Adventuring

Although I might not be having adventures of the traveling kind, I am certainly having an adventure of the weather kind — we’re experiencing an arctic cold front that has brought the temperature forty degrees below normal for the area. I can’t say it’s a fun adventure, but it is an adventure, this trying to stay warm in the chill temperatures. Luckily, I don’t have many reasons to go out and brave the cold, though today I did have one of those reasons.

I was invited to lunch at a friend’s house, and that was an adventure of a different kind — a culinary adventure spanning the gamut of Asian countries. First we had an appetizer of vegetable rolls — various vegetables wrapped in edible rice paper and dipped in a wasabi sauce.

Next we had a deliciously spicy clam-in-the-shell stir fry. After that was grilled eel on a bed of rice topped with a special eel sauce. An interesting taste experience, that’s for sure! I can’t say eel will ever be one of my favorite foods, but I did enjoy it this once, mainly, I think, because it was so different from anything I’ve ever eaten. It wasn’t slimy, as you might expect, but it wasn’t flaky like fish, either, though it did have a mild fish flavor.

To drink, I had Thai cream soda, which is nothing like American cream soda. I don’t know what flavor it is, actually, perhaps similar to an Asian fruit, like rambutan or lychee. Which, incidentally, were served for dessert.

That’s plenty of adventuring for me for now. Tonight, we’re supposed to get snow and even colder temperatures. Tomorrow’s high will be zero. Or maybe 1 degree above zero if we’re lucky. I will have to go out to clear the snow from the ramp and the sidewalk in front of the house, but that will be it for me. The rest of the day I will snuggle under a comforter to read and drink hot tea and be grateful for the warmth inside my cozy little house.

***

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?

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Do the Loneliness and Tears Ever Stop?

A friend who became a widow about a year ago asked me if the loneliness and tears ever stopped. I always hate to have to tell the truth that so many of us discovered — that it takes three to five years to find some sort of renewed interest in life, but even then, tears still come, though not as often or for as long as they once did, and the loneliness can continue to be a problem.

It took me ten years and a major life change — moving to a new town and buying a house — before I settled into a feeling of normalcy. I do still tear up at times, but that’s all it is — a momentary tearing up without enough moisture to escape my eyes, and I do still get lonely, though again, it’s more of a blip than a barrage of feelings because after all these years (it will be eleven years in seven weeks) I am used to being alone.

I still marvel that we can get to the point of feeling any sort of normalcy because the truth is, no matter what happens in our lives, they are still gone.

I remember having lunch with a woman who asked me how I was. This had to have been about four years after Jeff died, because I was mostly doing okay, which is what I told her. I would never even have mentioned him except that she asked, which is why her subsequent lecture on how I must really get over it and move on seemed so unfair. It’s not as if I brought up the subject or even bemoaned my fate. My response was just a simple, “I’m doing okay.” She eventually changed the subject back to herself, and this is where things really got bizarre. Her husband was gone for the weekend on a fishing trip, and she spent the rest of our time together talking about how much she missed him and how lonely she was.

I could only gape at her. Her husband had been gone but a day, would be home in another day or two, and their lives would continue as before. Jeff had been gone years, and would never return. It simply did not occur to her to correlate the two situations. Somehow it was okay for her to miss her husband, but not okay for me to miss Jeff. It was as if in her mind, death had erased him, not just in the present, but in the past, so that whatever we had shared was gone, eradicated from the record of my life, and for me even to think of him was an affront.

You’d think as the years pass, our loneliness and missing them would escalate because every new day is another day piled on the heap of days we’ve already spent missing them, but the miracle of grief is that although those feelings are still there, they become subsumed into the depths of our being, and so they don’t demand as much attention.

And so our lives continue.

But for most of us, getting to that point takes years.

If you are still in the midst of the hard years, I am truly sorry, but there is hope. Most of us who manage to claw our way out of the chaos of grief do find renewal of some sort. For me, first it was dance classes, and now it’s my house and home. For so long, Jeff was my home, but now I have an actual place I can call home. It’s not the same, of course, but considering the circumstances of my life, it’s pretty amazing that I got here.

This renewal isn’t unique to me. Many of us find ourselves, ten years after the death of a spouse, life mate, soul mate, in a completely different place, sometimes geographically, sometimes mentally or emotionally, sometimes spiritually, sometimes all three.

