So Much Gratitude!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

When a Door Opens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Confusion Is the Name Of The Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

A Thousand Years

Considering all the address labels various do-gooder groups are sending me, I won’t be able to move for a thousand years, and even then, I’ll have a few labels left over as well as those they will be sending me over coming millennium.

I mean, really — in this electronic age, how many address labels does one person need? I’ve been using one each month to pay a local bill because I got out of the habit of paying in person with The Bob restrictions. (Incidentally, if you don’t know why I call this particular disease “The Bob,” it’s not just because I can’t bear to use its name, even though that’s true, it’s because of a scene from my book, A Spark of Heavenly Fire. Click here to read the explanation: The Bob)

And I might use a couple address labels for Christmas cards if I decide to send out the new cards I constructed from old cards at an Art Guild meeting the other day. But besides that, I have no use for address labels. You’d think charitable organizations would come up with some other sort of gimmick to get people to contribute to their cause, but I suppose the labels are easy to make and cheap to mail.

***

Please check out my new book!

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

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

What Do I Need to Know Today?

To learn the tarot and to get familiar with the various decks I inherited from my brother, I’ve been picking a card every day, and then researching the meaning. To get the best use of such an undertaking, a person needs to ask a question, though it isn’t necessary. My question — when I remember to ask it — is always, “What do I need to know today?” I find when I don’t ask the question, the card reflects my worries more than anything else. When I do ask . . . well, sometimes I get advice and sometimes not, but it’s hard to figure out from a card what I need to know especially if I don’t know what I need to know because the cards can only tell me what I already know since I am the one interpreting them.

Still, the advice I glean is sometimes spot on, sometimes too general to be useful, and is often something I already I know about me or my life. (I haven’t yet figured out how to discover that which I don’t know about my secret inner workings, even though learning such things is supposedly the best use of the tarot.)

The one suggestion that comes up over and over again in my daily one-card reading is to trust my intuition, trust my intellect, and to stay true to myself. I can’t help but equate this advice to certain current events since my intuition — and intellect — are both at odds with what most other people think, so I tend to doubt myself.

Despite the lack of true knowledge from the tarot about what I need to know each day, it’s still an interesting exercise. Maybe it will open my mind up to this intuition I am supposed to trust. If not, at least the question helps me focus on the day and what I might glean from it.

Forgetting the cards and what they might tell me, I’m curious as to what you might tell me — me specifically, or me as a member of the human race — what I need to know today.

So, what do I need to know today?

What do you need to know?

***

My latest novel Bob, The Right Hand of God is now published!

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

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

My “On” Button

Before the election, I talked with a friend one day about all the lies and cheats and deceptions. Like most people, she knew knew these tactics existed, but since she believed the lies told by the alphabet newscasters, she wasn’t aware there was another side.

I don’t often monopolize the conversation, but every once in a while, someone finds my “on” button, and I hold forth. Much of the truth of this past election was hard to find, but if one read more than an article or two, and if one read articles that went against what one happens to think at any given moment, it was a lot easier to piece things together. Also, I’ve studied such things most of my life — people often downplay the unpalatable truth with a contemptuous sneer of “conspiracy theory,” but the truth is, a conspiracy is merely something people in power do behind your back. And politics is full of back door, back room, back stabbing deals that we are not privy to, and if we do happen to stumble on the truth, well, then, they dismiss it by saying it’s just another conspiracy theory or fake news or whatever damning name they want to call it.

That particular day, however, I’d watched the news with her, watched the newscaster show a clip of an interview, then listened to her turn the person’s words upside down to prove a completely different point, then asked a second interviewee a question that would again make a mockery of the truth. The two of them talked about the horror of the event as if it had actually happened, rather than being a total fabrication.

Since I don’t watch the news, this took me aback. That they didn’t even pretend to hide their reprehensible behavior was too much for me. Did they really think we were such fools as to not hear what we originally heard?

Apparently so. Anyway, that got me started.

The friend listened agog as I explained not what we had just seen but also some of the subtle — and not so subtle — lies we’ve been told, explained how they vilified some players while beatifying others, and even explained some of the historical background leading up to this particular political mess. When I realized what I was doing, I apologized.

She said, “I like listening to you talk.” She asked me how I knew everything I did, including all the pieces that went together to make up my books. Then she said, “You must have gone to school for a long time.”

The truth is, I didn’t go to school for a long time. In fact, I have far less formal education than just about anyone I know, but I’ve spent a lifetime reading and researching, listening and thinking to make up for the lack. Even more, I almost never watch television. I didn’t grow up watching like most people of my generation did because my father wouldn’t get one. He wanted us to be independent thinkers, which kind of backfired on him. He wanted us to independently come to the same conclusions he did, and he was appalled to discover that we all turned out to think independently of him.

But that’s beside the issue. The real issue is that a lot of knowledge is hidden in books. Not school books or text books, but . . . books. All kinds of books, fiction and non-fiction. If one never reads, one never learns anything but what they are fed.

