Taking Life As It Comes

In a group text conversation, several women I know mentioned how they could hardly wait for spring, and it struck me as odd. The sentiment, of course, isn’t odd; in fact, it’s understandable, considering the heavy snows and arctic temperatures we’ve been served this winter. What is odd is that I am so out of the habit of longing for things to be different that I had forgotten other people were still in the habit.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad the weather is clearing, even temporarily (more snow on the way!), and I am glad that we’re returning to more normal temperatures for this time and place, but it never occurred to me to want something different. This is what I have, so this is what I have to deal with. Admittedly, these arctic times are worrying; I have an old car, a battery that’s past its prime (though technically, it still has a couple years of use left), and an old house. I won’t know if there’s any problems with the car until I try starting it when it warms up a bit more, but a frozen water pipe was my only problem with the house, and even that wasn’t a problem. It was defrosted quickly, and it gave the workers a chance to insulate the pipe and to see a crack in the foundation that needs to be fixed. (The crack would have been fixed if the weather had cooperated; they’d bought the necessary supplies right before the snows came.)

What also is odd about my reaction to that conversation is that I hadn’t realized how much I really do live for the day. I make plans, of course, and worry way too much (though I am trying not to), but longing for things — even something as minor as weather — to be different died somewhere during my decade of deaths. (During a ten-year span, not only did Jeff die, but so did both my parents and the two brothers closest to me in age — one a year older, one a year younger.)

No amount of longing, wishing, hoping, changed one iota of those deaths or my grief. Nor did it change any of their lives. My parents lived long and happy lives, but Jeff and my brothers all died relatively young, and at least one of them had a miserable life. And I could not go back and change a single thing about any of it.

So a long, hard winter? Child’s play compared to all that. Besides, as I have learned, things change. Spring will come, bringing its own problems (wind!!), and then summer, and before we know it, we’ll be back in the midst of winter. There’s no real point in wishing my life away, in longing for something that’s either laid to rest in the past or is yet to be unearthed in the future.

Of course, this is today. By tomorrow, I might be longing for spring as much as everyone else, but for now, for today, I’m taking life — and the weather — as it comes.

***

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

Freeze!

The temperature last night was twenty-three degrees below zero (Farenheit). Is that even a real temperature? Adding in the wind chill factor brought the temperature down to thirty-five below.

I’ve been warm. Although part of the county lost power last night, this area didn’t. What I did lose was the cold water in my kitchen. It was amazing how quickly the pipe froze. I made myself a cup of tea, using the cold water from the faucet, and then, an hour later, I decided to leave the spigot open slightly to keep the pipe from freezing, and there was no cold water. Almost an instant freeze!

I knew from the previous owner that the cold-water pipe in the kitchen had a tendency to freeze, but an insulation cap on the outside faucet was supposed to take care of the problem. And I thought the had solved the problem because the pipe hadn’t been an issue until last night. I just figured it was the immensely cold temperatures (more than forty degrees below average for this area). I put a space heater down in the basement near that particular pipe, but it didn’t help.

So I called my contractor. That’s not the sort of job they normally do, but he’d invited me to call him whenever there is a problem with the house. A little later he showed up with a couple of his workers. One shoveled the sidewalk from the house to the garage (a lovely surprise!) while the other located the frozen water pipe. No wonder the space heater didn’t solve the problem — it was a different pipe than I thought it was, so the insulation cap was doing its job. The frozen pipe ran along the inside wall by one of the cracks in the foundation (cracks that were being fixed before all the storms hit). So, the men unfroze the pipe and insulated it.

No damage was done, which sort of surprised me because the pipes, although not more than a decade old, are brittle and need to be replaced. That job is on the contractor’s to-do list, but it hasn’t been a priority, and I didn’t want to make it a priority until some of the started jobs are finished. So, whew! I don’t have to worry about replacing the pipes for now.

The town has been talking about trying to get more retirees to the area, thinking it’s an ideal location for older people since houses are relatively cheap (though the prices are going up a bit), and it’s touted as a mild four-season climate. I wonder how these temperatures will affect those plans? Not that I care except as a matter of curiosity.

What I do care about is staying warm and keeping my pipes from freezing. Luckily, we’re in a heat wave — it’s up to zero degrees right now, and the low tonight will be only minus four.

I know one thing — until it warms up to a decent temperature and all danger of pipes freezing is past, I’m just going to let the kitchen faucet drip.

