Always Some Excitement

There’s always some excitement when one owns a house. This morning, it was the infernal chirping that sounded as if the smoke alarm in my hallway needed attention. I changed the batteries even though I had changed all the batteries in the alarms just a month or so ago. When the alarm still chirped, I figured the culprit had to be the smoke alarm a mere three feet away on the other side of the hall doorway. So I changed those batteries, too.

Still chirping.

Thinking that maybe one or the other of the batteries I’d just switched out were bad, I changed the batteries again. It didn’t make any difference.

There is a third smoke alarm a few feet away from the hall alarm — this one right inside my bedroom. I went into the bedroom and shut the door so I could hear if the alarm was in the room. Nope. It was very obviously on the other side of the door.

I checked online to see if there was something I was overlooking, and the article I read mentioned that if the battery door wasn’t closed properly, the alarm would still chirp. I checked, and yes, the door on one of the alarms hadn’t clicked completely shut. I heaved a sigh of relief, thinking the problem was solved.

But no.

Still chirping.

For a second, I considered the idea that a real live cricket had managed to find its way inside, but crickets don’t chirp ever minute or so like clockwork. And as far as I know, they don’t chirp in the daytime.

I stood in the hallway, surrounded by all those alarms, and listened, wondering what I would do and who I could call if I couldn’t figure out this dilemma. I could call my contractor, and although it’s not the sort of thing he normally does, I know he’d come and help if he could, but he’s working several towns away and probably wouldn’t be able to stop by today. I considered pulling out the chirping alarm but I didn’t know which alarm to pull or how to remove it. (I know how to remove the alarm cover, but don’t know how to disengage the wiring.)

The law says an alarm has to be outside a kitchen, and inside and outside the bedrooms, and this is what led to the mess I have, with so many alarms in such a very small area, making it almost impossible to pinpoint the troublemaker. Despite that, I did manage to rule out the alarm behind me in the hallway as the faux cricket.

There is also a carbon monoxide detector in the same vicinity, and as I stood in the doorway between the two detectors, I realized the chirping wasn’t coming from above, but at my feet. I didn’t even know a carbon monoxide detector that was plugged into an outlet could chirp. But obviously, it could because after I pulled it out of the outlet, the chirping stopped.

Blessed silence.

Luckily, I knew that particular outlet was connected to a gfci breaker in the basement, of all places. (A couple of days after I bought the house, the former owners stopped by to tell me about the bizarre placing of that particular gfci reset button and a few other idiosyncrasies of the house.) So I went down the stairs, reset the breaker, and plugged the carbon monoxide detector back in.

Still silence.

I considered moving the detector to another outlet, and maybe I should, but then I wouldn’t know if that breaker was tripped. But does it matter if I know? It’s not as if I’m going to be doing anything in the basement, and I hope that anyone who goes down there to work would know enough to reset the breaker if the outlet didn’t work. I don’t know why it would have tripped anyway except that the workers who were last in the basement had left a cord plugged into the outlet that wasn’t attached to anything on the opposite end. Just the cord. No appliance or tool. (It’s not something I would have done, but then, what do I know.)

Such excitement!

I’m sitting here enjoying the silence, but hanging over me is the thought that there will be another time.

Still, I manage to survive this episode. Chances are I will survive the next.

***

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 Developments

The long awaited day finally arrived. Such excitement! First, the Cat skid steer came to the party.

While waiting for the everyone else to get here, the early arrivals scavenged cinder blocks and bricks from around the property to cut down on the amount of concrete that will be needed. And such an easy way to get rid of unwanted scraps!

Then the cement mixer showed up, and the party began. The work party, anyway. I just sat and watched.

It was amazing how, with so many guys working, there wasn’t a single problem. They each seemed to know what they were supposed to do, and they did it.

The skid steer definitely made things easier. Originally, the work was going to be done by two men with a wheelbarrow since there was no way the cement mixer could get all the way into the back yard.

As it was, they had to rip out part of the fence so they could get the Cat and the concrete into the yard, but luckily, these were the very guys who had installed the fence in the first place, so they put it back as good as new.

I worried that having so much concrete would take away from the expansive feeling of the yard, but it doesn’t. It becomes a bit of a focal point as well as creating an island garden.

