The Heartbreak of Spring

Yesterday I intimated that I was looking forward to spring, but that really isn’t the case. Spring is a capricious time, literally blowing hot and cold. Emphasis on “blowing.” Although I appreciate the warming weather, and although I enjoy the signs of the earth’s reawakening, I can do without all the wind. Since this is naturally a windy area, there is a lot of wind, sometimes bringing hot days, sometimes bringing frigid days. And those volatile winds are not something I am looking forward to.

Although spring can be a heartwarming time with buds popping out on trees and inching up from the ground, it’s also a heartbreaking time. In Colorado, and especially here, too often the tender buds on fruit trees and flowering bushes are “nipped in the bud” by late spring frosts. Jeff and I had apricot trees when we lived on the western slope of Colorado, a much more clement area than here, and despite a plethora of blossoms on the trees, there were only a couple of years where those blossoms managed survive the spring frosts and grow into apricots. Heartwarming, then heartbreaking, for sure. It makes me wonder if I will ever get fruit on my greengage plum trees, but at least — so far — the trees themselves are surviving, so there’s hope.

Gardening, too, is a capricious activity. Take my grass for example — when it was doing well, it was stunningly beautiful, like a jewel spread out at my feet. But nothing remains the same when it comes to gardening — there are constant changes, both good and bad. In the case of the grass, it became heat-stressed, and turned brown. (The photo accompanying this post is before the grass got fed up with the heat and died.) It could come back this spring. Yay! It might not. Boo.

Flowers are the same — some grow, some don’t. Some continue doing well, some shrivel. And the weeds are ever present, growing faster than the flowering plants, growing faster than I can manage to control.

Which brings me to another good/bad spring issue. In previous years, I’ve spent a lot of time outside, trying to keep my yard as beautiful as the mini park I’d hoped it would be, but I’ve gotten lazy this winter. Perhaps when I see things blooming, I’ll bloom along with them and manage to do the necessary work. But in previous years, even when I’ve had the inclination and the energy to work in the yard every day, I’ve fallen short. It was only when fall came around and most things started dying off for the season that I was able to catch up on the work. Sort of. There are still some desiccated plants to clear out, still some grassy areas to replant, still some . . .

I better stop there. If I continue to enumerate all the chores waiting for me come spring, I’ll hunker down and hope that winter never ends.

Well, not really. No matter how volatile and capricious, how much work it takes to keep up a yard, spring really is a heartwarming — and earth-warming — time. When it isn’t breaking your heart, that is.

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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.

White Landscape

I’d fallen back into the habit of blogging every day, so yesterday, when WordPress didn’t give me a prompt or suggestion of what to write about, I decided it was a sign to take a day off.

Habits are interesting — even good habits tend to take over your life. My life, anyway. I start out blogging every day, and soon the habit becomes a thing in itself that needs to be fed, and finally, the habit becomes a mandate. I begin to feel I must post something, and so a pleasant habit becomes a lot less pleasant. I don’t like feeling pushed, and so yesterday I pushed back.

Or it could be that yesterday I was just lazy. There’s a lot of that in my life right now. It’s hard to want to do anything when it’s so cold, and when every time I look out the window, I see the same thing — leftover snow. I can’t remember a year where the snow lingered so long. Colorado is known for its sunny winter days and quick melting snow, but this year? Not so much. It’s not even that we got a lot of snow. For the most part, the snow came from a mere two storms. Right after the first heavy snow had slowly melted, a second storm came and dumped six or more inches. And that snow is still out there.

I’m hoping that the constant moisture will help with spring flowers, but I fear it will also help bring out the weeds. But no — I don’t want to think that way. I simply want to dream of the pretty flowers that will brighten my life in a month or two.

Tulips, maybe.

Perhaps even crocuses.

Or wildflowers.

Anything but the white landscape I’ve been seeing for so many months.

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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.

Leisure Time

Today’s blog prompt is: what do you enjoy doing most in your leisure time? At first glance this looks like yesterday’s prompt about what you do for fun, but as I got to thinking about it, there are differences — although “enjoyment” is an aspect of fun, “fun” isn’t necessarily an aspect of enjoyment.

