Reckful

Today, I made a few drop biscuits. They aren’t on my diet, but it does seem that stay-in-place orders and a damaged knee are restrictive enough without adding food limitations to the equation.

For the most part, though, I’m okay despite these constraints. I’m not even very restless, perhaps because I’d be staying at home anyway to take care of my knee. Oddly — or not so oddly, actually — today my knee doesn’t pain me so much (though it still isn’t acting quite right) but the muscles above and below the knee as well as the uninjured knee all ache. Makes sense, of course. Because I’ve been walking abnormally, when I walk at all, other muscles have taken up the load and are being stretched beyond normal usage.

So many things that are a normal part of people’s lives, like eating out, don’t matter to me when they’re gone because I seldom visit such places anymore. (When I moved here, I left behind my lunch companion and haven’t reinstituted the practice with anyone else.) Nor am I craving Mexican food or pizza or other restaurant fare like so many are. I’m still using up the food around the house. Hence the biscuits.

It’s been interesting seeing how different people react to the various orders we’ve been given. Some people follow through, while others refuse to even acknowledge the directives, either because they’re young enough to feel invincible or are simply reckless.

Me? I’m the opposite of reckless. In fact, I’d be considered reckful, if there were such a word. I know there are many folks who would disagree — after all, I did take that cross-country trip in my ancient bug all my myself, and I did meet up with all sorts of people I knew only by their online presence. But that wasn’t reckless. I’d thought about all contingencies, reckoned on things going wrong and planned for them though of course I’d hoped for things to go right, and mostly, they did.

I’m especially reckful when it comes to my health, which is why I’m hunkered down at home rather than going to the doctor as so many have recommended I do. Health providers are taking people’s temperatures before letting them in the building, but that seems a bit reckless to me. Or else we aren’t being told everything we need to know about this current medical crisis. If people don’t show symptoms until perhaps two weeks after being exposed, then obviously, taking their temperature wouldn’t prove they aren’t infected. It only means the infection hasn’t shown up yet. And I’m supposed to trust that? I don’t think so.

This situation with the stay-at-home orders seems like an interesting sociological experiment, seeing what businesses are shut down and what aren’t. For example, doctors’ offices aren’t closed down, but chiropractors are. Huh? What about the people with bad backs who can’t function without these treatments? This stricture reminds me of the early years of chiropractic when one couldn’t speak of such “pseudo-doctors” without the hush of sacrilege touching people’s voices.

It also seems strange that churches are closed down, but recreational marijuana shops and liquor stores aren’t. I get the whole dissociating from other people thing, but still, the situation speaks ill of us as a people and what we consider necessary. I suppose, since I’m too reckful to get caught by either alcohol or pot usage, I’m also too naïve to understand why they are on the “essential” list. (To be fair, I don’t go to church, either, but I know a lot of people who do and who count on the weekly services.)

None of this affects me personally. I’ve always lived a stringent life, so such harsh measures don’t mean much to me.

Still, in my own reckful way, I’m being reckless. After all, the proof is in the biscuits.

***

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.

Elderly Knee

Ten years ago when Jeff died, I was in the middle of middle age, and suddenly, according the statistics being bandied about because of this current health crisis, I am “elderly.” I’m not sure how that happened, but the truth is . . . hmmm. I don’t know what the truth is. Maybe that I am older than I think I am. Or maybe I really am old enough to be at risk.

I saw a post on Facebook the other day that said you know you’re old when all your injuries are a result of sleeping weird, and that sure hit home. A few days ago, I went to sleep feeling great with all parts working, and I woke with a knee so out of whack and I could barely walk. Then a wrong step a couple of nights ago made it worse. Though the knee is marginally better today, for which I am grateful, I am using my Pacerpoles as if they were canes to keep the weight off that knee as much as possible.

It makes me feel sad for those poor demoted hiking poles. As recent as eighteen months ago, they helped me to maneuver cliffside trails, trek through overgrown forest paths, descend scree-laden desert tracks.

Now the poles only serve to get me from room to room, and they don’t even do much of that. Mostly, I stay in one room. The daybed seems a bit easier to navigate with a bum knee since it has rails that I can use to pull myself up, and it’s a bit higher than my normal bed, so it puts less strain on my knee when I stand up.