One thing I liked about the way these people worked, was even though the skid steer tore up my yard, they pretty much drove it along the pathway where they will be building a walkway.

The only bad part about all of this is that I have to wait until the concrete dries to be able to use the back door again. But soon. Three days at most. Yay!

There will be handrails, in case you’re wondering, but those haven’t been made yet.

***

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

Building a Garden

I just added another category for filing my blog posts — gardening. It appears as if I am writing quite a bit about my yard, what I’m doing to it, and what I’m planting. And today’s post is one of those.

A while back, I had ordered a few plants in pots (much nicer than bare root twigs!) and they arrived yesterday. So today, I went into my beautiful garage, grabbed a shovel, and started to dig. There was a lot of digging! I had to remove dead tree roots, Bermuda grass, weeds, and rocks. Then I had to sit down on my bench to plan what to put where. I had already decided, but apparently I didn’t realize how big some of these things would get, and hadn’t taken size into consideration.

I also had to translate some of the instructions into neophyte language. For example, they said not to plant the seedlings where they would get the afternoon sun, but at least two of the items need full sun. So I had to plop the plants wherever it seemed they would do best in the long term.

One thing that had surprised me because no other plant supplier had mentioned it: these instructions said that after I removed the plant from the container and before putting it in the ground, I had to cut the root ball in several places and fluff it up so that the roots would spread easier. So I did that, or at least what I presumed they meant by those instructions. We’ll see.

I’d planned to go walking afterward, but I sat back down on my bench to rest (gardening is hard work!) and exhaustion kept me there until it got too hot to walk. But sitting was nice. I got to survey my domain and imagine building a beautiful garden one plant at a time.

***

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

Embracing Laziness

I thought about not writing a blog today, more out of laziness than anything else, but considering that I’m on a 361-day blogging streak, I figured it would be silly to give in to my laziness a mere four days from a full year’s worth of posts.

The laziness comes from the smoky air, I believe, rather than an inherent character flaw, though to be honest, I do embrace my laziness — assuming hours spent reading is laziness. (Reading could be something other than laziness, of course, perhaps a desire to live as many lives as possible before my expiration date.) But the smoky air coming to us from the fires on the west coast are exacerbating my allergies, and a major component of my allergy reactions (besides sinus pain and chest congestion) is lethargy.

Still, I did do some things today. I received a package of plants in the mail, though I was surprised to see them. First, they were supposed to be here earlier in the week, then they were held up at the post office somewhere until next week. At no point was today mentioned. Luckily, the plants are in pots because although they are supposed to be planted immediately, my lazy side says they will be fine for another day. After all, they weren’t supposed to be delivered until Monday, so how are the plants to know they’re not still in transit?

It amazes me the things that take hold and do well and the things that don’t. For example, last fall, I bought some New England asters because I liked the color and thought they’d brighten up my stoop. When the flowers all died, I buried what was left. (I actually planted it, but it seemed more of a burial since I thought the whole thing was dead). And look at it now! So vibrant!

My contractor stopped by for a few minutes to pick up some tools he left here, and while we were talking with the garage door opened, the closer started to buzz. He looked around and asked what that sound was. I motioned him back into the garage and said, “Wait.” The buzzing got more insistent, and then suddenly, the door started to close. We both got a kick out that. Such a cool thing that closer is! I don’t have to worry if my laziness kicks in and I forget to close the door.

He’ll be back tomorrow to fold back a section of the fence so he can get a skid steer into the yard to help spread the concrete for my sidewalk on Monday. The cement mixer is too big to get into the yard, and so they were planning on using wheelbarrows to get the concrete where it needs to be. Yikes. If I had to do the work, forget it. Even without my current lazy streak, I wouldn’t be able to do anything that intense. But then, that’s why I have him. Meantime, I’ll get introduced to another tool — if a piece of equipment can be called a tool. That should be fun even though I won’t be the one driving.

