Seeing the Bright Side

Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows I am not a glass-half-full sort of person. Nor, to be honest, am I a glass-half-empty person. I’m more prosaic than either type, more realistic. The nature of a glass is to not remain at a halfway point. If the glass contains a drinkable beverage, you drink it and then refill the glass with the same or a different beverage, or you wash the glass and put it away. If the glass doesn’t contain a drinkable beverage, you toss out the contents and wash the glass or you toss out the whole thing — glass and contents. If you don’t drink the beverage, the glass still doesn’t remain half empty/half full. There is a thing called evaporation, which means that no matter what, the glass will empty itself.

Life, like the level of the contents in the glass, is in motion. A situation can seem bleak with no bright side at all, such as the death of a loved one, and while that situation never changes, you do. When Jeff died, I tried to tell myself that at least he wasn’t suffering anymore and though I suppose that is a realistic bright side, it didn’t help me at all in dealing with my grief. However, there does come a time — years later, perhaps — when a griever has to stop seeing only the bleakness of life and to try to find a brighter side.

In my case, it was the dance classes I started taking three-and-a-half years after Jeff died. Although I was still grieving for him, my grief wasn’t the only “side” in my life anymore. There was a brighter side, too, which helped light my way through the dark times.

I’ve never trusted people who only look at the bright side of things. It seems to me they are either delusional or indulging in dreams instead of reality. Besides, without dark, there is no light. There was an artist who found fame as a painter of light, but if you were to study his paintings piece by piece (as in a jigsaw puzzle) you will see that most of the painting is dark; the darkness is what makes the light so bright.

I do think it’s possible, because of one’s situation, one’s temperament, or one’s mental frame of mind, that it becomes habit to only look on the dark side. (Which means, I suppose, that for some people, looking only on the bright side is also possible.) If only the dark is apparent, it’s a good idea to try to see the bright side of things. In the case of grief, it’s more than okay to indulge in the bleakness because that’s how we learn to cope with life without our loved one. However, as the years pass, it’s okay to start seeing the bright side of other things.

Although I am still aware of the bleakness of Jeff’s being gone, I have looked for a bright side and in fact, looking for any brightness in my life was how I found myself in a new way of being. It wasn’t that I tried to find a bright side to his being gone — there simply is no bright side. It’s that I tried to find a bright side to my still being here. And there is much brightness in my life now — a house, a home, a garden, flowers, a lawn, friends, neighbors, a compatible town, a nearby library — so much so that I no longer need to find the brightness. It finds 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.

Workers!

I spent the day outside. I needed to clean up after the wind and hailstorm yesterday. All I really needed to do was pick up small branches that were blown in from a neighbor’s tree, so it wasn’t an arduous task, just a long one. I also weeded a part of my yard I’d been letting go. I’d planned to mow when the grass dried out, but . . . ta da! Workers showed up!

While I had their attention, I pointed out various small jobs I’d like them to finish, and then I remained outside to look around in case I’d forgotten anything. And to watch. It’s always a joy seeing work done on my place. Work that’s not done by me, I mean.

The garage was built a couple of years ago, but somehow the gutters were never finished, and the parts that had been constructed hadn’t been done right. So today they worked on the gutters and yay! The garage is now completely finished.

They also cleaned the gutters on my house. Oy. What a mess. They hadn’t planned on doing that; I merely asked if they could check to see if there was any debris blocking the downspouts, and yes, there was. A whole bucketful of leaves and dirt. But not anymore. They are clean for now.

And they did some work on the gazebo, hoping to get it done before the Art Guild meets here next week.

It felt good to have so many niggling projects finished.

What doesn’t feel good are my myriad mosquito bites that are itching like crazy. Since I hadn’t planned to spend the day outside, I didn’t wear my mosquito-repelling clothes. I wore my normal black pants, and oh, do those voracious little creatures love black.

That’s life, I guess. Taking the bad with the good. And the good — workers showing up — was very good.

***

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?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Cottage Garden

A friend once referred to my house as a cottage. I made some sort of noncommittal response, and whatever my remark was, she took it to mean I was insulted. I wasn’t at all insulted. I’d just never put a name to the architectural style of the house. Besides, in my mind (not necessarily in other people’s minds), an American cottage is a summer home, generally near a beach or lake or other vacation spot (though in the mountains, a cottage would be called a cabin) and an English cottage is sort of a fairytale dwelling with a thatched roof and surrounded by a lush informal garden.