***

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

Alone Again . . . Naturally

Because of a change in the situation of the woman I have been working for, I am on a hiatus from work. Whether this is a permanent furlough or just temporary, I don’t know, but for now, I’m back to being fairly isolated. I’m hoping the weather cooperates so the workers can come and finish some of the jobs they’ve started, such as digging the dirt away from the house and repairing the cracks in the foundation, because having them around the place makes me feel less isolated.

Even though it’s getting cold again, I am trying to take a walk every day, bundling up against the chill winds, so at least that helps me feel more a part of the world. I can also make an appointment to get more books from the library, and if I get desperate, I can watch the few hand-me-down DVDs I’ve collected. All those things make me feel less isolated, though they don’t really do anything to actually make me less isolated. I don’t suppose it matters, though, and won’t for a while longer. I do well on my own since I have hermit tendencies, though I’m not sure how healthy such isolation is in the long run.

After Jeff died, I made sure to keep active, to make friends, to be involved in various groups and to do new things because I was afraid of becoming stagnant. I redoubled those efforts once I moved because I knew what a challenge it would be making new friends, but all that effort went by the wayside with The Bob restrictions, so I have a hunch I am now at the stagnant stage. It’s possible that spending so much time alone is skewing my perceptions and that I have not yet become torpid, but it’s hard to tell because . . . well, because I am alone so much.

I suppose I could do what so many people are doing — get involved in activities with a small group of friends, but unfortunately, just because people have received the vaccine, it doesn’t mean they won’t still spread The Bob. After all, the vaccine is only 90% effective (and less so when it comes to new variants) while isolation is 100% effective.

And truly, does it really matter if I’ve become stagnant, especially if I don’t know the truth of the matter? And so what if I become the crazy cat lady sans cats? If I’m the only one around, who will know?

***

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

Feeling Vulnerable

I’ve been doing a good job the past year or so trying to keep focused on the day rather than what might happen in the future, especially when it comes to my precarious financial situation and my advancing years, but the exorbitant increase in house insurance shocked me out of my complacency, and I’ve been feeling unsettled and vulnerable.

Knowing so many people who are getting The Bob adds to the feeling of things being out of kilter. It certainly doesn’t help that one of the library books I got was about electric grid of the entire United States being destroyed, which reminds me how vulnerable we really are. If the electricity goes out, so will heat, plumbing, communication, and transportation. Which means after a few weeks, people will be dying en masse of dehydration and disease and starvation since water won’t be coming into the house, wastes won’t be going out, and food won’t be distributed to the stores. Just what I do not need to be reading when I am feeling vulnerable to begin with!

I’m not sure how I would handle such a calamity as the book portrays, but I did buy some bottled water today to have just in case. I have camping equipment, including a little stove that works with twigs and other readily available bio-fuel, and a solar powered charger, so I could charge a phone, assuming there would be anyone to call. I have learned from camping that one can keep a whole lot warmer at night if you sleep in a tiny tent inside a larger tent, and I could set up the double tents inside the house, so my tiny sleeping area would be warmed by whatever body heat I could engender.

I also have solar lights outside my house, which, if necessary, could be brought inside.

It seems surprising that a book written in the past year or so didn’t mention the ubiquitous nature of such lights. The author just talked about it being totally dark at night. Around here, when the electricity goes out, there are still quite a few lights on because of solar lighting. But then, this is a relatively sunny area; maybe other areas aren’t as accessible to solar power.

For my own peace of mind, I’ll have to ignore the vulnerable feelings of the past few days and go back to believing (all evidence to the contrary) that I will be fine. Even if it’s an illusion, it’s still important for me to act as if everything will work out. Because who knows — things could continue working out for me, and it’s possible (at least according to some theories) the belief itself will make things come true.

And if all else fails, there are all those origami cranes I am folding to ensure my good fortune.

***

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

Insuring and Ensuring

The increase in my house insurance reminds me that when people put in false claims or otherwise defraud an insurance company, they justify their actions by saying it doesn’t hurt anyone; it’s just an insurance company.

What such larcenous folk don’t realize is that an insurance company will NEVER lose. If they do lose more than they have accounted for in any given year, they simply jack up the price for those who faithfully pay their premiums without ever submitting a claim, or they get the government to bail them out. Which means, everyone but the insurance company loses.

Not that I think there is any shenanigans going on with the insurance company when they raised my rates, at least not more than usual, but it is something I think about, especially now that I am getting older and don’t have a lot of resources. It makes me wonder about what I will do if I ever get to the point of needing a nursing home. Would I discontinue the insurance those last years, and deal with whatever comes?  After all, it will be the nursing home that gets my property, and I could use the insurance payment for one last fling.