Apparently, not only am I in the “stay at home or else” group, I’m also in the “stay in one room” group. Perhaps even the “stay in bed” group.

Sounds elderly to me.

Luckily, I have books so I don’t need to go anywhere even if I could. I should start my car to keep the gas circulated and the battery active, but the thought of having to uncover the vehicle and try to sidle into the seat without stress on the knee is too much for me to even contemplate.

And I have food. I had a few leftover tea cakes I’d made for the open house to celebrate my one-year anniversary of home ownership. I’ve been doing a good job of staying away from such treats, so I’d forgotten I had them. (Before my knee decided to go wonky on me, I’d given up deserts in an effort to lose weight to protect my knees, but my body seems to be more interested in protecting my weight than my knees.) I decided if I was going to die from a novel disease, I didn’t want to die with cake in my freezer. How sad would that be! So I ate it. And I made a stir fry with odds and ends in my refrigerator. As you can see, I’m doing fine on the food front.

Well, I’ve been sitting long enough. I better go rest my knee.

My poor elderly knee.

***

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.

International Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day

When I was in sixth grade, I got a job helping the old woman across the street. She’d just broken her arm, and needed someone to clean. Every time I went there, my stomach heaved. The jobs she gave me were all of a particularly disgusting nature. For example, she had me clean the hair catchers in her bathrooms, and I remember pulling up gobs and gobs of hair, gagging all the while. Just thinking about it now turns my stomach.

refrigeratorBut that wasn’t the worst of my ordeal at this woman’s house. The worst was the refrigerator. Rotten fruits and vegetables. Fuzzy green unidentified leftovers. Ancient bottles and jars that were long expired or would have been if they had expiration dates. (I think expiration dates on all packaged food came much later.) I got sick every single time I went over there and I wanted to quit, but one of my parents insisted I fulfill my obligation. The other parent, in a rare moment of sticking up for me, argued that I shouldn’t have to do something that made me ill. Odd that I can’t remember which parent wanted me to go and which took my side, but it no longer matters. It was so very long ago.

But what does matter is your refrigerator. Clean it out!!!

During my nomadic years after my father died, I house sat and rented rooms in people’s houses. Invariably, in these myriad places, I found a refrigerator clogged with expired condiments and food long past the stage of edibility. I itched to clean out the refrigerators, but I refrained. Maybe the owners were sentimental about that bottle of Hershey’s syrup that was so old it was as thick as treacle and tasted about the same. Or perhaps they liked the vision of wealth a full refrigerator imparts.

In one of the places I lived, the owner gave me permission to clean out the refrigerator to give me space for my few groceries. After three hours, I had a huge stack of trash bags full of expired and rotten food. (By expired, I mean well past expiration date. Ketchup that was ten years old, eggs that were many months old, string cheese packets that were as hard as masonite. It took a chisel and lots of hot water to clean the spilled food that had congealed beneath all that detritus. (That is not an exaggeration. I did have to use a chisel.)

In the interest of health — and since most of us are under stay-at-home orders — I am declaring this International Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day.

I am begging you, please, go clean out your refrigerator. I know you have things in there you have become so accustomed to seeing that you no longer notice them. Or you have bottles of exotic ingredients you have been promising yourself to use for the past ten years. We all have those condiments and rare elements we bought for a recipe, used the requisite one teaspoon, and never got around to making that dish again. You might even have small amounts of food in your refrigerator or freezer that are still good but aren’t enough for a meal — well, soups and salads and stir-fries are all very accommodating when it comes to using left-overs.

If you’re still not convinced of the necessity of cleaning out your refrigerator, ask yourself if you really want some poor woman (maybe your mother or daughter or daughter-in-law, possibly a neighbor, perhaps even a son or husband) throwing up when/if they have clean up if you become sick or incapacitated in any way.

Please like and share this post so it goes to as many people as possible.

Thank you.

***

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.

Important Happenings

Yep! Flowers!

And more flowers.

And yet another.

Even more important, assuming all non-crucial businesses aren’t shut down in the next couple of days (and assuming the lumber yard can find a driver), the materials for my garage will be delivered at the end of this week. And truly, whether anyone but me realizes it, this is crucial! To my well-being anyway. Having a garage will make my life so much easier. Not that it’s hard now — staying home, reading, interneting — what’s not to like?

I hope you’re staying home and keeping well, too.