Well, what do you know — I managed to put together a post of sorts after all. My streak remains unbroken. 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

Thrilling and Not-So-Thrilling Developments

The most thrilling new development is that my contractor came with a couple of his workers yesterday and finished framing my sidewalk and stoop. He’d hoped to have the sidewalk poured today, but apparently, all the concrete guys are up in the northern part of the state installing or re-installing windmills. I’m not really sure what the story is. All I know is that no one could come do my job until Monday. Meantime, I can enjoy the esthetics of the framework, especially since, as you can see, it used up a bunch of scrap lumber leftover from other projects.

If all goes as planned, sometime next week, I will actually be able to go out the backdoor. Even better, I will be able to go directly to the garage. Yay!

Now I just have to figure out what I want to do with the island between the sidewalks. Plants of course, but do should I fill in the hilly area with dirt and then do some sort of ground cover? Do I do a container garden? (I will be doing a container garden between the house and the ramp at the bottom of the photo, so perhaps that will be too many containers.) Should I put in a bush or some sort of fancy boulder? Or do I leave as is, and just plant whatever and see what happens. So many choices!

On the middling thrilling front, I should be getting a few plants next week that I’d ordered from a desert nursery, in an effort to see what will grow in this alkaline, dried-out clay soil. I could put some of those plants in that island, but I think I’d like to something less haphazard since it will be the most visible and visited garden spot in my yard.

On the not so thrilling front, I’d ordered some protein bars to add to my scant emergency food supply. (As of now, that supply consists of a couple cans of beans, a couple cans of tuna, and three freeze-dried meals leftover from my camping days.) The bars were supposed to be low carbohydrate, but it turns out they were high carbohydrate. Apparently, they did some sort of shady math to subtract out the carbohydrates. They didn’t subtract out the carbohydrates themselves, you understand, just played around with the numbers to get a “net” figure. Luckily, I hadn’t paid a lot for these bars — they were a sample pack that I somehow got for half price. And anyway, they are just for emergencies. (You notice that I use the full word — carbohydrates? No “carbs” for me!)

But truly, those bars are a minor non-thrill. Greater by far is the thought of finally getting some of the necessary work done on my back 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

Saddened

It seems sort of silly to be sad at the loss of a single tree when so many trees are being burned in the wildfires all across the west, but this was my tree. Well, no, it wasn’t my tree since trees belong to themselves, but the tree was my responsibility. And it saddens me that I had to destroy it. (I was going to be clever and say I euthanized it, but that would indicate a humane death, and killing something with a chain saw cannot be called humane.)

Although the tree looked pretty and healthy, it was diseased. Apparently, at one time, it had been hit by lightning, and the core and the far side of the tree was dying. I could have kept it awhile longer, but it was a danger in high winds, and I didn’t want to be responsible for someone getting hurt by a falling branch. (And I certainly didn’t want to have to compensate the someone who was injured.)

It was the last tree on this property, and now it’s gone. I was always disdainful of people who bought a house and then immediately cut down all the trees, and yet, that’s what I did. A couple of the trees were diseased and dying. One needed to be cut way back to protect the roof and the tree cutter thought it would be too lopsided to be healthy, so they took the whole thing. Another was a danger because it was entwined with electrical wires.

And so I became one of the disdained. Even worse, I’ve never considered myself a killer, but from my actions regarding trees, I have to revise that assessment.

In my defense, we (the tree guy and me) are planning on planting new trees — perhaps a red maple in the front yard and three along the parkway strip between the street and the sidewalk where this tree was removed, and two greengage plum trees in the back yard. These will be real trees, not the half-dead sticks (now, completely dead sticks) that I got from an arbor society, so I’m hoping they will have a chance to survive.

Meantime, my property looks naked, and that, too, saddens 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

More Broken Things

I had just finished writing yesterday’s blog about Lost and Broken Things, when I walked into the kitchen and heard a loud crash. Apparently, for no reason, a green goblet jumped off a knickknack shelf in the corner of my counter and smashed itself on the kitchen floor. I was nowhere near the shelf when it happened. The shelf was solid without a wobble, the goblet was well back from the edge of the shelf where it had been for the past seventeen months, the air was still, and yet, there it was, bits of green glassware all over the floor.