Meantime, the sun is shining in this hiatus before the next storm hits, I have library books to read, and a roof over my head. And that, too, is an insurance of a kind. It might not be the monetary kind of insurance, but those things do help to ensure a good day! (I’m stretching things a bit here, since ensure and insure are completely different things, but I wanted to leave here with more positive slant.)

I hope you’re having a good day, or at least, as good a day as possible.

***

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

Unwanted Thoughts

It’s interesting to me that so many of my daily one-card tarot readings talk of good fortune, windfalls, and such. I don’t really believe what the cards say because each reading negates the previous one, and the cards aren’t always positive, but I have come to believe that things are going to go well for me financially. So when things don’t, I feel affronted. I mean, how is my house insurance going up by 25% good fortune? It seems like a huge increase, though perhaps with more people staying home there are more claims? Or the weather in the area has been more damaging this past year? Or the company took a huge hit because of all the wildfires in the Colorado last year?

This particular area has inordinately high insurance rates, anyway, but whatever the reason for the increase, it isn’t good fortune! Or maybe it is? I guess I could consider myself fortunate that I’m not one of those who had to deal with damage.

It’s things like this — huge increases in expenses that aren’t reflected by increases in income — that made me not want to ever own a house, but I’d be paying it one way or another anyway. If I were still renting, the rent would go up to reflect the current insurance rate.

Luckily, once I get over the panic and affront of the higher rate, I’ll be okay for now because I am working, and so will have enough to pay the bill. Even more luckily, once it’s paid, I won’t have to think about it for a year. It does make me glad I didn’t reward this particular insurance company by switching my car insurance over to them. I would have saved a bit on the house insurance, but my car insurance would have gone way up, so I’d still be in the same position.

I did talk to my insurance agent in case there was a clerical error. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an error, though she too was shocked by the huge increase. She’ll look around to see if she can find a better deal for me, but back when I first got the insurance, this current company was by far the better price.

I really shouldn’t even be writing about this — it’s not anyone’s problem but mine — but it is on my mind, and writing about what I am thinking is how I get rid of unwanted thoughts, and I really don’t want these thoughts in my head!

***

“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

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

Ghost Roommate

My sister visited shortly after I moved to this house, and she couldn’t sleep in her assigned bedroom because of the ghost who lives there. I don’t know if she actually saw the spirit of a woman or if it was a waking dream, but my sister swore it was true and spent her nights on the couch in the living room.

When I was dealing with a bum knee and couldn’t walk, I slept in that bedroom. It was just so much easier getting in and out of the high daybed. There were chairs and such to hang on to as I hobbled to the bathroom. And I didn’t have to deal with making the bed every morning. I spent a hundred hours at night in that room, as well as the thousand of waking hours (since the room is set up as an office with a daybed), and I never got a glimpse or even a feel of a restless spirit. Except my own, of course, and to be honest, it’s not that restless. Being a quasi-hermit seems to agree with me.

The ghostly roommate referred to in the title of this post is even more nebulous than a revenant. He uses this address, either by accident or design, though he doesn’t get the mail that is sent here. Nor has he ever lived here.

I sometimes get mail for the previous resident, though that mail is the throwaway kind — advertisements that he in no way is interested in since he is deceased. I also sometimes get an occasional Christmas card or flyer for the people who lived here before that. But no one knows who this ghost roommate is.

The mail I get for this phantom is current, such as a debit card for food stamps or a People magazine. Since I get the mail as soon as it comes, there is no way he can be fraudulently using my address to get his mail, taking it from my mailbox when I’m not around. I’ve told the postal workers about it, and they tell me they’ll take care of it, but I still get the People magazine occasionally when a substitute deliverer is on duty.

The odd thing is, although not everyone in town knows everyone, everyone will know someone who knows those they don’t know. But no one knows who this fellow is.

Apparently, he really is a ghost.

Since he is a nonentity, I figure he wouldn’t mind if I read the magazine he isn’t getting. And that adds a whole other layer to the mystery. Who are the people who appear in that magazine? I’ve seldom heard any of them, and if a name is familiar, I certainly don’t care what they are wearing, if they are happily living an unroyal life, or if they are back together with some ex-wife.

Still, it’s reading material, and I read anything that crosses my threshold. I wonder if I should just toss the magazine instead of returning it to the post office. If the magazine isn’t forwarded to the fellow, maybe he’ll get the message that he sends his mail to the wrong address.

Or not. Maybe he prefers to befuddle me with his ghostly presence.

***

“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

Taking a Rest From Thinking

I’ve been procrastinating about writing anything today, hoping for inspiration, but deep thoughts or any thoughts, actually, seem to be absent. I suppose that’s a good thing — it means I’m not obsessing over anything.