If my house were out in the countryside somewhere, it might be a considered cottage, but a house in town generally isn’t a cottage. Still, my house is cozy enough to be a cottage, though it is a tad large (a cottage is typically 600 to 1000 square feet unless one is exceedingly rich in which case those numbers are increased ten-fold).

Come to think of it, maybe she thought I was insulted because of the relationship between the words “cottage” and “hut” — cottage derives from Old English (cote), Old French (kot) and Old Norse (kotten) words meaning “hut,” and compared to a hut, my house is a mansion. To me, anyway.

What made me think of this three-year-old exchange is that my yard is starting to look like a cottage garden. Or rather it’s starting to look like my impression of what a cottage garden is. Which makes me wonder if my house is turning into a cottage after all.

Not that it matters. I tend not to put names on things since a name limits that which is named. For example, Jeff and I never defined our relationship. We were what we were. It was only after he was gone and I started writing about my grief that I had to find a name for what we were to each other. Nor do I give human names to things. People often ask me what the name of my car is. Sheesh. It’s a car. It doesn’t have a name. Nor, despite people referring to the bug as “she,” does the car have a sex. Need I iterate? It’s a car!

So, my car is a car.

My house is a house.

And my yard is a yard. But oh, such a pretty yard!

***

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.

Roofs

I’m taking care of a house for a friend who is out of the country, and the winds around here have been sending some of his shingles flying to who knows where. Because of the need to find a roofer, I’ve been checking with people to see if they know of anyone to contact. So far, all I’ve heard is horror stories, not about roofers, but about roofs. Apparently, the cost of building supplies has gone up way more than the inflation rate of other products. In fact, if I were to build my garage now rather than two-and-a-half years ago, the roof for my garage would cost more than I paid for the whole thing. Ouch.

One neighbor, who has a beautiful roof that looks almost new, had to fight with his insurance company because they wanted him to replace it at his expense. Apparently, the insurers looked on Google maps to inspect the roof, and since his roofing material is no longer being made (because it lasts — his roof is actually 30 years old) they said it needs to be replaced. Yikes!

He finally got it straightened out, but he is so not happy about his insurance company using Google to check on the condition of his roof.

I can see insurers using Google maps to look at the roofs they’ve insured to see which ones they might need to physically inspect, but to simply use those images to determine whose roofs need to be replaced, seems lazy at best, fraudulent at worst.

Luckily, it’s not my roof that I’m having to deal with. (And anyway, I think my insurance company already has photos of my roof from when they came to inspect a couple of years ago.)

Luckily, too, it’s not my decision what to do with the roof on the house I’m taking care of. Luckily, I don’t have to do the work to replace it. And luckiest of all, (considering the estimate I got for my friend’s roof), I don’t have to pay for it!

***

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?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Poor Air Quality. Eek.

Last night I was supposed to meet a neighbor so I could dig up some of her flowers, but the meet didn’t surprise me that it didn’t happen — that’s simply how the entire day had gone.

I’d waited all morning for my mechanic to call to let me know he was on the way to pick up my car to fix the brakes. (Neither of us want me to be driving without brakes.) He finally called in the afternoon to tell me he had an emergency and would have to reschedule.

I’d waited for the appliance repair people to call me back about fixing my refrigerator, and they still haven’t. I talked to a woman who has been waiting for weeks for those same people to fix her stove, so I don’t expect my refrigerator to be fixed any time soon. I do have a couple of other numbers to call, but they are from way out of the area, so a service call would be prohibitively expensive, assuming they’d come at all. Since it looks as if this will be a long term wait, as is anything that needs to be done in this area, I’m working on clearing out my refrigerator. Even though most of the food left should be okay in 50 degrees (such as salad ingredients and duck eggs), I’d still like to make it as easy as possible if a repair person ever shows up. And to make it easy for me this summer if no one shows up. (The refrigerator works fine in the winter for some reason.)

And now I’m waiting for my gazebo to be finished, though who knows on that one. As I said, it’s very difficult getting anything done around here.

