The Joy of Fences

I don’t like being fenced in by ideas, by people, by expectations, but I love being fenced in by . . . fences.

I had my whole property fenced in before we realized that the old garage was not much good for anything, not even a shed, and that it would have to come down.

Then, when the shock wore off, I reluctantly let go of my travel funds because I decided that a garage was more important than that one last epic road trip. So most of the fence along the alley had to be ripped out. Not that the fence did anything to keep out trespassers — one snowy morning I woke up to find shoe prints all over my yard. A lock on the gate took care of that problem, but then, so did the fence being gone. If there was no gate, of course there would be no gate for people to open. (A joke of sorts.)

For all these months of construction (or rather, non-construction), I used blue plastic fencing, similar to the blaze orange fencing used at some construction sites, to block off access. It was more of a psychological barrier (at least, I hoped so) rather than a physical barrier because the stuff is rather flimsy. Luckily, there have been no snow storms, so I didn’t have to be frantic about trespassers since I could see no sign of them, though dogs did worry me. Too many the people in the vicinity don’t walk their dogs — they just turn them loose to do their business. It’s bad enough when the dogs are ankle biters, but pit bulls? Yikes.

But yay! Today, the fence was reinstalled. Instead of the fence going straight across the alley as it once did, it now jogs in toward the garage, giving me a huge area to pull into my garage or even a parking space if necessary.

But sigh. I’m still not able to use the garage. It’s getting there, though. The attic insulation is in, the ceiling is up. Wall insulation and OSB boards have been delivered, as well as the garage door opener but have not yet been installed. (One guy has been doing most of the finishing work by himself, and there is no way he can install the opener without a helper.)

Meantime, I am grateful for the gift of this day and will enjoy being fenced in.

***

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

Leaving Well Enough Alone

I’m one of those people who can’t leave well enough alone. In fact, until just now, writing “well enough,” I didn’t even understand what those words mean. Well, yes, of course I knew what they mean, but it’s such a common phrase that I’ve never actually stopped to contemplate the meaning in that particular construct.

“Well enough” is good enough for most projects, though I never aim for such a low expectation. Although I tend to aim for perfection, I am willing to settle for something a bit less. The problems come in deciding what that “less” is. If something offends my sense of balance or perspective, for example, I keep trying to even things out until . . . oops. I go too far in the other direction and have to scrap the whole project. For the most part, I’ve learned to do one attempt at fixing whatever it is that bothers me, and then let it go.

But I couldn’t let my bench project go (the design seemed wrong, somehow), and I didn’t want to ruin the bench, so I photoshopped the photo I posted of the bench to see if a fuller border would work. Then I printed the photo, and played around with different designs for the center, so that when I painted, I wasn’t winging it as I so often do.

I think it turned out well.

At least that inner critic is silent and if it ever raises its voice to me, I’ll ignore it. The silly thing is, that often what offends disappears into the background, and I never even notice it. For example, when I stuccoed over the dog door in the corner of the house, I thought I did a terrible job. So I stuccoed over the stucco patch and made matters worse. I did leave it alone (though sometimes I wonder if I should try again), and I hardly ever notice the patch. It’s just . . . there.

Well, soon the bench will be “just there” too, and it won’t matter that I spent so much time on redoing the design. It I’ll probably never actually see it again except in periphery. Or in case I purposely look at it.

Still, I’m glad that in this case I didn’t leave well enough alone. At least, I think I am.

***

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.

Anatomy of a Bench

A long time ago, perhaps fifteen years or so, Ace Hardware set benches out front with their logo on the seat back. Just “Ace” without the addition of the word hardware.

For some reason that I never understood, my brother called our father “Ace.” (Maybe to keep from calling him “Dad” or “Father. I suppose I could ask, but it seems too personal.) Anyway, when my brother saw the bench, he tried to buy it from the hardware store, but they wouldn’t sell to him. He kept at it, going around to several stores, and managed to get a bench. It sat in front of my dad’s house all those years, and by the time I finally saw it, the sun had bleached off the “Ace” and the bench itself was pretty much of a mess. But since it was still functional, there it stayed.