This goblet had nothing to do with my shared life with Jeff. I hadn’t even met him when I got it. I’d bought it at Target when I moved into my first apartment for the grand price of twenty-five cents. At the time, I bought two each of three different sizes. I’d kept them for decades without incident, but when I unpacked them after I moved in to my new house, I found that one had broken in transit. And now another is gone.

If I were fanciful, I’d say Jeff knocked the goblet off the shelf to tell me . . . I don’t know. That broken things don’t matter? That I lost his spoon, so he killed my glass? That it’s not just “our” things that will be succumb to entropy?

But I’m not fanciful. I’m just at a loss to explain that particular breakage at that particular time.

Besides, if Jeff were to contact me, I’d hope he had more interesting things to bring to my attention than broken glassware.

***

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

Outrageous

There are so many things I just don’t want in my life any more, such as outraged celebrities and millionaire sports figures telling me how put-upon they are and how evil the rest of us are because we don’t see that we are privileged and they are not.

Um. No. Just . . . no.

As much as I struggle learning to garden and take care of a yard, it’s so much . . . cleaner . . . than what’s out there in the rest of the world. No one has ever become so outraged they burned down a city because someone killed a plant. No plant association has ever intimidated people to join political organizations with public agendas that are actually different than the ones they privately espouse. (Well, that’s not exactly true. Although many supposedly earth friendly organizations don’t come after potential members with firepower, they do tend to blackmail folks, telling them if they don’t join, the world’s trees will all die, the bees will all die, and ultimately, we will all die. But at least they do this via mail rather than sticking a fist in our faces or burning down our neighborhoods.)

My property feels like a haven from the insanities of the world, and maybe someday it will even look that way. I’d ordered some live plants that came in today, hoping I will have better luck with them than I did with bulbs and such. These plants are vines that will, ideally, twine up my as yet unfinished gazebo. Unlike with bare root plants, I don’t have to scurry to plant these poor wilted things. It’s okay to leave them in the shade for a few days to let them get acclimated to the area and to recover from their traumatic trip. (The box they came in was smashed up, so much so that I’m surprised it got here at all.)

I have the plants sitting next to my seedling forest for the next few days, hoping all the plants will enjoy one another’s company. (A couple of the Kentucky coffeetree seedlings are having second thoughts about the move and seem to want to fade away.)

My luck with live plants is so-so. Some die, like almost all those I bought last year. Some live, but don’t grow. (Although they were bare root plants rather than in pots, four of the five lilacs I planted are alive but haven’t grown even a fraction of an inch all summer.) Some do well, such as the hen and chick succulents I ordered a couple of months ago.

(Oddly, the free one they sent in case one of those I paid for didn’t do well, is thriving. The others are doing okay so far.)

I still haven’t ordered any Greengage plum trees, but there’s no hurry since they wouldn’t be sent for another few months. (The house where Jeff and I lived had a grove of Greengages, and oh, they were the absolutely best-tasting fruit ever, the sort of things the gods would save for themselves.)

I’m never sure how many of any plant to order. If I order two trees, and one doesn’t grow, then I’m out of luck for another year. If I get three and all three grow, then I would have to remove one, which wouldn’t please me at all. (I should be so lucky to have that problem!)

Problems such as these seem so innocent, considering what is going on in other parts of the country. Although I might not be able to fix gardening problems, at least I can understand them, which is more than I can say for the problems that light up the news. Though even those are understandable to a certain extent. People seem to be addicted to outrage, and the more outrage there is, the more outrage there will be since outrage seems to feed upon itself.

It’s . . . outrageous.

***

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

Gadgets, Gizmos, and the Exasperating Mysteries of Life

I wondered if the smoke alarm’s tendency to chirp at 2:00 in the morning when the battery is old had anything to do with the temperature, so I read a few articles, and apparently I was right. The cooler temperatures in those pre-dawn hours affect the battery output, and if the battery is getting low, the smoke alarm chirps. I was excited at seeing this confirmation of my surmise until it occurred to me that this scenario did not fit with my 2:00 am chirping because I’d turned off the air conditioner, and the temperature at that time was the highest it had been for several hours. Since I know that high temperatures also affect batteries (my car battery went dead in July one year, which is how I found out), it’s possible the high temperature had an effect, but the house had been hotter earlier in the day.

