The Best of Social Networking

Although I have always been a fan of social networking on a personal basis — getting to know people, making friends, feeling connected even when I am alone — I am also aware that it is a platform for the dissemination of a particular brand of ideas. Anything that doesn’t fit the narrative of that brand is labeled “fake news.” That most people don’t see they are being herded by this one-sidedness shows the efficacy of the brand. That those same people heap shame on those who don’t agree with the stated beliefs shows how deeply entrenched the brand is.

And yet . . .

During this past week, I have been enormously pleased to see so many posts by black people decrying the current narrative, ie: downtrodden blacks, liberal saviors, white racists (and according to this narrative, all whites are by definition racists).

I understand that the black/immigrant/minority experience is different from mine, but that does not negate my life. Does not make me better. Does not make me a racist. It makes me . . . me.

Whatever anyone experiences makes them who they are. The current narrative defines certain people by their race, not who they are individually. The posts I’ve been reading read and the videos I’ve been seeing are not from blacks living the “black experience,” whatever that might be. They are individuals living their lives, refusing to claim the victimhood the narrative foists on them, refusing to be seen as anything other than as themselves, as a member of the human race, as an American.

These people don’t want reparations, don’t want to be identified with the rioters and looters, don’t want to be limited by what other people are doing and saying. They want to grab whatever opportunity (legal opportunity) they can to create good lives for themselves. They want to take responsibility for what they do without the mitigating (and oh, so paternalistic) factor of needing special compensations because of their skin color.

Normally, we don’t get to hear what these people have to say because it doesn’t fit with the point of view the media forces down our throats. And we need to hear their voices. We need to see these folks as they see themselves — not victims, not un-“privileged.” But people dealing with life as best as they can.

This — getting to hear different voices, getting to listen to people tell a different story than what we expect — this is the best of social networking.

***

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.

Protesting the Protesting

Really, people? Protesting? Rioting? Looting? What the heck are you doing? How do think this is going to change anything? It’s not as if the instigating event was a case of social or systematic injustice — it was a single case of a one man committing a crime that everyone seems to agree was egregious. He has been arrested and charged. So what’s the point of protest? It’s done.

If the protests were focused on the use of a particular means of subduing a person, then that makes sense. Kneeling on someone’s neck should never have been acceptable police procedure.

But that isn’t what people are protesting.

I can see that people want to express their overwhelming feelings toward the event, so why not a candlelight memorial for the victim to show they care? Why not some sort of benefit to offer support? But a protest? Someone needs to rewrite the narrative. Cops kill as many unarmed whites as black. (According to FBI statistics, of all the unarmed folks cops have killed, only 6% involved a white cop/unarmed black.) So what’s to protest? All deaths by cop? That makes sense since there really shouldn’t be any at all.

But that isn’t what people are protesting. If it were, race wouldn’t be an issue in this current conflagration.

Still, a quiet protest, no matter how illogical is one thing. Rioting is another.

People are still not allowed in church in groups of more than fifty in order to stop the spread of a disease, but apparently, if huge numbers are going on a spree of violence, the disease can’t catch up with them, so mobs are okay. (Does anyone else see the irony of rioters and looters wearing surgical masks to keep from accidentally spreading a disease when they are purposely doing harm to others? It sure boggles my mind.)

It seems that people are taking for granted that peaceful protests can spontaneously combust into violence. Fisticuffs, sure, but more than that is simply not possible. If one is planning on going to a peaceful gathering, one does not fill a backpack with spray paint cans, weapons, bricks, large rocks, incendiary devices. (The chance of a simple match or lighter burning down a building without any sort of flammable materials being involved is just about nil.) So if people are carrying such things, then the protest almost by definition, can’t be peaceful. And if people aren’t carrying such things, they had to come from somewhere. Which means that someone purposely instigated the riots. They didn’t just “happen.”

And looting? Oh, yeah, nothing says “solidarity” like destroying the businesses in one’s neighborhood, and nothing shows one’s sterling character like theft. To say nothing of the irony of stealing liquor and televisions and Huggies to protest crime.

Silly me. I really thought we were better than this.

***

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.

Lady Bountiful

I normally stay away from lotteries and sweepstakes and slot machines and every other kind of gambling, but this year I’ve been filling in the ridiculous Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes forms. I’ve been feeling lucky — or rather, I had been feeling lucky — having a house (a home!), a nice town to live in, as well as friends is luck indeed, and on the off chance that this lucky streak continued, I went ahead and played their silly game.