It doesn’t in any way make it okay that they are gone, doesn’t eradicate them from our lives, but it does make it easier for us to embrace life once more, to move away from the edge of the abyss where we teetered for so long.

Meantime, in your loneliness, know that at least one person understands, at least to some extent, what you are going through.

***

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

Small Joys

A couple of days ago, I pulled out all the boxes and such to pack away my Christmas decorations. I’d gradually been putting things away, but suddenly today, I could not stand the disarray any longer and set to with a vengeance. Now my living room is clean and put back the way it was.

And it makes me feel good.

This need for no clutter is a new one for me. I never minded a mess, mostly because I lived in my head. I’d get involved in doing things and simply not notice my surroundings. But I have become something of a neatnik. The first thing every morning, I have to make my bed. The last thing before bed, I have to make sure the kitchen is clean and the counters empty. Except for the past couple of days with the Christmas clutter, the living room was always neat and company ready. It’s unnecessary from the company aspect, of course, because with The Bob, people seldom stop by, but still, it’s necessary for me.

The only room with a bit of clutter is my office. Papers tend to pile up on my desk, and because I am always doing something in that room, I tend not to let it bother me.

It does make me wonder, though, where this tendency toward non-clutter, neatness, and cleanliness comes from. Maybe being a house-proud home-owner (and proud of it!). Maybe having plenty of room — I’ve never had so many rooms, plus enough storage to keep temporarily unneeded items out of sight. Or maybe it’s habit from so many years of living in other people’s houses. Or maybe it’s the nearing of that “elderly” birthday. It’s easier to keep track of my errant thoughts when everything around me is in place.

Whatever the reason, I do find it amusing that I’ve turned into someone I never thought to be. This tendency toward neatness is convenient, that’s for sure! I don’t need to panic if/when the doorbell rings. When I was young, I’d have to peak out to see who was there, and then depending on the visitor, scurry around and scoop up my stray belongings. I think I was neat enough when Jeff and I were together, but since we were in business for ourselves, the storage tended to creep beyond the designated room.

But what once was is no longer important. Today, I put away the Christmas stuff and cleaned the living room.

Such a small thing, but a true joy!

***

“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 buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Driving Nowhere

When I moved here, the alley behind my house was muddy with deep ruts, which was a big factor (next to cost) in trying to fix the old garage. If the old garage could have been fixed, then I would have graveled the driveway leading out to the paved street and not had to worry about the mud.

Well, fixing the garage didn’t work out, so it got torn down.

By the time the new garage was built, the alley was graveled, which made for a pleasant egress from my new garage.

Unfortunately, the gas company had to dig up the alley to put in new gas lines, and so once again, the alley is muddy with deep ruts. (We got a LOT of snow last week, and now it’s melting fast.)

That mud and those ruts are intimidating since I drive a small car, but more than that, I don’t like the idea of muddying up my new garage.

So today, which was supposed to be a driving day (to keep the bug exercised and the battery charged up), I opened the garage door, got in the car, started it, and . . . drove nowhere. I just sat there with the car running, and dreamt of magical road trips and wondrous sites and sights.

Oddly, I don’t really mind not traveling, even though it was an on and off again way of life for many years. Nothing appeals to me so much as spending the night in my own bed in my own bedroom in my own house.

Work around here has come to a standstill — first because of the snow, next because of the holidays, and finally because of the mud — but once I have pathways meandering through my yard, with various plants — trees, flowers, bushes — in strategic areas, there’s a chance that strolling through my own yard will fulfill some of that desire for new sights. Plants are ever changing, and there always seems to be something new to look at.

Meantime, when I can’t actually get in the car and drive out into the country for a short jaunt, sitting in the car and driving nowhere but into my own dreams seems to be an adequate substitute.

***

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

Feeding My Adventurous Spirit

I always walk home from work, even now when it’s dark and the roads are slick from snow. To my surprise, it doesn’t worry me. In fact, I enjoy the small adventure of making my way home in the wilds of this town.

The “wilds” part is just me being facetious. The trek is but two city blocks with street lights. Still, I am alone out there, which adds to the enjoyment. I stop, look up at the sky, look around, listen, feel the chill air, take deep breaths. Sometimes I imagine myself in the wilderness as if I had taken that winter backpacking trip I had once (briefly) considered taking. Mostly I just enjoy the moment.