So, that’s why I wasn’t surprised my date with the neighbor’s plants didn’t materialize. It was just one of those days. To be honest, I’m okay with that. Yesterday was a terrible day to be outside with three different weather advisories going at the same time. Two were for wind and fire danger. One was for poor air quality. And yikes, was the air bad!

The accompanying photo was taken on what was actually a cloudless afternoon. Those muddy-looking clouds are smoke from the New Mexico fire being driven through here by the wind. Luckily, the air quality today isn’t nearly as bad, it so I was able to spend some time outside. And to give my lungs a rest.

The wind, unfortunately, was still terrible.

Tomorrow should be an even better day for air quality, so I’m planning on planting seeds. I’d already planted some, but with the wind and the low humidity (single digits) we’ve been having lately, it’s been almost impossible to keep the ground moist enough for seeds to sprout. Still, I figure if I do a small enough area, I should be able to keep it watered until the seedlings come up. Assuming, of course, the air remains clear enough for me to be outside, and the winds don’t blow away the seeds and their soil covering.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Waiting

This was one of those hurry-up-and-wait days. My mechanic was supposed to call in the morning and let me know when he could come and get my car, and he didn’t. I’d called and left a message with an appliance service about getting my refrigerator fixed (it doesn’t get below 50 degrees), and they didn’t return the call. I also waited for answers to texts that didn’t come.

So, in the early afternoon, I grabbed my phone and headed out to an Art Guild meeting. Because of my work schedule (and because of quarantines and other things), I haven’t been able to attend a meeting in more than a year, though I did supply desserts for various functions put on the group. It was good visiting with these people again; it was almost as if all these months hadn’t passed since I’d seen most of them.

One of the members is the woman I bought my house from. She mentioned that she’d talked to my across-the-alley neighbor, and the neighbor had told her how beautiful my yard is getting. So the guild decided to meet in my yard next month. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. And the die was cast. I’m not really set up for hosting such a meeting, though luckily, I should have enough chairs through the benevolence of a relative who’d just sent me four kitchen/dining chairs.

One of the things they mentioned wanting to see (and use) was my gazebo, and they didn’t seem to mind when I told them it had no roof.

As soon as I got home, I contacted my contractor to see if he could get the gazebo finished in time. I expected to have to wait to hear from him since this is a day of waiting, but it wasn’t too long before he responded, “Let’s make it happen.”

So now I have to wait for him to make it happen (and hope that he gets it done in time). I also have to wait for a call from the appliance people. (Luckily, I don’t keep much in the refrigerator, and most of what is there won’t go bad even in the relative warmth.) But I don’t have to worry about waiting for a call from my mechanic, at least not until next week. He finally called and said he’d got stuck in an emergency, and so we rescheduled for next week.

It’s kind of ironic — I hadn’t really planned to go the meeting. I figured since I haven’t attended all this time, another month wouldn’t make a difference, but I got tired of people not responding to me, so I decided to stop waiting around. It turned out to be the right thing, being around people who did respond to me, except for the part about meeting here next month. Oh, the pressure!

It will be interesting to see what the yard looks like next month since most of what is blooming now will be gone by then. (Flowers such as the wild yellow roses that showed their faces today bloom quickly and disappear as quickly.) The yard should still look nice, with or without blooms, with or without a gazebo.

And, with or without a working refrigerator, I’ll figure out something for refreshments.

***

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?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Weeds and Weeders

I got a new long-handled weed digger. The first one I had was advertised as tap root weeder. The prongs closed over the root when you stepped on the lever, and then you yanked the whole weed up, root and all. It worked well until the handle broke. (The handle came in two pieces that needed to be screwed together, and the weeder broke at the break.)

This new weeder I got is better built. The handle is a single piece, and it has a release button to push the weed out of the prongs. The only thing I don’t like is that the prongs don’t close. You just twist the tool once the prongs are in the ground, lift up, and release. It seems to work okay for most weeds, but I’m thinking of getting another weed puller like the first one I had since it was better for tap roots, though I would make sure the handle is one piece.

I’m also mulching with my grass clippings since my mower mulches the grass as it cuts (in other words, it cuts it into small pieces rather than leaving the grass blades long), so I’m hoping that will cut down on the need to weed, but so far, it hasn’t worked. The weeds around here are tenacious and laugh at my attempts to keep them from growing.

