it didn’t matter if people knew I was away, but I had enough people telling me how dangerous it was for a woman to travel alone that I took a few precautions. I’m glad nothing dire happened, and even more than that, I’m glad I took the trip. Although I thought that trip would be the first of many, it turned out to be the first of merely a few. I tend to think my traveling days are now over, especially since I spent my travel money on a garage. But truly, if I do ever take off, I won’t be announcing to the world that my house is empty.

Still, whether I heed people’s warnings or continue showing my life, I do appreciate the concern. It’s nice to know people care.

***

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.

The Internet Gives and Takes (And Takes)

The internet seems to have always been a give then take and take situation, and this state of affairs continues to do this day. For example, I just got a notice about upgrading my free email account to a paid version for the incredibly low price of $5.00. Free is cheaper, of course, but they have been adding so many more ads to the site that I’m sure people will be willing to pay the money to get rid of the annoyance factor. That email is the one I used to sign up for all my internet sites, and since it’s used primarily to get notifications from those sites, the ads aren’t a problem for me.

The email I use most has no ads — it comes with my website at no extra charge. I also get an email that might be ad-free from my internet provider, though I haven’t used that email yet, so I don’t really know. Previously, I never paid attention to such email services because I was moving around a lot and wasn’t interested in always having to change my address. Now that I’m in my “forever” home — well, not really forever because forever would last eons beyond my death, but you know what I mean — I could use the email since it would be as permanent as my residency in this house.

Still, I’m not sure I trust the company. They used to offer a singe charge for internet services no matter what the bandwidth. It was a variable number, sometime incredibly fast, sometimes incredibly slow, but they recently started offering a more expansive bandwidth service for a rather large increase in price. Which would be fine if they had actually increased the speed, but it looks as if what they did was divide out the variable bandwidth and are making people pay for the faster service. So now my internet is a bit slower, and if I want to get back to where it was, I have to pay more. It’s a good thing there is only me and that I don’t watch movies or listen to music on my computer or phone, so the bandwidth I have is fine for now. Until they decide to offer a midrange speed and slow my computer down again.

But, as I said, this has always been the case with any internet service. When I first signed up with Facebook, everyone who “liked” or “followed” my author page got all of my updates in their feed. Whether those people saw the updates or not was a different matter, but the updates were there. Then FB decided they weren’t making enough money, so they started charging for that service. Now, the only people who get occasional updates are those who regularly interact with the page. The other 1,549 people who follow my page will only see what I post if I pay FB to show my posts to them, and since FB refuses to let me post the link to this blog, I refuse to pay them. Even worse, because FB doesn’t like second hand links (I have to “reblog” my blog to another blog so I can post my blog by proxy) I’ve gone from the original 1000 views on FB to the pre-ban 100 views to the current 10. But the way I see it, anyone who wants to follow my blog can follow it directly. I just post a link on FB for those who asked me to.

WordPress is another of those sites that used to be ad-free for people who signed up, either to post a blog or to read blogs, but gradually the ads encroached there, too. I now pay a yearly fee to offer you an ad-free environment (except for my books, of course), but for that I also get a dedicated domain name. And unlike FB, they don’t charge me to send my blog to my followers.

My author website used to come with a free web builder, but they started charging for that, too. Somehow, because of their retiring my old website, I ended up with a less comprehensive builder at no charge (at least for now.) Come to think of it, with all the shenanigans going on, I better renew my website domain before the price of that goes up and becomes prohibitively expensive.

Despite all this, the internet is still a special place. Where else can I meet and communicate with people all over the world without leaving my chair?

***

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

Lucky

Unlike most people, fallout from The Bob has left me largely untouched, so much so, that when people tell me about things like the problems in India, I have to stop and think, and then I remember. Oh, yeah — there’s a pandemic going on.

India is dealing with heavy death tolls. Other countries have stringent curfews to help prevent heavy death tolls. But here in my almost forgotten corner of Colorado, there have been a few deaths, some even, that have affected friends, but mostly, we’ve been spared a lot of the agony the rest of the world has experienced. Oddly, though, the last two months of 2019 saw an upsurge of a horrific and devastating illness being spread here in this county. Back then, The Bob hadn’t yet been identified in the United States, so people were told they had a bad case of the flu, though in retrospect, at least a couple of doctors changed their diagnoses. All the symptoms these people had matched The Bob symptoms, even to the severity, the aftereffects, the collateral problems and complications.