At least not today. I have been overthinking my insurance, trying to figure out if I want to stay with my same agent for automobile insurance or bundle the car insurance with my house insurance. It doesn’t save me anything. Even though the house insurance will go down (after it goes up because of the new garage), parts of the auto insurance will go way up. Other parts will go down, but mainly because the deductibles will go up. And then, because of the high comprehensive deductible, I’d have to get full glass coverage so there would be no deductible for replacing a windshield. And that cost alone is more than the comprehensive cost.

What a racket!

The one good thing about changing insurance companies would be that I’d get to set a value on my car rather than rely on the vagaries of the first insurance company. The first insurance people do know I restored the car, and they have a photo of the car as it looked a couple of years ago, so it might work out. Of course, the best thing to do is simply not get in an accident!

There are other differences to consider when switching insurance companies. For example, if I am in a chargeable accident (I presume that means the accident was my fault), and if I have been with the first company for nine years (which I have been), and haven’t had an accident in those years, my insurance won’t go up because of it.

I certainly don’t plan on getting in an accident, but such things to happen — it’s why they are called accidents. I do make sure I don’t drive at night, in bad weather, in heavy traffic, when I’m distracted, or any other unsafe condition, but still, accidents happen.

All these things have to be taken into consideration, so is it any wonder that today I am not thinking about anything and giving my poor brain a rest?

***

“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

Judgement Call

I sometimes watch television with the woman I sit with several hours a week, and the show of choice is Judge Judy. The most annoying things, of course, are the commercials. The political ads were horrific, but thankfully they are done with, and by the time they return, I’ll probably be finished with this job and with television. Almost as bad as political ads are the drug commercials, with all the happy people dancing around gleefully while the life-threatening side-effects are listed. Most annoying are those sleazy lawyers promising to get me big bucks if only I could get injured in a car accident.

I suppose the lawyer ads make sense, since this show is partly about the law. It’s mostly, of course, about Judge Judy and her sharp bluntness. That sounds oxymoronic, but she is so very blunt in her speech and so pointed in her remarks that her bluntness comes across as sharp. Not just smart as in keen but sharp as in cutting.

As I watch her, I wonder what it would be like to be so very direct. I realize she is a judge, and that it is her show and her courtroom, so what is entertaining coming from her mouth would be downright rude and hurtful coming from me. And above all, I strive not to be rude or hurtful or unkind in any way. If people annoy me, I stay away from them. It gains me nothing to get in their face and tell them what I think of them. Besides, it would probably make me feel worse than it would make them feel.

As I watch the people who stand before the judge, I wonder how I would act if I were one of them. Would I be able to stand there and keep my mouth shut while my opposite number is spouting lies? Would I be seething at the injustice? Would I protest out of turn? Would I be too intimidated to speak up when allowed? I have a hunch I’d be one of those who try to explain too much, to give the context and other background information. A lot of what happens to us can’t be fit into a yes or no situation. There are always gray areas. And yet often, those folks, whether defendant or plaintiff, are only allowed a single word — yes or no.

But none of that matters. I truly doubt I would ever go to a small claims court, would ever apply to be on judiciary show, would ever get a lawyer to try to resolve any situation those litigants get into.

If I lend someone money, I assume it’s lost, and if they pay it back, great. If they don’t pay it back, I will nag them, and if I still can’t get the money back, eventually give that up, too.

I have seldom gotten a deposit back from a landlord — they have almost always managed to find a way to keep it — so I made sure any deposit was an amount I could afford to lose. Now that I own a house, I don’t have that sort of problem, for which I am eternally grateful.

I do have a contractor who doesn’t always show up when he says he will, but I couldn’t sue him even if I wanted to (which I don’t) because I don’t have a written contract. And anyway, we’ve become friends. Whenever I need something done immediately (like a leaky toilet) that goes beyond what would be contracted for, he does without question. A friendship like that helps take some of the stress out of home ownership and is not worth jeopardizing.

I’ll probably never have a property line dispute — the first thing I did when I got here was to have my property surveyed, and it is now part of the legal definition of the place.

I’ve been bitten by dogs, my car has been hit by other drivers, and I’ve slipped and fallen and been badly injured, and never have I sued. In fact, that’s a matter of contention between me and a friend because my not doing so comes across as my being contrary rather my making a judgement call. And maybe I am contrary, but I know for sure I’d rather end a fender bender (even when it is the other person’s fault) with a hug rather than an appearance before a judge.

**

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