Garage Installation

I wasn’t going to write more about my garage until it was actually being built, but I couldn’t pass on using the title of this piece, which is a perfect title because work on the garage is temporarily stalled. (In – stall – ation. Cute, huh?)

The contractor has a few obligations — contract deadlines he needs to take care of now, so that when he starts building the garage, he can do the whole thing without delays. (Oh, wait!! Contracts. Contractor. Now I get it! Sheesh. I sure am firing on all cylinders today.)

Meantime, he and his workers took time from their weekends to finish the part of the side fence that was hidden behind the old garage. (Though they made sure they were done by noon. Something about the Kansas City Chiefs.)

Breaks in a fence seem to attract the very people I don’t want to attract, so it’s good to have the fence finished. I do feel bad, though — the back fence will have to be redone after the garage is built, and it seems a shame that their hard work is going to waste.

But they don’t seem to mind. At least that’s what they tell me. Who knows what they say amongst themselves.

Meantime, I am completely fenced in. I always liked that song “Don’t Fence Me In,” but now that I’m alone in an ever-scarier world, I like fences. I still don’t like other people fencing me in, except, of course, for the workers who actually did fence me in.

The thing about fences is that they have gates, so I’m not truly fenced in, either psychologically or physically. I can always open the gate and leave. Doors are the same way. After Jeff died, people told me, “God never closes a door without opening a window,” which completely ignores the nature of a door — it closes and it opens.

But I’m getting off track.

In the photo above, you can see the recently installed fence on the right, the fence in the back that will have to be redone, and the place where the new garage will go — left of the trench where the sidewalk used to be, but close to the back fence. (You can see where the garage used to be to the right of the trench. The concrete slab used to be in front of the garage.) The lilac bushes along the back fence will have to be moved, but it should be easy for the men to do so using the excavator they will get to dig the foundation for the garage. (Any extra dirt will go to fill in area where the garage used to be.)

Well, now you know more than you ever wanted to know about both the installation and the in-stall-ation of my garage.

***

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.

Living on the Wild Side

In National Velvet, Edwina Brown, played by Anne Revere (who quietly stole the movie), told her daughter, “I, too, believe that everyone should have a chance at a breathtaking piece of folly once in his life.” I was taken by that line when I heard it, and have often thought about it during the past years. Such a wonderful thing — to have a chance at a breathtaking piece of folly.

Though not breathtaking by any means — certainly not like winning the Grand National or swimming the English channel or even thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (as I had once hoped to do) — building a garage (or rather, having it built) is truly a folly when you consider that I’m depleting my savings to house an ancient car with a dubious lifespan.

That VW Beetle has already lasted forty-eight years, and though it runs well, there are parts that show its venerable age, such as a cracked dashboard that would cost a fortune in labor to replace, a horn that is taped in place, and a heater that doesn’t work well. (Of course, the heater never worked well, so that’s not exactly a big surprise.)

I suppose it’s possible that the garage will add to the value of this property, even considering the depressed property values here, but since that I plan to live out my days in this house, whatever extra money the garage would bring to the sale of the property would not accrue to me. So yes, definitely a folly.

And yet . . .

Why not? Why not indulge in this bit of foolishness? I’ve always been frugal, so it worries me that in later years I might pay for my folly by being forced into a punishingly strict budget, but for now, why not live on the wild side?

Oddly, I never even knew I wanted a “dream garage.” Though perhaps I should have been forewarned. My parents bought a house that was too big for them in a place they didn’t particularly like because my father fell in love with the immense garage attached to the house. Even though the cavernous space could easily house six or seven VW bugs with room left over, they kept nothing in that garage but a single car. No storage. Nothing. (Well, maybe off in the corner were a few replacement tiles, and the water heater was there, but other than that, nothing.)

After he totaled his car (he passed out because of an undiagnosed heart condition) that garage was completely empty until I brought my stuff to store when I moved in to take care of him. Despite all that, he still found joy in the immense space.

My garage will not be anywhere near as big as his was — because of sewer pipes and gas lines, the widest it can be is fourteen feet — but it will certainly be large enough for my car, storage, the tools I am accumulating, and perhaps a workbench.

In an age where “decluttering” is the thing to do, and at an age where so many others are downsizing even to the point of getting rid of their house (and mortgage), I am upsizing. Cluttering my life with a house and furniture — things I never before had any desire to own.

And now a garage. A garage of my own! Makes me smile to think of it.

That joy alone is worth the price.

So maybe . . . not such a folly after all?

***

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.

Shedding Light on Old Fears

Last night I again suffered a bout of fear over growing old alone. I haven’t had such feelings for a long time, partly because I have been living alone and am getting used to it, but mostly because I’ve been keeping my mind away from the inevitable decrepitude of old age, and away from thoughts of being that old lady whose house is falling down around her because she doesn’t have the funds to shore the thing up.