By the time the official restrictions in the state were put into place, I’d already been curtailing my activities to keep from getting that abysmal flu. Even though no curfew was ever in place here, I had my own curfew. (To be honest, it wasn’t disease related — I generally save my wanderings, such as they are, for daylight hours.)

So basically, I’ve just lived my life as if there were no dread disease floating around. I do wear a mask when I’m in stores or at the library, and I probably would wear it elsewhere if I were ever around groups of people, but for the most part, I only have contact with a couple of people.

Because of this, because of the prevalence of the vaccine, because the library is open, and because I am boycotting the news, I hadn’t given much recent thought to The Bob. I guess since it hadn’t really affected me, I more or less figured that it was pretty much under control around here, but apparently it’s still rampant. This coming week there was supposed to be a town fair and celebration, but it has now been cancelled because of an upsurge in the number of Bob cases in the schools.

I hope you know I’m not making light of anyone’s problems that stemmed from The Bob. I’m aware that a lot of people have been affected in disastrous ways, and I am truly sorry for that. At some point, I might even be one of those people; the longer this goes on, the greater the chance of being affected in some way, and not just because a local festival and parade has been cancelled.

So far I’ve been lucky. Lucky that I haven’t gotten sick — with anything! (Amazing how staying away from people keeps one away from all sorts of contagious diseases.) Lucky that I can do so well without a lot of contact with people. And lucky, too, that a lot of what contact I have is via this blog — I can talk about what’s on my mind, and though it’s often a one-sided conversation, it serves its purpose of making me feel connected to the rest of the world.

***

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

Hunting for a Photo

When I was looking through the media files on my blog a couple of days ago to find the clip art image of three witches I wanted to reuse to illustrate that day’s blog, I came across the photo of the first hat I decorated. It surprised me to see the hat because I hadn’t realized I’d taken a picture of it; I hadn’t realized I’d ever uploaded it to the blog, and I had no idea why I’d done so. In the original article I’d written about the grief upsurge the loss of the ribbon had caused, I’d never actually mentioned the ribbon. I only said that the thing I lost wasn’t important in the grand scheme of life and death, but it was important to me. It made me feel good, but more than that, it was a symbol, in a way, of my struggles to create a new life for myself. And somehow, that symbol had blown away in the wind. It didn’t change the facts of my new life, of course, since it was only a symbol. And as I can attest, although the symbol is gone, my new life is still here. I am still here.

And, apparently, the hat with the ribbon is still here, at least as an image even though the hat itself fell apart several years ago. It was seeing that photo that prompted me to write yesterday’s blog entry about hat heads, but when it came time to publish the article, I couldn’t find the photo again. I knew I’d seen it — I mean, I hadn’t even remembered what the hat looked like until I saw the photo, so it wasn’t a trick of memory that made me think I’d seen the hat. I did begin to wonder, though, because I went through my blog’s media library three times, which is a real pain. I seldom tag my photos because it used to be easy enough to find the year I thought I’d uploaded the photo and just look through that year, but with scrolling, that’s not possible. I have to scroll through all the photos to find the one I want (which should teach me to tag the photos so I can find them again).

When I still couldn’t find the picture of the hat after scrolling through all the photos the third time, I checked the photos on my computer and even the photos that are stored elsewhere online, but still couldn’t find it.

After an hour, I finally gave up and used the photo of the second hat I’d decorated with one of my sister’s gift ribbons.

It bothered me, though, that I couldn’t find the picture. I realize I have fourteen years of blogs and blog photos, but still, it’s a finite number. I should have been able to find it within a reasonable length of time. When I came home from work yesterday evening, I decided to try once more. I vaguely remembered it was near a cartoonish clip art image of two men fighting, so I looked for that photo. And right next to it, at the end of the row of photos, there was my hat.

I’d forgotten about checking the edges of the page of photos. From my stint copyediting, I learned that we tend to look in the middle of the page, so any errors that show up (and obviously, images that don’t show up) in an edited page are generally found close to the margins.

I’ll remember for next time. I’m just glad I found the photo (shown below) so I can stop wondering where I’d seen it and why I couldn’t find it 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