With my luck, I’d invest in another weeder, then the weed problem would clear up on its own and I wouldn’t need either weeder. I used the phrase “with my luck” ironically, meaning I have bad luck, but the truth is, I have good luck (that’s how I ended up here in this house — good luck), so it seems as if investing in a new weeder would solve the weed problem once and for all. Either I’d have a weeder for any type of weed, or I’d have no weeds and two unnecessary weeders. I know which one I would choose!

Oddly, some parts of my garden areas that were overgrown with weeds last year seem to be fairly weed free this year. I’d dug up all the weeds last fall when I cleared out the dead flower stalks, so perhaps that helped. Or maybe they are waiting to gang up on me in the heat of the summer when I really don’t feel like digging weeds. Other garden areas, of course, seem to have more weeds this year.

But that’s part of gardening, right? Figuring out what plants you want and how to keep them growing, and figuring out what plants you don’t want and how to keep them from growing.

It’s all about learning, and learning is one thing I’ve learned how to do.

***

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?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Letting the Future Take Care of Itself

I accidentally came across an article yesterday about how signs of neglect when it comes to the home of an elderly person, such as an overgrown yard or dilapidated house, can prompt an investigation and perhaps have their home taken away.

I say I “accidentally” came across the article because it’s not a subject I would ever pursue on purpose — just that brief scan gave me the heebie-jeebies. I’m not sure how true it is that signs of neglect can prompt an investigation, especially in an area like this where there are so many derelict houses (many owned by the resident slumlord), but it made me worry about taking care of my house and made me wonder what I was thinking when I put in the lawn.

I can take care of both the house and lawn now with no problem, but as I get older? Not so much. And it’s doubtful whether I’d have the wherewithal to pay for getting things taken care of. So there I will be, a frail old lady, with an unkempt yard and a house desperately in need of paint, and . . .

Nope. Don’t want to go there.

Actually, I do know what I was thinking when I put in the yard. I wanted a small patch of green in the front because I figured I could easily take care of that even if I got frail, but I ended up with the tag-end of someone else’s sod job. I worried that those leftovers wouldn’t be enough to cover the area I’d set aside for a small lawn, but the workers kept laying the sod and laying the sod and pretty soon I had a pretty yard that will eventually be pretty hard to take care of.

I did have to laugh at my tarot reading today. The Three of Wands said I had great skill in realizing plans and goals, but the Two of Pentacles warned that my goals are becoming incompatible with reality. Yep. Sounds about right. Especially when it comes to the yard. The whole point of creating paths and planting wildflowers that will eventually naturalize was to make things easier on me in my old age, not harder.

But I can’t be sorry about the grass. It is so pretty! I’ll keep it looking good as long as I can and try not to worry about what comes after. I did think, the other day when I was mowing, that I should have put the pretty lawn on the neighbor’s property. That way I’d be able to enjoy it without having to do the upkeep!

I suppose I’ll get used to the work when I get used to the tools (the next one I need to figure out how to use is my string trimmer), but for the next few days, I’m taking a hiatus, both on the worrying and on the work. I’m not even watering anything. It’s just too darn windy to be outside.

By the time the wind dies down (according to the forecast, we’re in for a lot of wind for another couple of weeks), the last frost will have passed. I’m hoping the frost we had last night will be the last — it sure took a toll on my poor tulips. Luckily, I thought to take a picture yesterday when they were looking good.

Also, luckily, I am hale enough that I can still maintain myself and my property. That’s all that should matter today. The future can take care of itself.

***

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?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Breezy Day

It’s a bit breezy today, with winds up to thirty mph and possible gusts up to 60 mph. Surprisingly, despite the high-speed air movement (and if we don’t take into consideration any potential gusts), we are well within the “breeze” category.

Winds with speeds of 4 to 31 miles per hour are considered to be breezes, so a thirty-mile an hour wind, even if it comes with a high wind warning, is still considered a breeze. I always thought the term “gentle breeze” was redundant, but apparently not. What I considered to be a gentle breeze — anything less than winds of 4 miles per hour — is not even a breeze. It’s just light air movement. A gentle breeze is a wind with a speed of 8 to 12 miles per hour. A fresh breeze is a wind with a speed of 19 to 24 miles per hour. A strong breeze is a wind with a speed of 24 to 31 miles per hour. A gale is a wind with a wind speed of 32 to 63 miles per hour. My dictionary defines a gale as a strong current of air. Who knew Webster had such a sense of understatement! (In case you’re interested, a storm is stronger than a gale, and a hurricane strongest of all.)