For now, the decrepitude is advancing very slowly, just a matter of knees that don’t bend as well as they did, not being able to walk as far as I once did, and not being able to easily climb up steep stairs without dragging myself along. But bodies do tend to break down, and one day . . .

Yeah, better not think of that day.

It’s odd, though, that the fear last night was of growing old alone rather than the fear of being broke because of all the extra expenses I didn’t expect when I bought this place, such as having to build a new garage. The old one might have lasted for years, maybe even the rest of my life (or the rest of my car’s life) but even though it seemed solid and well built, the shed-like garage had been built on shaky ground. (Probably above an old septic system, which, combined with a high-water table, made the area rather damp.)

The other things that I have had done to the house and property, such as putting in a new foundation for the enclosed porch and replacing the old porch floor, removing diseased trees, and putting up a fence, didn’t really change things that much. It just felt as if I were cleaning up the place.

But a garage is a whole other matter. Erecting a building from scratch seems so much like growing deep roots, as if I were no longer just playing house, but living here for real.

I realize I’ve been here for almost a year, setting down tender and tentative new roots, but building a garage seems like the beginning of a massive root system. Makes settling down — and settling down alone — even more real than it had been. (Besides, all the talk of security that came with planning the garage, such as lights and locks and security cameras, as well as having to be aware of the seedy characters that walk the alley, is enough to feed anyone’s fears of being old and alone.)

Luckily, I’ve made friends, and luckily, the contractor is aware of and considerate of my need to fix things now to make my old age easier, but fears aren’t logical. Or maybe they are logical, and I do have something to fear.

But I won’t — can’t — let myself be afraid.

Today is a new day, and though the sun isn’t shining and the temperature rather cool, it’s bright enough to shed light on that old fear and make it scurry from sight.

***

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.

Going, Going, Gone

Another exciting day watching the deconstruction of my garage.

Since I’d never used the video on my phone, I didn’t have time to learn how to take a video before the building came down, so all I have are still photos, which is okay. It was fun being in the moment and seeing the rickety old building go down. At first, inch by careful inch.

A fast scurry as the deconstruction workers got out of the way.

And then . . .

I was surprised by how quickly the old concrete foundation was removed — not only was that foundation barely buried, the ground was sodden. (The only place in the entire yard where there was any moisture of any kind.)

I love this stuff!

At one time (and maybe still today for all I know) lonely women of a certain age would frequent doctors to have facelifts and various other surgeries simply for the drama and attention. If I were rich, I’d be one of those women, though it wouldn’t be myself I’d be constantly reconstructing, it would be my house and property — there is something truly satisfying about watching people giving my place a facelift.

Luckily, good sense, a modicum of taste, and a lack of funds will keep me from creating a monstrosity like the Winchester mansion. And just as luckily, there will be plenty of work to be done for some time to come.

The only problem right now is that the “murder house” — the white building behind the tree on the right of the last photo — is in full view. (Supposedly, right before I got here, two drug addicts got in a fight, and one ended up dead.) The new garage, which will be moved to the left of where the old one was won’t do anything to block the infamous view, but planting a good-size tree would do the trick.

And that means more work for the guys to do! Yay!

***

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.

Unbuilding a Garage

I had such an exciting day today watching the fellows unbuilding my garage. They started ripping off the roof early in the morning,

spent most of the day tearing into that old building,

And left the beautiful skeleton of the garage when they went home for the night.

All that work in a single day, as well as making a couple of trips to the dump — amazing.

Tomorrow, even the skeleton will be gone. I’m glad I have this photo of the great little building in the setting sun, though I’m sure once my more functional and very stable new garage is built, I’ll spend little time regretting the deconstruction of this old garage.

As an side — way off to the side! — I used the term “fellow,” meaning “man,” at the beginning of this post because it seems a bit friendlier than “guy” and less formal than “man.” In Britain, however, “fellow” connotes a person of little or no worth, so I’ve been trying to stay away from the word to keep from offending people in other countries. But I like the word, and it is no insult because the people working here today had great worth!

I’m looking forward to seeing what the morrow will bring.

***

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.

Further Adventures of a Homeowner

Nothing has gone easy when it comes to fixing things on this property. For example, the foundation of the enclosed porch was basically nonexistent, and after the contractor and his helper put in a new foundation and installed the subflooring, we discovered that the sewer pipe under the house needed to be replaced. So out came the floor, and many more days of hard work were added to the toll.