After my father died, my brother came to help get rid of some things, and while he was dismantling the bench so he could throw it away, he asked if I was aware it converted to a picnic table. When he showed that the bench back lifted up to become a table top, I was delighted. It just seemed wonderfully clever. So of course, I had to keep the bolts and framework just in case I’d ever have a place where I could put a bench.

Last year when my brother came to help me fix up some things around the house, he brought new wood for the bench and put it together. He kept the same colors, the white table and red seat, and I considered putting the “Ace” back in honor of my father, but that didn’t seem right. I’ve been trying to figure out a different sort of decoration, and today, I finally got around to painting the design.

It looks odd to me because I got used to that stark white, but what the heck. It’s finished. And even though it doesn’t say “Ace” on it, it is a nice tribute to both my father and my brother.

***

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.

Shooting Troubles

My second bedroom, which is more of second living room because it’s where I have my computer and where I read, has doubled as a storage area ever since I moved in. (A huge stack of boxes in the corner off to the right, boxes under the bed, more stuff under the tables I use for a desk.) Even though the garage isn’t done, it is inching along, so with the hope that someday it will be finished, I’ve been sorting through storage items and reboxing those that need it.

What would normally have been a task that took no more than a day, has taken me weeks because of my knee. Not only have I not been able to lift things or even stand much, I also had no energy since all my energy seemed to go toward healing the knee.

Well, today I woke up with energy, so I finished carting the boxes to my dining room. I know it sounds silly, just moving stuff around, but it’s been nice claiming the room at long last. Surprisingly, it’s a good-sized room with all the extraneous stuff out of there.

After that, I tightened all the bolts on the daybed because it’s been doing a lot of creaking and clacking, and found one screw missing. Finally, when I cleaned the room, I found the bolt several feet away from where it had fallen.

And after that, I tried troubleshooting my printer connection. For some unknown reason, after more than a year of compatibility, this computer decided it didn’t like the printer anymore. It would show one document pending, then a few seconds later, would show 0 documents pending. But no document printed. No matter what I tried (even doing some things in the command prompt that made me nervous), nothing worked. So I dragged out my old computer to print the document, but since I let my security program lapse, I had to install a new antivirus protection so I could download the file I emailed to myself.

As wonderful as computers are when they work, they are horrible when they don’t. I have a hunch this printer problem has to do with a Windows update, but since I don’t know which one or how long ago, all I can do is wait and hope the problem will fix itself with subsequent updates as sometimes happens (when further updates don’t make things worse, that is.)

So now I’m exhausted.

Because of the isolation, everyone I know has their system — their physiological system — screwed up, particularly their sleep/wake cycle. For most people, this means going to bed later and getting up later. For me, it’s the opposite: getting up with the sun and going to bed with the sun, so now, early afternoon feels like late evening.

What does one do when one gets up so early? If you live on a farm or a ranch, obviously, there is plenty of work waiting, but for a sedentary person? Not so much.

Well, except for today. Today I sure found plenty to do!

This wasn’t at all the way I thought this day would go. I’d planned an excursion to see if I could find a few plants to plant, but fire warnings and high winds scared me off. (And I was hesitant because of the knee anyway, but apparently that wouldn’t have been a problem.) By the time I finally get around to getting any plants, there probably won’t be any left and anyway, it will be too late to plant, if it’s not already.

There’s always next year, though.

I’m trying to find the theme in this particular offering because without a theme, blog entries so often sound like a child’s diary entry. And this one definitely does!

Maybe the theme is troubleshooting. My knee, my room, my daybed, my computer, my yard certainly are all causing (or have caused) troubles that needed to be shot.