For example, yesterday was an enjoyable day. I walked to the grocery store to pick up a couple of things that I needed, and I saw a friend there. She offered me a ride, so we visited as we meandered the store and then continued chatting as she drove me home. Such surprise meetings with friends are always enjoyable. Later, friends brought dinner over here and we just sat and visited. It was too low key to be “fun,” but it was certainly enjoyable. (Though after a while, we had to make a concerted effort not to talk about homeowner’s insurance. Theirs went up as much as mine, and we were all still reeling from the shock of it. It got to be too depressing — and not at all enjoyable — to discuss the idiocies and unfairness of the insurance racket.)

Though perhaps that doesn’t answer the question. One definition of leisure time (I Googled it, of course!) is free time spent away from such activities as work, chores, errands, eating, and sleeping. If that’s the case, then yesterday’s enjoyable activities weren’t done in leisure time, since in the first instance, the enjoyment revolved around errands and in the second instance the enjoyment revolved around eating. Come to think of it, all of my visits with friends involve those activities. If I’m not hitching a ride with friends to go shopping, then we’re sitting around and eating. Still, by my simple definition (awake time not spent working), that’s still leisure time since all my awake time is free time except for the few hours a week I spend working. After all, I don’t have to do chores or errands at any given time; I can wait until they are not a burden but are rather enjoyable.

On days like yesterday, what I most enjoyed doing in my leisure time was visiting with friends, on other days, such as today, what I most enjoy doing is being by myself, not having to deal with problems, and not talking to anyone, not even cherished friends.

The way I figure it, my days are enjoyable either way.

***

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.

Just For Fun

Today’s blog prompt: List five things you do for fun.

Knowing me as well as you do, I’m sure you’ve figured out what the first thing I did was. Yep, I Googled, “What is fun?”

I had to research the word because the truth is, I don’t really know what “fun” is. To me it’s about doing something with pleasure or joy or playfulness or laughter or silliness, and very little of what I do includes those feelings. That kind of fun connotes fellowship of some sort, going outside of oneself. I mean, it’s hard to be silly and laugh when one is alone, especially someone like me who spends so much time inside herself. Admittedly, I do a lot of things to “spend” time, such as reading or blogging or playing a game on the computer, but there’s no real element of what I’d consider “fun” to any of those things. I just do them. Especially reading. Reading is as necessary to me as breathing, and I don’t consider breathing to be “fun.” It’s just something I do, something I need to do.

I enjoy the company of others (though preferably just one or two at a time). We talk and we often laugh, but despite the lightheartedness of many of our conversations, I don’t consider them “fun.” Being with people is about connecting, about creating a space for friendship, about feeding the soul, an experience that goes so much deeper than the easy entertainment and party atmosphere that “fun” connotes. If reading is akin to breathing, then friendship is akin to food, and while food can be considered “fun” at times, it’s too necessary to ever fall strictly into the category of “fun.”

Things like hiking and traveling weren’t strictly for fun, either. There was a deeper intent there — sort of a vision quest, or maybe even just a quest (though I was never sure for what I was “questing”).

Writing certainly isn’t fun for me — despite a playfulness that sometimes shows up in my books, writing is way too hard for me to classify it as fun. (And it goes back to the idea mentioned above of spending time within myself.) Gardening is the same — too hard to be fun, as well as serving to pull me deeper into myself.

As it turns out, my idea of fun (the word “fun,” that is) is pretty close to the mark. Various online definitions of fun include: “pleasure without purpose;” “lively, joyous play or playfulness;” “light-hearted pleasure, enjoyment, or amusement;” “boisterous joviality or merrymaking;” “hedonic engagement and a sense of liberation;” “diversion, amusement, mirthful sport;” “a cheat, trick, or hoax;” “foolishness, silliness.” Also “any activity on the positive side of valence” (whatever that means).

So what do I do for fun? I’ll have to get back to you on that — when and if I ever manage to think of something to do just for the fun of it.

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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.

Not Happy Ever After

I don’t often read romances, but I will in a book emergency, such as if I need something simple to read while waiting, if I’m not feeling well enough to focus on a more complicated book, or if I know I’ll be frequently interrupted. But I might be rethinking this policy and go back to my “no romance” stance of previous years. I just finished reading a particularly silly romance, where the woman owns a major hotel chain, is super rich, contented with her life, has good friends and a beloved godchild or two. What she doesn’t have is a man, though she’s not the one who feels the lack — it’s her friends who think she needs more in her life.