Months ago, they’d straightened the listing garage and fixed the crack in the floor, but after a couple of weeks, that crack grew and grew and grew. One of the problems was that, like the porch, the foundation was mostly nonexistent. So more recently, they got a jackhammer, and pulled out the concrete floor. Yesterday they finally returned to dig out the foundation in preparation to putting in a new foundation and floor.

Remember what I said about nothing around here being easy? Well, every time I looked out the window, I could see the guys poking at that dirt floor and talking. Now, these are not people who stand around and chit-chat. They work. So I was not surprised when they came and told me the bad news.

Water.

The deeper they dug, the wetter the soil got. I realize this is the middle of winter when generally there is moisture, but we’ve had very little precipitation in this corner of Colorado, and the rest of the yard is dry and rock hard. We wondered if there could be a nearby water leak, but then remembered that the water pipe comes in the front of the house.

Further digging in the middle of the garage floor, where no water should ever be, showed the same thing they found around the periphery of the building. Powdery soil and damp ground. And ancient sewer pipes. Putting those clues together with the hole they’d found under the porch several months ago, we figured someone had built the garage over an old septic system of some sort. No wonder the garage, though exceptionally well built with hard woods, is slowing sliding into oblivion.

We’re going to have to help speed up the destruction and tear out the whole thing because there is no way to fix that garage or even to build a new one in the same spot. (I say “we” but I have nothing to do with construction, though I did primer that old garage. It makes me glad I didn’t waste good paint or any more of my time painting a garage that will soon be defunct. I am disappointed, though, that the fake window I created will be destroyed, too.)

They’re scheduled to be here all next week, so who knows how far they will get, especially since now they will have to deal with permits and building codes and inspectors. They wanted to know if they should start some of the inside work, like redoing the bathroom ceiling and walls where the paint is peeling from the antique plaster, and I said, “Not way, not now!” With so many projects already started and unfinished, I can’t deal with one more long-term mess. Because even though the bathroom project seems simple, I know it won’t be because . . .

Yep, you guessed it . . . because nothing is simple when it comes to working on this 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.

Envied

A friend whose life was recently disrupted told me she almost envied me. The “almost” was because of how I got to this place in my life. The death of my life mate/soul mate and other family members, the years of not knowing where to go or what to do, and the need to start over are all the unenviable things that pushed me in this direction.

Her comment made me realize that if I weren’t me, I’d almost envy me too. I seem to have reached a balance in my life. No great emotional swings, just a quiet contentment punctuated by a brief sad spell now and again. I still tend to occasionally get caught in a mind trap (you know — when a disgruntlement gets stuck in your head, and it keeps going around and around and around, and doesn’t seem to be able to find its way out). And I do have small infirmities that slow me down (such as knees that don’t work as well as they once did). And sometimes I get restless from being so settled down.

But balancing all of that is . . . a place for me. Not just a room of my own, but a whole house of my own. A place to be me. A place where I get to set the rules (or to set no rules). A place I can count on being for years to come.

And not just a house, but a community.

I don’t count the cost of how I got here since it wasn’t a choice, trading a life mate for a house. It was simply that he died, and years later, I unexpectedly ended up with a house. (Oddly, the other day, I found myself wandering through the house wondering where we’d put his office and all his things, as if his living here were a possibility. But it was just an idle sort of “what if.” Not a grief thing.)

I never expected to love a house. It makes me feel good, owning this house, like wrapping a great warm blanket around my life.

So far, I feel safe inside the house, though certain neighbors make me leery, which is why I fenced the property. There is still a part of the back fence that isn’t finished since it will pass close to the as yet unremodeled garage (though the contractor is here at the moment working, and he plans to be here all next week. Yay!). I used a large board to block off the space between the fence and garage to keep people and dogs away, and someone stole the big board and left a smaller board in its place. Huh? Still mystifies me. But it does show me I was correct to have a fence installed, and once it’s completed, and the gates locked at night, I’m sure I’ll feel even safer.

So yes, though I never considered myself someone to be envied, I am envied, if only by me.

***

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.

Surprising Myself

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” — Neil Gaiman

I friend sent me this quote last year, and asked me to pinky promise that I would fulfill these hopes.

Did I surprise myself? Oh, yes! I don’t particularly like owning things — they weigh heavy on my soul — and I especially never wanted to own a house (so many possible problems and such a responsibility), but after the death of my homeless brother a couple of summers ago, the idea got planted in my head, and I let it blossom. In a way, the dream of owning a house and the good madness of buying it unseen was his final gift to me.

The whole experience has been magic — meeting new people, finding myself at home, not just in my own house, but in a community.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit how many books I read last year (more than 300), and I’m sure at least some of those were fine books. I enjoyed most of them, anyway, but even more than that, I’ve loved having a library within walking distance.

