Something Nasty in the Wooden Shed

My next book seems to be writing itself, which, now that I think about it, is a good thing since obviously, I am not writing it. Obvious to me, anyway. When I am not actively involved in my new house and new neighborhood and new town, I loll around on my new couch and read new books from the library.

All of which might make for a nice life, but doesn’t do much for the word count.

I still don’t know what the story is, though I do have the main character (Pat from Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare), and I have the setting (this house of course). And I have a sinister atmosphere with the spooky basement, the cistern we uncovered beneath the enclosed porch, and now the shed, and more specifically, the sewer line in the shed.

The shed is actually a garage, though because it can’t be used as a garage quite yet, we have all gotten in the habit of calling it a shed. One corner of the building leans severely enough to the right that it prevents one of the doors from opening. The contractor had thought overwatering the flowers near the foundation of the garage made the floor crack, which made that corner lean precariously. Since all the other corners of the garage are completely straight, however, he’s decided it’s unlikely the garage tilted, because if it had tilted, the opposite corner would have also had to tilt. And it didn’t. So now he thinks the garage was built like that.

Curiouser and curiouser!

Then, as we were checking out the ceiling in the shed/garage, he pointed out a ten-foot piece of turquoise pipe stashed in the rafters.

I’d never given a second thought to the pipe (never even given it a first thought!) — it was just one of the many pieces of junk that needs to be cleared out. He stared up at that piece of turquoise tubing and wondered aloud what it was doing there. And what he should do about it.

I told him he could haul it away with all the rest of the junk, but he kept staring at it. “The pipe is capped on both ends,” he said. “Anything could be stored in there.”

Oh.

See? Plenty of atmosphere for my new novel.

At least, I hope that’s all it is — atmosphere — and not something nasty in the wooden shed.

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

Next Week is Here!

Every time I talked to the contractor who’d agreed to fix the foundation of my enclosed porch, he told me he’d be able to do it “next week.” Well, yesterday he showed up! He and his worker got right to work, and ripped up the old floor of the porch. If the basement isn’t enough of a setting for a horror story (or at least a rather trite novel about a new houseowner who finds a buried body), this boardless porch certainly would add to the creepiness of the story.

We found an old cistern under the floor and decided not to open it. Not that there would be anything in there, though the contractor did admit he has found bodies buried at some of the sites where he worked. (That’s not as sinister as it sounds. In Colorado, some counties have no laws — or at least they didn’t — about not burying your deceased on your property, so many country-folk buried their own dead instead of forking out for the undertaker.)

Still, burial site or not, I took a photo of the hole under the porch in case I ever need inspiration.

By the time this particular job is finished, the porch truly will be enclosed. The new concrete foundation will go all around the porch, keeping out critters, moisture, and any nefarious types who might want to dig for whatever might be buried in the cistern, but the hole will still be there.

Out of sight, out of mind? Let’s hope so!

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

Life on the Trail

I haven’t yet taken up my perennial pastime of long rambling walks, though on one lovely spring day I did follow a road out of town to see where it went. I didn’t go far, only a mile and a half or so, and what I saw was . . . a whole lot of things or a whole lot of nothings depending on your point of view. Mostly, there was the road bounded on both sides by brown-grass fields, an occasional field overrun with purple mustard (which smells like sour milk to me and melted crayons to other people).

A few creatures stopped to nod at me and welcome me to the neighborhood.

And at the beginning — and end — of my journey was the courthouse.

I am living on the Santa Fe Trail, though in this particular political climate, I’m not sure what to think about that. Is it something to brag about, be ashamed of, or ignored altogether? Whatever the truth, it’s hard to ignore the trail since some of the roads around here follow the trail, and there are reminders everywhere. (It’s odd to think how often I thought of living — backpacking — on a long trail, and here I am. Life seems to be something of a punster.)

I used to love history, no matter whose history it was, because it seemed to me past events and other cultures were an indication of who we are as a species, but nowadays, with accusations of “cultural appropriation” heaped even on youngsters decked out in tribal wear for Halloween, I’m not sure it’s wise to see myself other than what I am today. (Whatever that may be.)

It’s amazing to think I haven’t even been here a month. I’ve made friends. (Meet Butters, who loves my little awning.)

I’ve joined the art guild, made plans to go to a dinner theater put on by a local church, am getting to know a couple of street people, and frequently visit the library.

Next week, workers are supposed to come to do some repairs around the house, and I’m hoping that this time, next week will actually come. (He’s been promising “next week” for weeks now.) It would be nice to finish unpacking, though I am getting used to making my way around the maze of my belongings.

As for today, well . . . when I finish here, I’ll fix asparagus in my new asparagus steamer (a housewarming gift) in my new kitchen and read a new book from the library.

Life on the Trail is good.

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

Buyer’s Remorse

I’d forgotten about buyer’s remorse. Not that I ever had reason to remember the concept because until last week, I’d never owned a house. (Until a couple of months ago, I’d never even considered owning a house!) It’s come as something of a surprise that I am now not just a homeowner, but a house owner.