I understand how important wind is — without wind, there would be no seed dispersal, no pollination, no long-awaited rain in dry regions. There would be few livable climates on the earth since winds help diffuse the air and moisture, making more of the earth habitable. Without wind, the ocean currents would die down. Entire ecosystems would disappear. Weather extremes would be huge, either intensely hot or penetratingly cold, either totally arid or mainly rainy.

Despite my knowing the importance of wind, wind is still my least favorite weather. It makes every other type of weather, be it snow or rain, sleet or heat, so difficult. Besides which, it’s dangerous, causing damage to people, animals, and property. Although I love trees, I am glad there are no trees nearby to cause potential damage. A tree limb fell straight down during a windstorm where Jeff and I lived, and the crash, just outside my bedroom window, sounded like an explosion. Felt like one, too. A couple of feet closer, and that would have been the end of me, so I am especially leery of trees in the wind. (A neighbor has a tree with a creaking branch, so I had a tree guy come and look at it to make sure that if it fell, it would be nowhere near me or my house.)

With any luck, later today the wind will finish its job — moving air around — and it will be calmer tomorrow. My frazzled nerves can use the rest.

***

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 Town Girl

A friend asked me if I missed Denver, and I didn’t even have to stop to think to be able to answer that no, I didn’t. In fact, although I was born and raised in Denver and lived there during my early adult years, I was done the city long before I left it.

This (my leaving) was back in the “imagine a great city” era, where the first Hispanic mayor (a transplant from Texas because Texas already had an Hispanic mayor and Colorado didn’t) bought a name for himself with the promise of growth. And grow, Denver did, but so did graft and crime and various boondoggles such as the whole mess with Denver International Airport and the Silverado criminal activity. (I’m not saying that mayor was directly responsible, but it is interesting to me that two of the major players in the destruction of the Denver that I knew and loved were both Texans.)

I definitely don’t miss the city Denver was growing into back when I left. I don’t even miss the Denver of my childhood, though back then, it was a good place to grow up. The air was clear, traffic was light, there was no skyline to speak of, and almost everywhere you went, you could see the mountains. (Oddly, the ubiquitous mountain views masked my lack of innate orientation because although I can’t feel the compass directions as some people do, I always knew where I was in relation to the mountains.)

If there would be any things I miss, those are the very things I have found in my new town, such as the feel of the air, being able to walk everywhere (especially the library), knowing people, not having to deal with traffic, and the lack of megalithic stores. (My trip a few days ago through three of the major front range cities in Colorado left me feeling exceedingly claustrophobic. There was just too much of everything; too many people, too much traffic, too many too-tall buildings, too much pollution, just . . . too much.)

Oddly, I don’t miss the mountains, which formed the backdrop to most of my life, not just in Denver, but on the western slope where Jeff and I spent most of our years together, and the high desert of California where I lived for almost a decade after Jeff died. Admittedly, it would be nice to have a distant mountain view to keep me oriented, but it doesn’t really matter. I’m gradually building a map in my head of the area I now live, and can mentally turn it around to match what I am seeing, but even that doesn’t really matter. I just follow the streets, and they take me where I need to go. One thing I have here that I never had before was a next-door friend. The neighborhood I grew up in was mostly inhabited with older folks, and there weren’t any girls my age on the block. The neighborhood I now live in is also mostly inhabited by older folks, but it makes a huge difference that I am one of them.

A major reason for my not missing Denver has nothing to do with geography or politics or population or anything else outside of me. It’s that I am not that person who grew up in Denver. Sometimes it seems as if the woman I am sprang up full grown sometime after Jeff died, but I know (as do you), that any peace I have attained, that any growth — mental, emotional, spiritual — was hard won.

I am exceedingly grateful, actually, that I don’t have to live in Denver. Somehow, despite having grown up in a large-but-not-yet-great city, I turned out to be a small-town girl at heart. And metro Denver is anything but a small town.

***

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.