It turns out there is a man in her life — an employee who’s been in love with her for years. Frustrated that she doesn’t even know he’s alive (except as a valuable part of the organization), he gives his notice, then starts treating her badly. He doesn’t tell her what’s going on but expects her to intuit it. Knows she’s naïve when it comes to relationships (because when would she ever have had time for a relationship?) yet doesn’t make allowances for her naivete and expects her to be as knowledgeable as he is. He introduces her to his family, and when she gives an expensive gift to his sister who is getting married, he throws it at her and yells that his family is not for sale. He grabs her for a kiss and then pushes her away. All this is typical “grooming” behavior for a predator who wants to control another person.

By the end of the book, they are married and living in his house, he is running her company, and she is reduced to working part time. This is supposed to be a good thing because it allows her to do the things other wives “love” to do, like cook and clean and play around with hobbies. Yeah, right.

Since most of what I read are mysteries or thrillers (with a sprinkling of horror and science fiction), all I can think of is that this is the prelude to the real story, where he continues to distance her from her friends and ultimately “disappears” her.

In fact, Jeff once taped a movie for us that was similar to this extended story. The first half of the movie was all sweetness and light. The lonely young woman found someone who loved her and treated her well (unlike the fellow in the above book). She happily married him, moved to his gorgeous home in another state, and . . .

That’s where Jeff ended the movie. He cut out the part where the loving husband terrorized her before trying to kill her and so what was left was a nice, sweet short film of a misfit girl who finds her perfect fit.

Perhaps, in the end, that’s what this romance writer did — cut out the real story, got rid of the violence and terror, and left us with a short romance that was anything but sweet, and definitely not happy ever after!

***

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.

What Is Your Spirit Animal?

Do you have a spirit animal? That’s the blog prompt for today: “What is your spirit animal?” I have no idea how to figure out what mine is. Aboriginal Americans found their spirit animal through a vision quest, some spiritualists find theirs through a dream, other people are lucky enough to have their spirit animal find them.

Me? As far as I know, I don’t have such a guide, and if I do, it hasn’t made itself known to me. At one time I wanted to do a long-trail hike, thinking it would also work as a vision quest, but that didn’t work out. I did try to do some of those quizzes that supposedly introduce you to your spirit animal, but the very first question on a few of them stymied me: “What is your favorite element — water, earth, air, fire, wood, space?” How the heck does one answer that? I mean, you need those to live. Without wood (trees) there would be no breathable air. Without space, there would be no Earth. Without water, earth, air, fire (energy) there would be no life.

I did manage to find one quiz that asked different questions, but most of the questions did not pertain to me, such as what sort of television programs I watch — news, reality TV, documentaries, and a few others. Since I don’t watch television, it was a bogus question, as were several others. Still I did stumble through the quiz, and according to them, my spirit animal is a raccoon. Supposedly, the racoon embodies creativity, discretion, and keeping your ideas close to your chest until you’re ready to unveil them. Sounds feeble enough to apply to almost anyone.

I also found a site that linked spirit animals to one’s birthday, so depending on what culture I espouse — Western, Chinese, Native American, Celtic — my various spirit animals are fish, rabbit, wolf, snake. Not exactly a unanimous consensus, or even a general consensus!

The only dreams I ever had that could possibly be considered a vision quest or a way for my spirit animal to make itself known were both white dreams. In the first, I was walking in the white sands of the desert, with a white sky above me and a white path stretching before me. As I walked, three white horses sped across my path, then four white bunnies in a bunch, then two small white squarish creatures I could not identify, and finally, one immense white owl. For sure a mystical dream! All of those creatures are powerful totem animals, except perhaps for the small squarish animals. Another time I dreamt of a white tiger, a spirit animal that is drawn to a soul with inner strength.

So there you have it — all I know about me and my spirit animals. Since there is such a plethora of them, it could mean I need a whole lot of help. It could also mean that at different times, I was influenced by different manifestations of spirit. Or it could mean nothing at all, which, to be honest, is what I tend to believe.

***

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.