So far, though, it’s been great. No remorse!

There have been a few frustrating episodes, such as trying to get set up with the internet. What a chain of errors, lies, and miscommunications! But I’m set up now, so that’s good. There’s so much work to do to get unpacked and settled that I didn’t really miss the internet, but it does help to be back online. It feels normal and familiar in a world where little is familiar. New house. New (to me) furniture. New town. New folks to meet. New chores. (I’ve never been obsessed with neatness, but I have discovered how lovely it is to wake in the morning and see my beautiful living room, so I make sure I do a quick clean before I go to bed.)

And then there was “that” day. For the most part, the weather has been ideal, but shortly after I got here, a bomb cyclone hit. We didn’t get the blizzards that Denver and other areas got. We just had a bit of rain and insanely high winds. Being in town helped moderate the winds because other houses provided a bit of a wind break, but even though we didn’t get the 80-mile-an-hour gusts that were recorded at the local airport, the wind was still severe.

Luckily, this house really is solid. No drafts, no whistling or rattling windows. The electricity, however, did go off for a couple of hours. After about an hour, the smoke alarms started screeching. To be honest, I don’t see any reason for smoke alarms to be wired into the electric system — individual alarms seem to work just as well — but that’s what I have here: inter-wired alarms. When one goes off, they all go off.

Which is overkill. A beep from cell phone can wake me. Why would I even need four alarms screeching at me all at once? I dismantled all the alarms, but they still continued to screech. It wasn’t until I took out the batteries that silence finally prevailed. When the electricity came back on, I reattached the alarms. Or tried to. Two did fine, but one chirped and one screeched. Thinking it might be a circuit problem, I ran outside in my stocking feet for just a second to check the breaker box, but couldn’t figure out how to open it. I ran back to the door, but the screen door had latched. (I think the wind banged the door shut with such force that the latch latched.)

So there I was, in the rain and mud, with winds that about blew me over, in my stocking feet, and no way to get inside. I had the keys, but the screen door didn’t have a keyhole. I ran down the street to where a handyman lived, but no one was home. Then I ran to my next-door neighbor, and asked if he knew how to jimmy a lock. He did. Took about a second. (But he couldn’t figure out how to open the circuit box, either.)

Such an adventure!

I’ve been trying to connect with people. I went to a spaghetti lunch put on by the historical museum and introduced myself to a few people, spent a day with the previous house owner, (she wants me to join their bowling league, but as much as I enjoyed being with her and her friends, I’m not a bowler, and don’t really see myself ever becoming one), and had tea with my next-door neighbor. When she saw me in my hat, she donned one, too. That was fun. I’d never lived next door to someone close to my own age and, as it turned out, I’m the answer to her prayers. (She prayed that someone nice and friendly would move into this house.)

And tomorrow, I’m going to a meeting of the art guild.

Not bad for being in town just a bit over a week!

I’m looking forward to new adventures, new people, new plants. I found some green poking up through the awakening soil, a couple of lilac bushes hiding behind the garage, and a few periwinkle plants.

So no remorse! Of course, I don’t know what the coming days, weeks, months will bring, but although I miss the friends I left behind, I’m interested to see what will happen next.

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

Grief: Divorce vs. Death

A week after Jeff died, I had to go to the bank to open a new account in my name only, and the woman who helped me said she had recently undergone a devastating, unasked for divorce. She was the first person I met who understood at least part of what I was going through, and we commiserated with each other.

Up to a point, there are many similarities between the two losses. Both involve:

  • Deep emotions: shock, pain, yearning, angst, loneliness.
  • The death of hopes, dreams, the future the two of you had planned for yourselves.
  • The ripping apart of the pair bond, the survival unit, which causes a fight or flight hormonal upsurge and puts tremendous stress on the body.
  • A disruption of habits. Once a behavior becomes automatic, the prefrontal cortex no longer has to make decisions about that particular behavior, which saves the prefrontal cortex from becoming overwhelmed. Disruption of routine after the loss of a life mate, however, destroys this balance, and contributes to brain fog.
  • Being suddenly uncoupled in a coupled world. Ours is a culture of couplehood. Many songs, movies, books, holidays are about love and the importance of being with that one special person, and now you are expected to slough off the weight of this culture and go on as if nothing happened.
  • Dealing with betrayal and rejection. Divorce is a betrayal and a rejection, but so is death. The fact that someone who died of illness did not choose to leave does not mitigate the betrayal and rejection. It’s not as if a person has done these things to us, but as if life itself turned its back on us.
  • Learning a whole new way of living. What you once did together, now needs to be done by you alone.

But there is a divergent point, and that point is death. With all a person has to contend with while going through a divorce, they do not also have to deal with death as a concept or as a reality. Death is shrouded with an element of blank. It is the great unknown and unknowable, and our brains are not equipped to handle the immensity. And yet, while we bereaved are going through the most traumatic event of our lives, we also have to learn to deal with and accept this utterly unfathomable concept.