Not so oddly, this adventure of mine does worry other people.

It’s nice to have people concerned about me, but it’s also a bit amusing. As I’ve been explaining to various folks who think I’m doing something inordinately dangerous by making this brief trek, I have often gone adventuring on my own.

I hiked in the mountains alone. I hiked along beaches alone. I hiked in forests alone. I camped alone. I backpacked alone. I took a cross-country trip alone, going from coast to coast and back again. I took an upcountry road trip alone, going almost from Mexico to close to Canada. Many times I took a half-country trip, from California to Colorado, making the trip so often, in fact, that those roads are very familiar to me.

Even though people flat out told me I couldn’t do each of these things alone (not “shouldn’t” as in a suggestion, but “couldn’t” as is in an order), I went about my merry way. If I had waited for someone to accompany me on any of my various adventures, big or small, I wouldn’t have been able to go anywhere. Looking back, my adventures seemed blessed. The problems I had were minor and easily fixed — a dead battery, a cracked fuel line, a broken speedometer — but even if there had been larger issues, I would have dealt with them.

Now that I have a home, I tend not to travel far, so currently my biggest adventure is that two-block hike in the snow at night.

I’m not stupid — I am cognizant of my age, the weather, and the conditions of the road. I wear waterproof, non-skid hiking boots in the snow and I use my Pacer Poles to help me navigate the icy areas. I also have pepper spray, though since it’s in my bag, it wouldn’t do me much good if I needed it. Besides, I need both hands for the poles. I also have a phone, and all along those two blocks, I get good cellular coverage in case I need to call for help. Lately, because of the snow and the two hiking poles, it’s been bright enough I don’t need a flashlight, but when the streets are clear, I carry a hiking stick in one hand and a flashlight in the other.

Yesterday, when I told friends about my nightly trek and they expressed concern, I just shook my head and mentioned all the things I’d done alone. “But that was years ago,” they said. I agreed, and it was only later I realized they probably meant when I was much younger. What I meant by “years ago” was a mere two years in the past. Most of my adventuring didn’t start until I was sliding down the bannister into old age. (I’m still sliding. Spending so much time with a woman decades older than myself makes me feel young since I can still do most things as well as ever. A bit slower, perhaps, but I am still out and about, for which I am grateful. And she thinks I am just a kid, which helps the illusion.)

So you can see, as adventures go, this one is rather mild, though it does help feed my adventurous spirit.

***

My novel of a quarantine predated this real life experience by a decade. 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

There Are Those

The words “There are those” from a song of that name keep playing in my head. I had to look it up to find out where those words came from because I only remembered the refrain:

There are those
There are those
I suppose
There are those

Those and suppose — a witty rhyme, right?

The song is from the musical The Happiest Millionaire — a cute song in a cute movie — but I only hear the first three words in my head, mostly because they came to mind when I think of neighbors.

Yesterday I mentioned the awful neighbor we had when Jeff and I lived on the western slope of Colorado, who plowed snow off the lane in front of our houses, and dumped it in our driveway.

And then there are those (see? The song!) like my current neighbors. I went out yesterday to shovel my walkways, and when I’d shoveled my way down the ramp to the public walkway, I discovered that a wide path had already been cleared away.

I felt grateful and blessed, of course, to have such neighbors, but I was also amused since I had just moments before posted my blog mentioning those previous neighbors.

Apparently, there are those who dump snow in one’s driveway, and there are those who clear off one’s walkway.

Yep, like the song, there are those . . .

***

My novel of a quarantine predated this real life experience by a decade. 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

No Regrets

We were under a winter advisory watch from late yesterday afternoon until this morning because of all the snow we were supposed to get — three to six inches, they said. And boy, did we get snow — the full six inches that were forecast.

You’d think this is the sort of day that would make me regret moving back to Colorado, but rather to my surprise, it made me especially glad to be back here. I’ve never lived anywhere else where the aftermath of a winter storm (even though technically it was an autumn snowfall rather than a winter storm) is so invigorating, almost electric, with absolutely still air, blindingly blue skies, hot sun. Of course, there is the chill factor, but that was easy enough to alleviate with proper clothing, and pleasant enough for all that.

Even shoveling all that snow wasn’t a problem — it was hard work, but that work also gave me an excuse to be outside to experience the day. I suppose by the end of winter — if we get many snows like this, that is — it might be a different story, but for today, even the shoveling was a joy.