The first time I realized that tales hid truth was in grade school. For an English assignment, we had to create a newspaper. I thought it would be fun to make the news stories about various fairy tales and nursery rhymes, and in trying to find things to say about these bits of folklore, I happened to come across a book that gave the origins and meanings. And wow! What an eyeopener!

And so began my quest for the truth hidden in books.

If I have ever had a life-long passion, it’s with the truth, reading, seeing that which is hidden that we’re not supposed to know. So far, not all the truth is suppressed, and I’m not sure it can be, but it’s a lot harder to find than on a lighted screen.

I can’t say knowing the truth — at least as much of it as I do — has made me happy. It’s made me more of an outcast than anything (except during my years with Jeff — he was the only other seeker I had ever met, and together we learned a lot). But still, I’d rather know the truth — and if I don’t, I prefer searching for it — even if people don’t agree with me. Sometimes, their disagreement leads me to other paths. So far, none of these paths have set me on a totally different course, though a lot of the paths augmented the ones I was already on.

Searching for truth is like this find the hidden objects game I’ve been playing — it’s about learning patterns, seeing the truth as deviation from the pattern as well as seeing the truth in the pattern.

See what I mean about my “on” button? I had no intention of going into all that, but once I got started, I just kept going.

Luckily for you, I also have an off button.

***

My latest novel Bob, The Right Hand of God is now published!

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

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

Make-Believe Worlds

I’m seceding from the world at large and planning on disappearing into make-believe worlds. There are simply too many horrible or stupid or insulting conversations about the election in the real world, the seemingly most innocuous being one of the worst, for me. People are saying that this was a contest between two men and should not be affecting our relationships with one another. While I might agree with the second part (to the extent that people keep their insults and aggressiveness to themselves), I definitely do not agree with the first part. To say it’s a contest between two men makes it seem like a high school presidential election where the most popular person wins. Many of our national elections have been like that, with nothing at stake, but this election is historic. It was not a choice between two men, but between two entirely different directions for the country to take — between freedom and subjugation, between choice and control, between more government and less government.

People on both sides are appalled that so many people voted for the other side, which means, again, that it was not about two men but about all of us.

So, I’m seceding. Or maybe it’s more that I receding. Either way, I’m finding comfort in make believe worlds.

I’ve got books, my yard (though I had to give up on digging up the grass in my garden because the tops of my feet hurt from all that unfamiliar work), and I’m immersing myself in one of those silly hidden objects game where you search for . . . you guessed it . . . hidden objects. I play my own game (which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about me). The game itself is free, but you are expected to buy “energy” (the coin of the realm) with real money as well as various other artifacts, but my game is to find ways of playing free. For example, if players agree to watch a commercial, they get gifts of energy and other e-delights, and I always agree — it gives me a chance to rest my eyes. They also occasionally have a side game that can be played free, as well as “happy hours.”

The game amuses me. It keeps my attention and provides exercise for my not-as-sharp-as-it-once-was memory, but it’s also an excellent example of an inflationary world. The more you play, the more energy you can accumulate, but the more energy you accumulate, the more each phase of the game costs. But, unlike in the real world, I can find ways around the inflation, such as playing the most “expensive” games during happy hour, and only playing the “cheap” games with my accumulated energy.

For now, I’d rather live in the make-believe worlds in games, in novels, and even inside my own head. At least, I don’t have to listen to lies and comments that irk me.

To set the record straight, none of the comments left here have ever irked me in any way. I appreciate every one of you and your comments. But then, this blog, in its own way, is also a make-believe world.

***

Speaking of make believe worlds, my latest novel Bob, The Right Hand of God is now published! Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God. Or you can buy the Kindle version by clicking here: Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

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

Dona Nobis Pacem

I joined the peace bloggers in 2012. And every November 4th since then, I have blogged for — and about — peace.

This year’s theme is “Peace in the time of quarantine.” Although I do not believe in the possibility of world peace (because war and other international conflicts 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.

We tend to think of peace as a passive thing. An absence of strife. Effortless calm. Yet, when we talk of unrest and chaos (or whatever is the opposite of peace), it’s always about action, doing something, committing something — committing acts of terrorism, declaring war, fighting, rioting, tormenting, bullying.

Maybe peace is also about action, about committing acts of peace. We as individuals can’t arrange truces between warring factions, whether global or familial. We can’t bring peace to chaotic countries — ours or anyone else’s. Often the best we can do is bring peace to our own lives, arrange a truce between our inner and outer selves, find a way to ease our anger, create art (because people who are involved in creating a piece of art are also creating a space for peace), meditate or take a walk. Commit acts of peace.

It’s odd to think that this time of quarantine, which because of enforced isolation and orders to stay at home should have been a time of peace, has been one of the most violent times in recent years. But the country at large, especially the bigger cities have been ablaze with chaos.