We all know, of course, we are going to die, but we don’t KNOW. And now we do. This knowledge sends so many chemical and electrical signals throughout our bodies, setting off a cascading series of hormonal reactions, that it leaves us feeling bewildered and traumatized. This is all in addition to our emotional grief. We feel the loss, feel the death, in the depths of our soul. We feel the very winds of eternity screaming through the gaping wound in our heart where our love had been amputated from us.

Divorced people know where there erstwhile mate is, and if they don’t, they can find out, but we bereaved don’t know, can’t know. We call for them, we wonder how they are doing, look for them in crowds. But they are no longer here in the flesh.

When people would tell me how much worse divorce is than death, I would fight back my tears and wish that Jeff really had divorced me. At least I would know he was happy (once I got over being furious with him, that is), at least I would know he was well.

Beyond this empirical evidence, there is an actual, factual difference between the two types of losses, and statistics bear out the truth of it. On a scale of 1 to 100, the loss of a life mate or child tops all at 100. Divorce, the second worse stressor is 73.

I’m not trying to downplay anyone’s pain. We all deal with the traumas life throws at us the best way we can, but ever since Jeff died, my goal has always been to help the bereaved understand what they are going through, and to help their friends understand the enormity of their loss.

Whatever your loss, I wish you peace.

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

Fake News and Grief

I’ve been spending time on Quora in an effort to become known on yet another networking site. Quora is a question and answer site with a news feed similar to Facebook, but what appears on the feed are questions. It’s kind of a fun thing, and even makes me think. When I saw the question, “What do fake news and losing a loved one have in common?” I just passed it by. I mean, they don’t have anything in common, right? And yet, as I got to thinking about it, I realized that in both cases, people believe a lot of things that are not true, and they act on those false beliefs, creating heartache.

The complex and painful experience of grief for a life mate or child is not something we see on television shows, in movies, or read about in novels. Through thousands of movies and books, we are taught to be stoic, to hold back our tears, to be cool. Yul Brynner in The Magnificent Seven was the epitome of western cool, gliding across the film’s landscape without a single show of emotion.

Fictional folks shed a fictional tear or two, perhaps go on a fictional spree of vengeance, then continue with their fictional lives unchanged.

Because of this cultural conditioning (and because we quickly learn to hide our grief from view), people believe that grieving is a much faster process than it actually is, so just a few weeks after the funeral, the phone stops ringing, people we encounter no longer mention our loved one, and our family and friends start urging us to move on.

This can be disheartening, especially since this is when the awful realization starts to sink in that our loved one really is gone. Those closest to us go home to their husbands and wives and unchanged lives. We go into our sad and empty rooms, apartments, houses to be faced again—and again and again—with the knowledge that who we loved was gone, what we had was gone, what we needed was gone, what we hoped for was gone. All gone.

And we’re supposed to be okay with that.

I had lunch one day with some women friends, and one woman’s husband was off on a trip. The woman went on and on about how much she missed him, and the women were all sympathetic toward her. Yet when I mentioned that I missed my deceased life mate, there was a long moment of silence, and then one of the women told me I had to get over it and move on with my life.

She wasn’t an unsympathetic friend. She just based her advice on the “fake news” that it’s best to forget the dead and concentrate on living.
With news, it’s always good to check your sources and not assume what you hear (and believe) is is true. With grief, it’s always good to check your source (the griever herself) and not assume that what you have heard (and believe) is true.

Becoming a person who can live forever while missing that one special person takes a long time — years, even. Becoming a person who can live happily while missing that person takes even longer. But always, you miss them.

***

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.

My Christmas Wish For You

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Holiday Greetings on Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, Peace and Joy, Warmest Wishes, Happy Solstice, Good Yule, Noel, Good Cheer, Good Tidings, Merry Xmas, Happy Holy Holidays, Warm Greetings, Holly Jolly Holidays, Let it Snow, Ho Ho Ho, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Mele Kalikimaka, Buon Natale, Buone Feste Natalizie, Feliz Natal, Nollaig Shona, Fröhliche Weihnachten, God Jul, Wesołych Świąt, and all the other greetings of this special time from those of us out here in the desert!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Wishing You A Day Filled With Light And Lightness Of Being

The internet, especially the social networks, has made me aware of the entire world, not just my local hemisphere. (That’s a phrase you don’t hear everyday — “my local hemisphere”. ) I used to think today, the winter solstice, was a natural day of celebration since it signifies the end of the creeping darkness. For the past six months, ever since the summer solstice, darkness has been creeping into our days and stealing our light. Today we have reached the end. Tomorrow the light begins to grow, but only in the northern hemisphere. Down under, they begin a time of creeping darkness.

Still, since I live in the northern hemisphere, this is a day to celebrate the growing of the light.

S

Wishing you a day filled with light and lightness of being.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Dona Nobis Pacem

Thousands of bloggers from all over the globe are Blogging for Peace today.

One subject. One voice. One day.

Words are powerful . . . this matters.

May the Light of Peace Shine Upon You.

 

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.