A Colorado friend who is now living in a mostly snow-free area wanted me to make a snow angel, but I had to turn her down. I can just see that — lying there with snow wings on either side of me, freezing to death because I couldn’t get up. My becoming an angel for real is not the sort of angel she wanted to see, I’m almost certain. Besides, the snow is so powdery, I doubt the image of an angel would remain even if I could still play around like that. I couldn’t even form a snowball to make a tiny snowperson.

As I was writing this, I got a call from a local friend, asking if he and his wife could stop by. I said yes, and asked when. He said, “Open your door.” So I did, and there they were, just pulling up in front of my house. What a lovely surprise, and another reason to not regret being here.

Apparently, they had made a dish to take to church for a meal afterward, as they always did, but no one else showed up. So they thought of me.

We had a good meal and a great visit.

And a good day got even better.

***

“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 buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Another Special Day

It’s exceedingly cold today, but I took this opportunity to give my car a short workout because this is the warmest it will be for a while. Eek!

It really wasn’t that bad out, but of course, I was inside my car, and even without a heating system I wasn’t too cold. Outside, there was a chill wind and a sparse bit of sleeting snow. Despite the weather, it was another example of a perfect small-town day. No matter where I went, I saw people I knew. We stopped to chat a few minutes, which was really nice, and then went on our way.

What interests me is how often I see people I know at the stores or wherever. I’ve lived in smaller places and larger places, and have gone years without ever seeing anyone I know unless I made a point of seeing them.

It wasn’t just the people I visited with that made this day special, but a field full of cranes.

I don’t like to drive just a few blocks. The engine doesn’t even heat up, and it doesn’t give the car much of a workout, so after my errands, I took a short drive down the highway, and I saw what looked like snowdrifts in a field. I didn’t think anyone around here had gotten more than a few flakes of snow, so I gave a second look, and realized the field, as far as I could see, was dotted with what I think are sandhill cranes, stopping to rest on their way to a more beneficial winter habitat.

Because I was on a narrow shoulder of the highway, I wasn’t able to get out of my car to take a photo, so I pulled over, rolled the window down, and took a picture with my phone. (I’d planned to get a birding camera when I moved here, but so far, haven’t done that. Knowing me, if I did see a bird I’d like a photo of, the camera would have been left at home, anyway.)

I sat and watched the birds for a while. Warmed by the sight, it suddenly didn’t feel so fiercely cold after all.

***

My novel of a quarantine predated this real life experience by a decade. 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

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.

Watching Workers Work

I’ve spent a nice lazy day watching men be anything but lazy.

My contractor has a new employee, one who is old enough and knowledgeable enough and conscientious enough to work by himself, so he’s been coming to lay decorative rock and dig pathways to fill with crushed rock called “breeze.” Why is it called breeze? I don’t know. All I know is that it will be nice to have flat paths to walk on as I get old and unsteady.

It’s interesting to me how everyone who has come to work on this house or yard has become caught up in the planning and offered fun and practical ideas for improving the lot and making the place accessible for the old lady I will become. (Of course, since these men are all considerably younger than me, they probably already see me as that frail old woman.)

I certainly hadn’t planned on doing all this (or rather, having it done), but once I can see where the worker is going with his idea, I can’t unsee it. And so, gradually, my yard is taking shape. It truly will be a mini estate when it is finished, with wild areas, garden areas, grassy areas as well as big bushes and small trees creating various “rooms.” And amazingly, when it is all finished, the entire cost of the house and landscaping will be a tiny fraction of what a similar property in any other part of the country would be.

It also looks as if the foundation will be repaired soon. This same worker who is laying down the rock will be digging away the dirt around the foundation, fixing the cracks, and then putting it all back together. As much as I appreciate the aesthetics of the landscaping (and the practicality of it), I am especially looking forward to having the cracks fixed. The house is sound even with the cracks, but since the biggest cracks are in the corner where my bedroom is, fixing them will give me great peace of mind. Not that I worry about it, but fixing the foundation ensures that I will never have to worry about the house collapsing while I am sleeping.

I’d take a picture of the work, but to be honest, all it looks like right now are rocks and dirt. Hmm. Maybe I need a waterfall. Then I’d have an interesting photo to post!

***

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