***

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.

House Proud and Proud of It

I used to be the sort of person who would clean well before company came and do a deep clean when I moved, but the rest of the time I lived in . . . not squalor, but not perfect cleanliness, either. Somewhere along the line, this struck me as wrong, and now I’ve reversed the trend.

A friend and her sister recently came to visit, and I cleaned house, but nothing extreme — mostly just dusted and dry mopped. I keep the house clean anyway, so there wasn’t much to do besides normal maintenance. Besides, I knew they would be walking around in shoes, so I saw no reason to wet mop the floors.

After they left, however, I cleaned. Really cleaned. Disinfected the bathroom, scrubbed the kitchen, washed doorknobs, dusted, dry mopped and wet mopped the floors, washed all the bedding, including the comforter I used for their bedspread. This cleaning bout wasn’t prompted by the current viral situation because obviously, if there was a problem, it had already been put into effect. It was more about reclaiming my space.

Because the garage is not built and the basement work not finished, I still have things stored in my second bedroom and my back room. And the second bedroom, which I use for an office, is generally cluttered with books and notes and various writing supplies, but otherwise, the house is guest-ready. There has never been a time since I moved here when I felt embarrassed to have drop-in visitors, though that had often been the case in my younger years.

I especially never wanted anyone to see my bedroom. Clutter was the norm and making my bed a futile gesture since I more or less lived in the bedroom. It was the most comfortable place for reading and pre-computer writing, but now it is simply that — a bedroom. A place for sleeping. (Which is why I have a daybed in my office — the life-long habit of reading in bed is strong and unbreakable.)

When did I get to be such a neatnik? I don’t know — but it pleases me to wake up in the morning to a clean kitchen and living room. It pleases me to see a lovely bedroom with the bed made and any clutter kept out of sight. (The things I might need at night, such as lip balm, flashlight, tissues or lotions, I keep in a basket to make them easily removed from the bedside table.)

I’ve never been particularly house proud (never owned a house to be house proud about), but now I am. And I’m proud of 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.

Celebrating

Continuing my celebration! Today is the first anniversary of when I met my house; the first anniversary of moving to my new town.

All of a sudden yesterday, it struck me odd that I have turned into someone who celebrates such events, or even one who marks them. I never used to do things like that. Never kept track. I did know when my birthday was and how old I am, of course, but any other anniversaries just passed me by. To be honest, my birthday did too. Jeff and I didn’t make a big deal about birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays except by default. Since stores were closed and nothing much was happening on Christmas or Thanksgiving, for example, we’d hunker down and watch movies with plates of snacks, but other than that, one day was just like any other.

Until he died.

When we lose a significant person in our life, one whose death rocks us to the very depths of our being and changes us forever, it’s as if we are born into a world of grief, and our internal clocks reset themselves to that moment of birth.

At first, we count the minutes and hours we’ve lived, then, after we’ve survived twenty-four or forty-eight interminable and interminably painful hours, we being counting the days. Eventually we move on to counting weeks, months, years, and even decades. To the uninitiated, this counting seems as if we’re dwelling on the past, constantly reminding ourselves of our sorrow, but the truth is, counting is a way of helping us survive this new, alien world.

Grief distorts time. Sometimes it feels as if time stops, but simultaneously it feels as if it speeds up. Seconds seem like hours. Hours can feel like days or can pass by in seconds. We lose track of what the date is. The past and future becomes so entwined that we can’t always be sure if we’re going forward or backward. A particularly strong flashback to the days before our loved one died can make it seem as they are still alive, in another room perhaps. An especially serene moment between grief upsurges can catapult us to a future world of possibility, a world without pain. Counting the days helps put time back into perspective.

Now, I am in the habit of counting, of keeping track, of living. Every anniversary is another year lived. Every year — every day — lived is another day that counts.

Although Jeff’s death devastated me, I was simultaneously aware that it set me free from a lifetime of taking care of someone who could no longer take care of himself. Although it was unwanted and unintended, this gift of freedom, I could not, cannot bring myself to waste it.

So I count the years and celebrate my life’s milestones.

And today I am celebrating friendship and neighbors and new beginnings.