And it is a game. They hide the necessary stickers among copious ads for things no one needs in the hope that those foolish enough to enter will think they have a better chance of winning if they buy something. I have a hunch, if I read all the small print, I would discover that I had entered various drawings. The winner the first few times was supposed to win $7,000 a week for life, and the last form said the winner would receive $5,000 a week for life. So . . . games.

Mostly, I was playing a game with myself, thinking of what I would do with all that money. I don’t need it all (a couple weeks worth each year would be riches for me) and would have no way of spending it. I did think it would be fun to turn each week’s check over to a local organization and let them deal with spending it for the good of the community. It certainly would have brought much needed cash to this rather impoverished area.

I don’t really feel that lucky any more — not that I am unlucky, because I’m not. All the things that made me feel lucky are still in place, but that moment when I felt it possible for the universe to open up a crack to shower me with enough riches to play Lady Bountiful seems to have closed. And anyway, the more I think about it, the more dreadful it seems — every week, for the rest of my life having to figure out where the money would do the most good, and then having to make the effort to get it to the proper organization (as well as trying to keep my name out of the public’s eye so as not to be inundated with people’s outstretched hands).

If that had a become a problem, there would still be other ways of using the money for good, such as buying up one of the derelict houses around here and flipping it or tearing it down (it’s costly to tear down some of these houses because of the asbestos issue) and creating a green space. But even that seems like too much work.

Besides, my own property still needs work, and for now, that’s enough riches and enough of a responsibility to keep “Lady Bountiful” occupied.

***

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.

 

Saving the World

I finished rereading The Wheel of Time, and since the library isn’t open yet, I’ve begun re-rereading the series. It’s not that it’s such great writing — with over four million words spread out over fifteen books, there really should have been a huge amount of culling to make it less of a sprawl. Some of the meanderings off the main track are unimportant and inane and downright aggravating — a reader does not need to see every savage side of the lesser antagonists to get the point that they have sold their souls to The Dark One. Nor does a reader need to see certain characters doing the same thing over and over and over again. Nor does a reader need to see author mistakes, such as his forgetting what his characters are like and have them acting brainless for no reason whatsoever.

The series was originally proposed as a trilogy, though the scope of the story demands more than that. TOR Books, knowing how wordy Robert Jordan was, turned it into a six-book deal, which they should have enforced. The Wheel of Time is a perfect example of an author falling in love with his creation. He spent ten years planning the work, doing research, and taking copious notes before he started writing, and apparently, he couldn’t bear to give up any bit of his creation even if it would have made a much stronger story to do so. As to why his publisher didn’t rein him in — there is a whole lot more money to be made by fifteen bestselling books (fourteen plus a prequel) than six. Since the fantasy market is predominately younger folk, I guess they figured they had a non-critical readership, and every time a new book came out, a new crop of readers came of age, which prompted sales of the earlier books in the series.

Luckily, it’s easy enough to skip over the many sidetracks and dead ends to keep to the essence of the work, though that doesn’t help dealing with the parts of the story that aren’t there. Jordan delighted in writing ad nauseum about trivial matters but mentioned important points almost as an aside and brought in mysterious characters for cameo spots without any elucidation of who they were or why they were important. Despite myriad interviews, he refused to explain some of his seemingly pointless points, saying he wanted people to think about them. A bit of a god complex, there, but then, I guess that’s understandable when one has created such a massive world to play with.

There is also too much war for my taste, but after all, Jordan is a military historian, and ultimately, this series is about the battle between the forces of light and dark, so all the military hoopla has a place.

Despite the many drawbacks of the series, it’s compelling because of the eternal themes of honor and duty, loyalty and integrity, steadfastness and kindness and friendship, doing what’s right no matter the cost, standing by one’s word, rising above the baseness of one’s life to grasp nobility, accepting one’s fate and becoming a hero. Those are the nuggets of purity that drive the (sometimes appalling) story. And it’s those same nuggets that perhaps make the work worth reading and even rereading.

It’s funny — each time I reread the series, I tell myself that this time I will read every word, and each time I get bored by the trivial chapters and inane characters and become aghast (re-aghast?) at the sadism, and end up skipping vast sections to get to better parts. Some of the horror is necessary, of course, to help forge the rather ordinary characters into the heroes (reluctant or not) they will become. I mean, you don’t simply wake up one morning with the power and resolve and ability to fight the overwhelming darkness that might be threatening to consume us all.