***

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, Death, and Tarot

According to what I’ve been reading about the tarot, there are infinite meanings to each deck, each spread, even each card depending on how it falls and how the reader reads it and what s/he reads into it. Such a lack of logic and unpermutability offends my sense of rightness (though it shouldn’t since in my own life I rebel against absolutes and allow myself to live however my personal wind blows).

If I ever do learn to use any of the decks, especially as they are supposed to be used — as a way to look inside oneself (at least that’s the impression I get for their true use) — I will need that intuition because some of the instruction booklets that come with a few of the more esoteric decks are written in Italian. Online translation programs help, but not when, as in one case, the booklet is written in an archaic version of the language that no one seems able to interpret. Too bad — it’s a lovely deck, with beautiful imagery, and all sorts of mystical symbols on the cards that are missing from other such decks. In another deck with an Italian instruction book, the suits are completely unfamiliar (lasers and scarabs. light and the void.) And one deck has an additional suit, which makes for an unwieldy stack of cards.

I’ve been spreading out the decks themselves, instead of the individual cards, to see if I can learn anything about the brother who collected them. I know he was interested in a world of things, both practical and mystical, and yet, since he was homeless, I have to wonder if he ever got a chance to use any of the things he collected, or if they were all for a future he never got to live.

The timing is right to be thinking about him — next month, it will be two years since he died. It’s not just his death that gives me pause, but that the death of this homeless man was instrumental in my gaining a home. (A change in my attitude, perhaps, from never wanting to own a house to thinking it would be a good idea, from believing it was impossible, to finding a way to make it work.) And then there is the age difference I mentioned a few days ago: growing up, he was always older and more knowledgeable, and no matter how old I got, there he was . . . a year older, too.

Well, he’s not getting any older, and I am. I’ve now lived a year longer than he did, and knowing that I caught up to him and beyond brings me no comfort.

Oddly, though, he does. Bring me comfort, I mean. Despite my being ambivalent about what if anything besides energy survives after death, I sometimes sense that he is watching out for me as he wanted to do in life but never quite managed. Obviously, I have no way of knowing whether it’s true or not, but this feeling allows me to live fearlessly in a house by myself.

It’s hard to know the truth of oneself, let alone another person, but here I am, moving the tarot decks around, trying to see . . . something. This is the second time I’ve done this — the first time was a couple of years ago when I first got the cards. Maybe this time — or the next — will bring enlightenment. I hope so. It would certainly be easier than actually learning how to use the cards.

***

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.

 

Dream Come True or Nightmare

Before I bought this house, before I even considered the possibility of buying a house, I’d planned one last epic adventure with what was left of my savings. I was going to go on a year-long road trip, camping out at the various national parks, staying as long as I could at each (two weeks, generally) before moving on to the next one. I’d planned to go south for the winter, north for the summer, and I thought I could stay in motels or with friends when I got tired of being out in the weather.

After my homeless brother died, the idea of having a home of my own grew on me, and when I discovered how inexpensive old houses were in some rural areas, I decided to buy a house instead of taking that trip.

As it turns out, it was an immensely fortunate decision. Not only do I love my house and love owning the house (which surprised me because I never wanted such a responsibility), buying the place saved me from a ghastly experience.

I would have been on the trip this year, dealing not only with some of the worst winter weather in a while, but also park and motel closures, friends in quarantine, and riots. Oh, my! That would have been an epic adventure for sure, though more of a nightmare than a dream come true. I can’t even imagine the horror of such a trip.

Even though the events of this year do impinge on my life somewhat, it’s not really a problem. Oh, I’ve garnered insults and such with some of my writings that attempted to make sense of both The Bob and the riots, and I feel the restlessness of the world (or maybe just my own), but basically, since I’m alone in my snug little house, life has been good.

I’ll probably never be able see those national parks now, especially the iconic ones that everyone should see like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone (the garage ate up any remaining travel funds), but I have the opportunity to make a park of sorts in my own back yard. It might not be as majestic or panoramic or awesome as some of the national parks, but it will be mine. Even if I don’t do anything special with the yard, owning the property and creating a home for myself is an epic adventure of a different kind, more of a dream come true than the nightmare I always thought it would be.