So I’m back to thinking that the early morning chirping is one of those exasperating mysteries of life, like the annoyance of a cricket in the house, the irritation of mosquitoes in the bedroom, the disturbance of a dripping faucet, the nuisance of a running toilet valve.

One of the articles I read was really an ad for a smoke alarm that had a built-in 10-year battery, which is all fine and dandy, but what happens in ten years when the thing starts chirping at 2:00 am and a simple battery substitution doesn’t eliminate the noise? I’ll stick with what I have for now. Maybe the next time I need to replace the smoke alarms, the ten-year devices will last to my expiration date, and will annoy the folks who end up in the house. A present from me, so to speak.

Considering the success I had in changing all the batteries by myself, even to the point of dragging a ladder from the garage into the house, I thought I’d tackle another little project involving a gadget that I’ve been putting off — installing an automatic garage-door closer.

My door is equipped with a non-automatic closer — me! — but since I am preparing for my old age, and since I tend to be a bit absentminded at times, I figured an automatic closer would be nice. I followed all the steps of the instructions, even found the “learn” button on the opener and set up the ladder so I can reach it, but somehow, the closer and opener didn’t connect. I tried again, but got the same non-result, though the two gadgets are supposed to be compatible. Another exasperating mystery.

If I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong, and if The Bob ever declines enough that travel is again an option for more people, I’ll see if my brother can get the gizmo to work the next time he comes to visit. (The closer was his idea in the first place, so he should be able to.)

Meantime, I am trying to get in the habit of being patient and waiting until the door is completely closed before taking off. Considering that not everyone in the neighborhood is as honest as my immediate neighbors, I figure it’s best not to give the larcenous neighbors an opportunity to sneak in before the door is completely closed. (That’s one of the ways felonious folk break into people’s houses, and even though the garage isn’t connected to the house, I wouldn’t want anyone in my garage illegally anyway.)

Gadgets, gizmos, and the exasperating mysteries of life. What a day!

***

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

Joys of Modern Life

It’s horrendously early in the morning as I am writing this, hours before I generally get up, but I had to deal with a chirping smoke alarm, and now I can’t get back to sleep.

It’s my own fault, really. I should have changed the batteries a month ago since that’s when the alarms were originally installed, or even a week ago when I changed the batteries on the thermostat, but I don’t have a talent for ladders, so I hoped to get someone else to do the job. But I put it off. And there was no one around tonight (this morning!) to stop the chirping but me.

I looked up the instructions on how to change the batteries, and they were more complicated than I wanted to deal with, having to do with danger warnings, shutting off the power, flathead screwdrivers, and removing battery locks. I was sure the person who installed the alarms showed me a battery drawer in the side of the device so I wouldn’t have to dismantle the device before changing the batteries, but when the drawer didn’t easily open, I thought I might be mistaken.

So, YouTube to the rescue.

I was right about the drawer, and I managed to change the batteries on one alarm, but the chirping continued. When two alarms are close together, it’s almost impossible for me to figure out which one is chirping, and I’d picked the wrong one. I got the drawer of the second alarm open, but couldn’t remove the battery. A bit of finagling and a minimum of swear words, and the battery finally came out. Luckily, the new battery slid right in.

Ahhh. Silence.

I still have two more smoke alarms to do, but to get to the one in the back room, I will have to drag a longer ladder in from the garage. The smaller step ladder I’d used for the others won’t work because there is nothing for me to grab hold in that room to help me keep my balance. At least the others were near doorways, which gave me some purchase.

I know these smoke alarms are lifesavers, but do I really need four of them? One is in the bedroom, one in the hallway, and one near the kitchen as is required, but that puts all three of them within a few feet of each other.

Oh, well. There shouldn’t be a problem after this — I’ll write down the date I changed the batteries and will make sure I change them within the year so I can do it at a reasonable time rather than in the middle of the night.

I didn’t have to change the batteries tonight, of course — according to the instructions, I had a week in which to make the change. A week of that chirping? I don’t think so. I couldn’t even deal with an hour.

Now that the adrenaline of being so rudely awakened has drained away, maybe I can get back to sleep.

And so ends another saga of the joys of modern life.

***

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