***

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 Neighborhood Feel

Once upon a time, I lived in a what now seems a mythical city. This city wasn’t respected, wasn’t really considered much of a city at all. It had the reputation for being a cow town, and in many ways, it was a town, or rather, a town of towns. Each neighborhood was self-sufficient with schools, stores, libraries, all within walking distance. Crime was negligible because people in each town knew one another. Kids roller skated on the sidewalks, rode bikes in the streets, ran errands for their parents. And from wherever you stood, the mountains were visible to the west.

Those mountains were a constant presence, a compass so we always knew where we were, and most of all, a benevolent guardian. Violent storm clouds dumped snow in the mountains, sailed serenely over Denver where they gathered more moisture to dump on the plains.

And then it all changed. Californians fleeing their bloated state “Californicated” Colorado (as the saying went), and a Texas boy, with political aspirations and no loyalty to the area, “imagined a great city.” And so the town of towns slowly died. Smog enveloped the newly named “great city.” The clean drinking water disappeared and what came out of the faucets tasted like chlorine. Crime became rampant. People locked themselves away from the neighbors they no longer knew. And a burgeoning skyline that grew ever taller changed the climate. (Apparently, the storms thought the upward-reaching mass of buildings an extension of the mountains, and so heavy snows — once a rarity — became the norm.)

Jeff and I escaped the growth, searching for what we once had — a quieter, slower, friendlier life. We never found it, except in the life we created with each other. The neighborhoods we had grown up in were more small-town ideal than any small town we ever found. No one walked anywhere. The people in the towns we lived seemed closed, not just to us, but to each other. Cliques focusing around church or school were the norm, and outsiders weren’t particularly welcome. (When I left the town we’d lived for twenty years, the only people I had to say good-bye to were the librarians.)

I realized the truth of our Denver, then: that neighborhoods had been our lifeblood, and the neighborhood way of life was disappearing. I’d gotten used to the way things had become, and had thought the life we wanted would be forever in the past, so it came as a surprise when I once again found the neighborhood spirit.

In many ways, where I live now is like the neighborhood of my childhood. I walk to the library, run errands on foot, have the next-door friend I never had growing up. (I always envied those who had a friend living next door, and now I do!). There is a friend who lives a couple blocks away that I sometimes go walking with, and adding to the charm and the memory of childhood, we take turns walking each other home.

Because of this childhood feel, this neighborhood feel, I am sometimes affronted by the reality of growing older. What lies in front of me is (eventually) “the end” rather than endless possibility. But I am not at the end yet, perhaps not for many years, and who knows — I might find a widening of possibilities despite any creeping decrepitude. After all, I did find my way here.

It seems odd — and a bit sad — to have found what Jeff and I were looking for (minus the mountains or other places to commune with nature; there is nary a mountain to be seen anywhere in town). Sometimes I worry how he will fit into this house and this lifestyle, and I have to remind myself that he is gone. Ironically, his death more or less led me here. If “need” brings certain changes to our lives, perhaps he and I didn’t need this sort of lifestyle, but now that I am alone, I do.

***

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.

 

Celebrating My House

Today is the first anniversary of my being a house owner. The anniversary of when I first saw the house won’t be for another couple of days and will require yet another celebration. Today, though, is about the house.

I bought the house sight unseen, though I had seen photos.  I have been eminently pleased with the house itself — the spooky basement and the now defunct garage not so much, but both those disappointments are being turned into . . . whatever the opposite of disappointment is. Satisfaction, I think. It should be “appointment,” shouldn’t it? But I’ll stick with satisfaction for now.

I never wanted to own a house. It seemed too much of a responsibility. The first time I ever saw the possibilities in owning a place was when I visited my sister a few years ago. Her house is a delight, with art and artifacts and artful displays wherever I would look. But even so, I didn’t want to own, which was good since there was no way I could ever have afforded to buy a place. At least, not then. The years passed and, as luck would have it, a house showed up in my life.

When my brother first broached the subject of my buying a place, I didn’t immediately shrug it off as I normally would. I knew I needed to do something to situate myself for my old age, and since it didn’t matter where I lived, I went where the house was.

And what a joy! Not only do I love my house, I love owning it. It makes me feel good, as if I were wearing a warm cloak on a cold day.

Adding to the luck, the town that came with the house has been a good place for me, complete with a nearby library . . . and friends.

A couple of those friends brought me flowers today to help me celebrate.

They stayed for tea and cakes served on a gorgeous new plate from my sister.