Of course, being forced into isolation — any sort of force, actually — can’t bring about peace. It’s no wonder people were so ready to erupt into violence — isn’t that some sort of law of physics? Equal and opposite reaction and all that? On a smaller scale, victims of abuse were forced into situations where they had no escape, so for these people, instead of bringing about peace, the quarantine brought about more horror.

Apparently, I have nothing positive to say about peace in the time of quarantine, even though my own life during this time has been quiet and contemplative. I’ve managed to stay away from strife — except for occasionally getting riled up by all the lies and idiocies going on. I’ve even managed to commit acts of peace — if only by taking solitary walks, blogging, reading, enjoying a rare visit with friends.

If you don’t have a blog or think this a hopeless cause, you can still participate in this event by committing an act of peace. I hope you will.

***

Please check out my new book!

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

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

Walking in the Cemetery

A friend invited me to go walking with her in the cemetery yesterday, and I jumped at the chance. It’s a pretty place — at least in the daytime — and even historic, containing, as it does, graves of some early settlers. It’s also free of dogs, which are becoming more of a problem all the time.

I found it interesting that yesterday was also All Souls Day, which made the trek apropos. We didn’t encounter a soul — dead or alive — as we meandered along the roads, searching for the grave of someone she knew who had recently died. Many of the graves were decorated with fake flowers. With the advent of silk flowers, I’ve wondered why there is still a market for plastic flowers, and now I know the answer — they are the flower of choice to decorate graves.

As my friend promised, there were no dogs.

With daylight savings time ended, it gets dark early here, and will continue to get darker for the next several weeks. I am so not a fan of the creeping darkness, but it’s even worse now because of working. My shift ends after sunset, and though I don’t worry about walking in the dark — it’s only two blocks on a quiet street. Besides, there’s a streetlight, and I carry a flashlight, so I’m not worried about the darkness as such. What does worry me are the dogs running loose. It’s one thing when it’s light enough for me to see them coming, another to have them approach out of nowhere.

I’ll have a stick, and even some pepper spray that someone gave me, so I should be okay. I’d heard that spraying water is even more effective, but for now, I’ll just stick with what I have and worry about other deterrents later if necessary.

I hope I remember to leave a light on in the house to make it more inviting — somehow it seems so lonely coming home to a dark house, even though I don’t notice any problem in the day.

Despite my reservations, it might be nice walking in the dark. I don’t often do that anymore — mostly because there’s no reason to. It’s too bad that there are just enough lights in town to obscure the stars because I do enjoy walking under the stars. I’ve heard that a vast number of stars are visible just outside of town, but since I don’t like driving at night (or maybe it’s that the night doesn’t like me driving), I haven’t yet explored the possibility.

I hope I don’t sound cranky. Despite unpleasant dogs roaming loose and the creeping darkness, I feel grateful for all I have — a job, a house to come home to, and friends who invite me to go walking in the cemetery.

***

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

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

Oh, My! The Pressure!

Oh, the pressure!

It’s not just that today is Halloween, because no one comes to the door anyway. The next street over is where the activity is.

It’s not just that I had three big trees to plant, because I had help planting them.

It’s not just that this is the last Saturday before the election that might change our lives forever, because at this point, there’s nothing I can do about it.

It’s not just that daylight savings is ending with all the problems the time change brings because, well . . . there’s nothing I can do about that either. I could of course not change the clocks as I did (didn’t do?) one year when I was young and just deal with the wrong clocks, but since some clocks change themselves nowadays while others don’t, dealing with two different times is more confusion than I need.

It’s not just that today is another warm day in a string of warm days after the big freeze — that’s not where the pressure comes in; it’s that I had to drag out my hoses again as if we were heading toward spring rather than winter.

And oh, yeah, speaking of winter — it’s not just that winter is around the corner.

It’s that tomorrow begins a new month and I have to pick a tarot deck to use for the month. (I pick one card every day to see what it can tell me, though usually what it tells me is that it has nothing to do me with.)

Oh, my! The pressure! It’s not the same for normal people who have but one deck (or not decks at all). I have dozens of them! I suppose I could continue using the deck I’ve been using, though that one doesn’t really speak to me. Actually, none of the decks I’ve used so far seem to strike a chord, so I’ll have to keep trying out the various decks. I figure a month gives each deck a good tryout, and so here I am, back at the beginning of all this roundaboutation with me needing to pick a new tarot deck for November. I guess I’ll just close my eyes and grab one. And voila! That lessens the pressure.

(Out of curiosity, I looked up roundaboutation because MSWord says it’s not a word, and to be honest, I thought I was making it up, but it is actually a word that has been in use since the 1800s. Who knew?)

I hope your day is a lot less pressurized than mine. I’d say Happy Halloween, but I don’t know if saying that is acceptable any more or if it’s been changed to something more specific for those who subscribe to identity politics or something less specific for those who are too sensitive to deal with other people’s business. I sure as heck don’t need that kind of pressure, so I’ll just say, “Have a Happy ___” and let you fill in the blank.

***

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

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