Jordon has created an incredibly complex kaleidoscope of a world, taking all the bits and pieces of our cultures, customs, costumes, mythologies, legends, religions, histories, and shaken them up and spread them out in a new and vibrant pattern. One of the fun things about rereading the book is picking up elements that one missed the first time through. (Despite that, there are whole storylines that add nothing to the whole — the Seanchans, Slayer, Perrin and Faile to name just a few.)

Since this is the quintessential hero’s journey, with each character on his or her own path to greatness, there is homage to the legend of King Arthur as well as to lesser known legends.

There are the archetypal characters, such as shapeshifters and tricksters, mentors and allies. And underlying it all is the savior tale, both the Christian story and the pre-Christian ones.

What would you do if you’re going about your ordinary life, doing what you’ve always done, and then discover you’ve been chosen to save mankind, chosen to give up your life to save the world?

I wonder — as I sit in safe isolation while many folks around the world are dying of a novel virus — if I would have the courage, the stamina, the will, to undertake such a task. In my heart of hearts, though I would wish I did have such a heroic character, I know I would not be able to do it. Could not do it — I’m too old, too tired, too powerless. But when I immerse myself in this legendary world, I think . . . maybe.

Just maybe . . .

***

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.

 

If People Lived Like Me

I went to the store today, not because I really needed anything, but because I had to drive my car. I did get a few essentials at the store, as well as a few non-essential (but healthy, or rather healthier) snacks, such as dried apricots and coconut chips.

The most difficult part about going shopping nowadays is to figure out what hat goes with a white surgical mask. I finally decided that a simple straw fedora with a black edging around the brim wouldn’t look too silly. I’m sure it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t wear a mask — none of the store employees would say anything, particularly since the check-out clerks are the only ones who wear them. And since a mask is for their protection, not mine — and since I know for a fact I don’t have The Bob (it’s impossible to catch something when you’re not around people) — it’s sort of silly, but then, wearing it for ten minutes a week isn’t going to kill me.

A friend stopped by last night with a gift of beets and he wore a mask, but by the time I opened the door barefaced, it was too late for me to run to get a mask. (Which, now that I think of it, came from him in the first place.)

Other than donning a mask for my infrequent forays out of my hermitage, my life really hasn’t changed much during the past couple of months, and I doubt it will change when everything is open again. I never did buy much more than essentials, anyway. Hardly ever went to a restaurant. Never went to a bar. Seldom went to any sort of gathering. Probably the only thing I’d do different is have someone over for tea.

I used to think the world would be a vastly different place if people lived like me, and now that they are (except for driving newer cars), it doesn’t seem any different. But then, it’s hard to know if things are different since I am among people so seldom.

I have liked driving to the local stores, though, rather than walking or going to a bigger store in a bigger town. (I take a short drive out into the country first because I don’t think it’s good to drive less than a mile, particularly since I only go out every five or six days.) Every time I drive around here, I get to have a conversation about my car, which is nice. And it’s good, I think, for people to associate me with the bug in case of roadside emergencies or some such.

So that was my day. How was yours?

PS: If you have a good recipe for fresh beets, let me know. Thank you!

***

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.

 

Happy Hamburger Day

National Hamburger Day isn’t until tomorrow, though some sites I Googled suggested that it was yesterday, so today appears to be a suitable time to celebrate.

I wouldn’t even have known about this holiday except that I was gifted with some ground beef. At first it seemed like an odd gift, but The Bob has changed things so that valuable gift items are not trinkets and electronics but toilet paper and tissues and bleach, all of which had been sent to me, all of which were welcome gifts. And to that list, now is added hamburger.

It was only a chance remark from the giver who said “Happy Hamburger Day” in response to my thanks that made me check to see if there was such a day. I thought the remark was simply a made-up excuse to send me a valuable present. (Admittedly, vegans and vegetarians might not agree about the value, but then, I am an omnivore.) And sure enough, there really is a hamburger day!

It’s interesting to me that only in this time of The Bob would such a present be feasible. It was delivered to my door from the local grocery store, and the only reason the store delivered is because they’re trying to keep us older folks at home as much as possible.