Last year, I met people who think I am wonderful, and I also wrote (blogs and murder mystery games) and I for sure lived as only I can live.

I can honestly say, I lived up to my promise.

Again this year, she sent the quote and asked me to pinky promise, and I did. It’s an easy enough promise since I always live as only I can live, though magic and dreams and good madness seem to be things that can’t be forced, but come only when one is open to possibilities. And I am open.

Now let’s see if I can surprise myself once more and indulge in a bit of good madness.

Please feel free to join me in this quest!

***

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.

Getting Back on My Horse

If getting back on a horse after falling off is a good thing to do, then I figure it’s just as good to get back on shank’s mare after taking a tumble. I really was leery about going for a walk, though walking isn’t the fear — falling is. I try to be careful, but accidents do happen (did happen!), especially when one is concentrating on something other than carefully walking around tools and supplies littering one’s yard.

I still hurt today. My knees are a bit sore, though worst pain is on the side of my foot that was caught in the strap, and my triceps. I can’t figure out why those arm muscles hurt. Maybe I jarred them when I fell or perhaps I somehow strained them when I pushed myself up onto my feet.

But arm muscles aren’t necessary for walking. So I did. Go for a walk, that is.

You will be pleased to know that, before leaving my yard, I removed the strap from the carport support pole. There might be other falls, but it won’t be because of that murderous piece of webbing.

I didn’t go very far — just to the grocery store. When I’d been there right before my fall, I’d seen Bailey’s Irish Cream chocolate chips, but I passed on by. I mean, really, who needs something like that?

Apparently, I do.

That was my excuse for the walk, those Bailey’s baking chips. Despite the stiffness and soreness, I did fine. Even better, I didn’t fall.

I’d planned to back out from my plans to get together with some friends and acquaintances at Christmas, but on my walk, I met a couple who offered to take me with them, so I might still go. I know I won’t be the only one suffering some sort of pain, and though I liked the idea of spending my first Christmas in my first house by myself, it will probably do me good to get out.

Or not.

I’ll see how I feel. It’s hard to be sociable when one is hurting.

Meantime, getting back on the horse with ten toes was the smart thing to do. At worst, I put any fear to rest. At best, I got those Bailey’s chips!

***

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.

All That Glitters

I haven’t done a lot for Christmas in recent years. When I was caring for my father, I made sure to make the day festive for him — decorating his small tree (which I inherited), making a requested meal (usually ham and potato salad), and getting token gifts. After he was gone, I did very little for Christmas, though I did exchange a couple of presents.

Since I’ve always saved wrappings and ribbons, I never had to purchase either. This year, however, I decided to go all out for Christmas — after all, it is the first Christmas/holiday season in my own home in my very own house. I’d used all the ribbons I had for hat decorations, and I had gotten rid of any paper when I condensed the stuff in my storage unit at the beginning of last year, so I needed to buy wrapping things.

The wrapping paper was cheap and pretty, and though I prefer blank undersides (to make gift cards and such), I had to admit the cutting lines made things easier. But oh, what a shock to find, at the end of the roll of wrapping paper not a cardboard tube (which I had plans for!) but simply rolled up brown paper. I did manage to roll that heavy brown paper tight enough to make an okay tube for what I needed (to store leftover window screening). But jeez. What’s the fun of buying rolls of wrapping paper if you don’t get a long tube with it?

And the ribbons. Oh, my. The upside: so glittery. The downside: so glittery.

When I finished wrapping my packages last night, I noticed that glitter was everywhere. I was covered with glitter. The floor was covered with glitter. The countertops and table were covered with glitter.

I dry mopped, thinking that the trap-and-lock cloths would easily pick up all the glitter. Nope. Some, sure, but not even most. Then I tried vacuuming. Again, nope. Those little suckers stuck to the floor and wouldn’t budge. Then I wet mopped — twice — which got up most of the remaining glitter, but now, when the lights are on, I can see glitter between the floorboards. My floor is the original antique flooring that has never been refinished, and some of the boards have shrunk a bit in this dry climate, leaving space for glitter to settle. I have a hunch I’ll be cleaning up glitter until next Christmas.

I was already tired from a full day of festivities at a Christmas event put on by both the museum folks and the art guild. (Here’s some of us art guild members all decked out in holiday gear.)

All that cleaning took me way past my bedtime (and I am not an early-to-bed-early-to-rise person) and wiped me out.

I try to end every blog post with some sort of hook or moral or lesson gleaned from the experience I’d written about — because otherwise, what’s the point — but the only thing I can think of to end this post is a note to myself: No matter how enticingly glittery the glittery things are, next year, be sure to buy plain old non-glittery ribbon and paper.

***

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.