***

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.

An Exciting Life

I spent my allotted writing time today responding to the very interesting and thought-provoking comments people left on my latest blogs that I forgot I hadn’t yet posted a new blog. I’m glad I finally remembered, not just because I’d hate to break my 256-day streak of daily blogging, but because this has been a rather momentous couple of days for me.

It started Thursday afternoon when I went to a friend’s birthday party in the park. Since there were more than ten of us, I said that if anyone asked, to tell them it wasn’t a party — it was a protest, a protest against getting older and against isolation. I doubt that would have held sway with any arresting officers, but luckily, no one showed up but us. And oh, it was so wonderful seeing people! I even hugged a couple of dear friends, holding on as if we were saving each other’s lives instead of perhaps endangering them. (One friend is recuperating from a severe illness, and even though she isn’t contagious any longer, I couldn’t take a chance on hugging her, and I feel bad about that, but I was  very glad to see her up and around.)

Despite this one lapse, I will be more diligent about isolation for a while longer. Many rural communities that managed to avoid The Bob when larger communities were suffering, ended up having problems when they opened up again, and I have a real issue with being a statistic. But that’s for the future. Now back to yesterday.

Yesterday, the contractor came to get the carport that has been cluttering up my backyard. (And brought me some fresh farm eggs!) They worked so hard taking the metal carport apart (the entire day in 100+ degree weather) that I felt as if I should be paying them, when in fact, the carport was payment for some work they had already done.

It is such a joy to have it gone! It opens up my yard and makes this place feel like an estate. (Not bad for someone who thought she’d end up living in some sort of subsidized housing.)

Even better, the garage door, opener, and the rest of the OSB board for the inside walls of the garage were delivered while they were here!!! Oh, my such excitement.

And that isn’t all. The library called. Well, the building didn’t call; a librarian did. My email from the end of March asking for books via their curb-side service apparently got lost at the bottom of their email list. The poor librarian was embarrassed and apologetic, though there was no need. Still, since I couldn’t get to the library to pick up the books, she delivered them to my house. Wow! My own private bookmobile! Luckily, they aren’t going to be charging overdue rates because I won’t be getting to the books until after I finish re-re-rereading The Wheel of Time series. I have a lot of the story in my head right now, so I’m able to find answers to various plot points and to see foreshadowings that have previously eluded me, and I don’t want to halt the momentum.

The library is aiming for a July 1 reopening, which will be nice. More than nice, actually. The only change they will really have to make is to curtail computer usage (the banks of computers are all real close to one another), which doesn’t affect me at all. I seldom see anyone in the stacks anyway, so I’m not worried, even if I’ll still be in my self-imposed isolation.

I should have babied my knee today after all that activity, but I took the time to pull some boxes of stuff out of a closet that I want to store in the garage when it is finished. And those boxes were heavy!!! They weren’t heavy the last time I lifted them, so what I have been suspecting is true: I am getting elderly.

Which reminds me of another “elderly” example. I haven’t been using the back door because the step is much steeper than normal steps and it really strains my knee, so I’ve been going in and out of the front door. Yesterday, I went out to check on the work the guys were doing, and when I tried to get back in the front door, it was locked. It confused the heck out of me because the only way to lock the door when leaving is with a key, and I didn’t have the key. I hobbled around the house to the backyard, and mentioned my dilemma. “I don’t understand how I got out here,” I said.

“You came out the back door,” one fellow said. “It didn’t look like you had any problem, either. You just came out.” Then he kindly went in the house and unlocked the front door for me so I didn’t have to navigate that step. (Apparently, going out is a lot easier on my knee than climbing back in.)

Yep. Old. I don’t remember going outside. Not at all. I know it’s easy not to remember things you do by rote (which is why if you want to remember locking a door or some such, you need to do something different, like patting the key when you are finished. You still won’t remember locking the door, but you will remember patting the key.) But it’s been so long since I went out that door that I would have thought I’d remember not to go out that way, if nothing else.