Even more interesting to me is that I’m forgetting there is a crisis out there. I am quite content immersing myself in the world of the Wheel of Time without the conflicting desires that so often pull at me — spending time with people or spending time alone. Going out and doing something or staying home with a book. Being sociable and getting together to play a game or indulging myself and not playing. Trying to find meaning in my new post-Jeff, post-grief, post-move life or accepting whatever meaning there is in simply being me.

I am aware of the crisis to the extent that on the rare occasions when I do go into a store, I wear a mask out of courtesy, but not to the point of contemplating its purpose. And horrors! I do hug people — on purpose — though I let them initiate the contact. Well, except once when it was my decision. I saw a good friend at the store the other day. We stopped six feet away. “We can’t touch,” she said. “I don’t care,” I said. She laughed and then we rushed toward each other. And oh, did that feel good! Odd to think that such a simple human act borders on the seditious, but to be honest, being rebellious in such a way felt good, too.

I must admit that beyond those few brief occasions of welcome touches, I love the distancing that keeps people from crowding me in stores. I don’t like being squished between people in line at the best of times, so I hope the stores will keep the six-foot markers long after this crisis has been forgotten by everyone, not just me.

I am getting far from the point of this article which is . . . hmm. I don’t remember. Hamburger day? Gifts? The benefits of The Bob? Maybe there isn’t a point except a reminder to enjoy the day. With or without a hamburger.

***

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.

Long Day, Short Post

It was a long day, and because I overused my knee and am tired and sore, this will be short post.

The workers came and worked on my garage — put in the doors and windows, added the trim, and built the frame for the concrete apron.

The garage is starting to look so very nice, but it will be awhile until it’s finished. The overhead door still hasn’t arrived (tomorrow for sure, they say). The electrician was here to give me an estimate on electrifying the building, but they won’t actually be able to do the work for about ten days. And after that, there will be more work — insulating the place, putting up the inside walls (OSB board — whatever that is) and the ceiling.

And then there will be more concrete work — a back stoop as well as a sidewalk from the stoop to the garage.

But still, it’s all coming along nicely.

The workers so kindly cleared away some detritus from the corner of the yard and helped me plant the lilacs that arrived today from the Arbor Day Foundation. Yay! These at least look alive. Another couple of lilacs the foundation sent were simply skinny little twigs with no roots and no sign of life. But I’m treating them as if they are bushes, and who knows, they might surprise me.

Maybe by the time the garage is built, there will be enough stuff planted that it will look like the beginning of a small “estate.”

One can hope!

***

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.

 

To Seed or Not to Seed

Every Tuesday, for the past several weeks, has held the promise of more work done on my garage, and tomorrow is no different. The garage door is supposed to be delivered and the electricians are supposed to come to wire the garage as well as the contractor and his helpers to do more work on the trim. Perhaps they will all come as planned. Perhaps it will be just another Tuesday like all the rest.

Meantime, I’m left with the seeds of ideas about what to do with the yard once it is mine. For now, the yard is strewn with materials and piles of lumber scraps as well as the defunct carport, so there’s no use in doing anything such as planting seeds until it is all cleared out. Besides, once the garage is finished and the sidewalk from the back door of the house to the pedestrian door of the garage is built, many loads of dirt will need to be hauled in to even the ground from the house to the garage and all around the garage, especially where the old building used to be.

Then, of course, I will have decisions to make. To plant a ground cover or leave it as dirt is one such decision. I considered a clover yard because it’s a favorite of bees or maybe even a California poppy field, but I have noticed recently how much birds seem to like the bare ground. There must be insects or old seeds or something for them to eat that might not be available to them with a ground cover.

Another decision is what to do with all the old seeds I have — dozens and dozens of packets. I would have thought that seeds wouldn’t go bad — after all, corn has been grown from maize discovered in ancient pueblos — but so far, any of these seeds I have planted have turned out to be moribund. So now I wonder if I should take a risk and sow the seeds in the new earth when it arrives in case they decide to grow, but if they aren’t viable, all I will do is awaken whatever weeds might be in the dirt. I also can’t help thinking that as long as I don’t plant the seeds, there’s always the dream of someday having flowers, but if I plant the seeds, and they are dead, then there won’t be any flowers. And anyway, I’m not sure I want to waste the water on some sort of large-scale planting just yet.

So, to seed or not to seed? Such a conundrum!

But there’s no real need to decide just yet because, so far, Tuesday never seems to come.

***

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.