There were several very long years where I thought I would never be happy again. There were other times I knew something wonderful would be in my future — since the universe is balance, I figured only something really special could offset the pain of losing Jeff and the horror of grief.

In twenty days, it will be ten years that he’s been gone, and not only did I find happiness again, I found the “something wonderful.”

And so today, I celebrate my house.

***

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

So it Goes

Updates!

Tomorrow the concrete truck is coming to pour my garage foundation. Yay!

It’s been rather warm lately, so I connected my hoses and watered the bushes that were transplanted. (The guys who dug my garage foundation were very kind and transplanted the lilacs and native roses they had to dig up to make room for the garage. Service above and beyond!) After all that, I certainly don’t want the poor shocked plants to die, so I watered them again today. (I watered them when they were replanted, but not since then.) Then I figured I might as well water the still inert bulbs. I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do, but since they are not yet established, I figure it couldn’t hurt. Maybe they’ll think (to the extent that plant matter can think) that it rained.

I did find another blooming snowdrop, as well as two or three green tips poking out of the ground. Considering my success rate (a whopping 1% so far!), I ordered some summer bulbs, including a few for a moonlit garden. I hadn’t planned on ordering more bulbs, but the company kept offering me free shipping, and free shipping is a terrible thing to waste. I also ordered a frog to bring me — or rather the poor plants who have to depend on me — good luck. Besides, a friend said I needed to buy my house an anniversary present every year (which is what she does, and she’s my house-owning hero, so I like to follow her suggestions) and I figured the frog, being so frivolous, is the perfect celebratory gift. I suppose the garage would have been an adequate anniversary present, but okay, I admit it — I just wanted the frog.


I considered having a party to celebrate my house ownership anniversary this Saturday, but I don’t do well with groups — I tend to feel superfluous, and I certainly don’t want to feel superfluous in my own home — so I invited my neighbor for tea, then got the courage to invite another friend, and then a couple more, so now I have . . . not a party, since they will be coming one at a time, but perhaps an open house. So, if you are in the area on Saturday, stop by for tea and maybe even some cake and ice cream.

In honor of this anniversary, a friend sent me a house. Actually, a room in a house. Well, actually, a room in a virtual house. It’s Jackie Lawson’s curio collection, and oh, such fun!


There’s all sorts of puzzles and trinkets and things to click, including a mandala maker. And now I have a new obsession (as if I needed another one!). Making mandalas online is such a kick. There’s no such thing as an ugly creation.


And just an aside — at a meeting today, we were told the guidelines for avoiding coronavirus: “wash your hands.” Um, really? Why aren’t people already washing their hands? Soap and water help prevent all sorts of diseases, including the miscellany of viruses included in “flu.” 200,000 deaths from flu doesn’t worry people, but 2,000 from this new disease does? This is at least the fifth would-be pandemic I’ve lived through. Maybe because I always wash my hands. And since I’m griping — the CDC says to wash your hands with soap and water, so why are stores running out of hand sanitizers and not soap?

But so it goes.

Maybe I’ll go make another mandela.

***

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

A Taste of Spring

In five days, I will have been a house owner for an entire year. That year sure went fast! I came here just as spring was making itself felt, and today, as if in celebration, spring decided to make a visit. Sunny skies. Gorgeous weather.

None of my bulbs (except for that one intrepid snow drop that’s still hanging around) have put in an appearance, but if, as Aristotle says, “One swallow does not a summer make,” then I’m sure it also holds true that one fine day does not a spring make. So there’s still time for them to make an appearance.

Still, bits of green are starting to peek above the dead leaves that didn’t get blown away last fall. Most of the green, I’m sure, are weeds of some sort, but until I find out for sure, I welcome the color. (And even if I do find out they are weeds, I am sure I will still welcome the color. I am a bit tired of the drab earthen tones of the winter, so new growth of any kind will be nice.)

I also found some green shoots that look as if they might be from bulbs, but I never planted them, and there weren’t any blooms in that part of the yard last year. Maybe they are a house anniversary present from Chloris, the goddess of flowers.

The gift of greenery wasn’t the only present I got today. The contractor came to frame the foundation for the garage and he brought me some farm eggs. Such lovely colors!

Whatever the coming weeks hold, I certainly enjoyed today’s taste of spring.

***

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