Oh, well. Such is life.

And what an exciting life it has been the past couple of days! That, at least, I remember.

***

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.

Needing Heartenment

After writing what was supposed to be today’s blog post, I was so disheartened that I decided to save it for tomorrow and post something a bit more heartening today. A lot more heartening, actually.

Although the yard is still cluttered with building materials and scrap lumber, and although the yard is still mostly dirt and dead weeds, there are a few bright spots, such as this gorgeous poppy. I’m not sure where it got that color because the seeds came from a red poppy, but I love the bright pink.

Most of the trees (twigs, actually) that the Arbor Day Foundation sent me aren’t doing anything, and a couple for sure are dead, but one crabapple is showing signs of life. Yay! Even better, the lilacs I received because of a different offer are all doing well for only having been in the ground a little over a week. I water them and shower them with love and hope that’s enough. I know that particular area of the yard has soil compatible with lilacs because there are two other bushes in the vicinity, so there’s that.

The cactus I transplanted from my neighbor’s yard that I thought was dead is alive and shows new growth. The poor thing was so white and limp I considered digging it up and throwing it away, but the thought of having to deal with the prickles stayed my hand. I am so glad! It looks so green and stalwart that it lightens my heart.

And oh, I so needed that today!

***

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.

Electricity!

I have been waking early, even before the sun some days, but this morning, I awoke at eight o’clock to the sound of hammering. I wasn’t expecting any workers, but still, I stumbled out of bed to the back porch and looked out the window in case the hammering came from my property. A white truck was parked in the alley behind the garage. Wondering if perhaps the contractor had come here a day or two before he was supposed to be back, I got dressed and went outside.

And oh! There they were: the electric guys. They weren’t scheduled for another ten days and because of a misunderstanding — I thought I’d already accepted their bid, and they thought I hadn’t — I figured it might be even longer before they would be able to do the work. But a cancellation from another woman made room for me. Thank you, woman, whoever you are!

Although the bid allowed for six hours, it took them only a little over three hours. (I emailed the electric folk and asked it that would make any difference in the cost, but I haven’t yet heard from them.)

When I went out to check on the work before they left, I discovered they hadn’t put up an outside outlet. It was the first thing I’d asked for when they came for the estimate, but somehow it got left off the bid. Luckily, they had plenty of time, as well as the part, so that oversight was fixed.

The building doesn’t look as cute and as pristine as it did before all the wiring, but it’s functional, and that is what counts. And although I might not yet have a usable garage, I do have electricity, and that counts, 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.

Concrete Reasons

I tried to be clever with the title of this piece, wanting you to think it a metaphor for something vital, but in the end, it says just what it means — concrete.

Yep. Concrete!

The construction workers and the concrete people came today to pour the approach to my garage, as well as finish pouring the basement floor. (They’d done most of the floor a long time ago, but there was a nook that had once been a coal room that didn’t get done the first time, and to prevent a short load fee, they had to wait and do it in conjunction with another short load to equal a full load.)

Little by little, things are getting done. I must admit, I do like people coming to work here. It’s nice to have life, action, activity, even if it’s someone else’s activity rather than my own. (About the only thing I’ve been doing around the place lately is watering my transplants in an effort to keep them alive.) I like that other people are helping me look after my place — it really is a lot of responsibility for one lone woman, especially one who doesn’t know how to do anything; doesn’t, in fact, even know what to look for. (When they were down the basement fixing a leak a while back, they discovered that all the plumbing lines were brittle and would eventually need to be replaced. I think the fellow who pointed it out regrets doing so, because he will be the one who has to crawl in the dark and dank spaces to do the work.)

I’m looking forward to the garage and the back stoop being done — those are safety factors for me. But for the rest of it, yes, it would be nice to have the work finished, but it’s also nice knowing the contractor and his workers will still have reasons — even some concrete reasons — to stop by now and then.

***

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.