Celebrating the Chinese New Year

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

As a person gets older, the first times dissipate. At the beginning, of course, everything is a first — first step, first word, first tooth, first birthday, first day of school, first night away from home, first date, first kiss, first job, first apartment. When the obvious firsts are gone, there are others to look for, such as first overnight hike, first cross-country trip, first mortgage. And then there are the other firsts that no one should ever have to deal with yet all of us do, such as the death of a loved one.

After the firsts come the seconds and thirds and the ho-hum of having done everything so many times before, that it seems as if there are no firsts left. And yet there are more firsts — at least I hope there are.

What made me think about all this is that just yesterday was the last time I did something for the first time — I celebrated the Chinese New Year.

This Asian holiday is something I’ve never before celebrated, never even considered celebrating. After all, I’m not Chinese or from Chinese ancestry, so it didn’t seem right to be glomming on to another culture’s traditions, but yesterday I was invited to join the celebration by my friend who does have a Chinese heritage. We didn’t do much, just dressed in red and went to a Chinese restaurant, but that seems to be the main way of celebrating — family, friends, and food.

To make sure I didn’t commit any major faux pas, I looked up Chinese New Year and found that the Chinese don’t call this holiday “Chinese New Year,” which makes sense. That’s like us calling our January 1st celebration “American New Year.” They simply call it New Year or Spring Festival. The problem with calling this Lunar New Year a Chinese New Year is that many other Asian countries also celebrate a lunar new year. Luckily, since my friend is of Chinese heritage, my calling it the Chinese New Year (as she did) didn’t offend her.

Anyway, it was nice starting this particular new year by doing something new, and it was it was especially nice celebrating the newness with good friends and good food.

***

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.

Where to Go from Here?

Lately I’ve been wondering where to go from here. I don’t mean geographically — I’m settled here in my house for the duration. It’s more about wondering what to do next with my life, if I want to keep doing what I’m doing, and if I need to do something more satisfying.

I am still blessed with a job that adds some structure to my life, and come spring and summer, of course, I’ll be spending a lot of time on my yard, an activity that makes me too tired to wonder if there is anything else for me.

But now, in the dead of winter, when I probably spend more time than is healthy inside — reading, playing games on the computer, and blogging a bit — I can’t help but question my life.

Reading is becoming problematic — too many novels are way over the top. Years ago, I used to enjoy Lee Child’s books, probably because contrary me had read a review that said women wouldn’t like the books, but also because Jack Reacher reminded me of a harder and less focused Kwai Chang Caine from the 1970’s television series Kung Fu. Whatever it was that appealed to me about Child’s character has completely disappeared. I’d given up reading the series long ago, but out of curiosity, I picked up the most recent book, and yikes. There is absolutely no redeeming virtue to either the badly written story or the character. Reacher has become a thug, pure and simple, a villain as bad or worse than any of those he tries to vanquish. The next book I read (by a different author) was just as bad, though in a different way. The characters’ actions seemed quixotic, unmotivated. They just did things, flashed back to the past way too often for any sense of story continuity, and yapped endlessly. Still, there are plenty of books that have enough of a plot to keep me reading, but it’s possible there will come a time that I give up reading again. Although reading often seems to be as necessary to me as breathing — and as effortless — I have gone through periods where I don’t read at all, once when I was young and depressed and books made me even more depressed, and again after Jeff died.

I could, of course, go back to writing my own fiction, but that is anything but effortless. Besides, I have yet to think of any characters that would keep me interested in their plight for the year or more it would take me to write the story. Oddly, although I am a writer, I have no real yen to write another book, probably because blogging scratches the writing itch and keeps me satisfied.

As for the game I got addicted to — I’m becoming unaddicted. It’s not as compelling as it was in the beginning, but I still play because it gives me a break from reading. And from thinking.

My knees are doing well, but not quite well enough to allow me to do the hours of roaming I used to do. I still have hope that my roaming days will return, but only locally. I used to spend a lot of time hiking, traveling or at least thinking about where I want to go, but my wanderlust, like my writinglust, seems to be sated.

Where I am falling short is on the social front. When I moved here, I jumped feet first into the social scene such as it is — going to the senior center for games and an occasional lunch, attending community dinners, joining various groups. When The Bob put a stop to all that, I reverted quite happily to my natural quasi-hermit state. Eventually, I started back in with one of the groups, but although I know I need the social interaction, I’m not sure I want to continue. The group is growing, which is good for them, but not so much for me. I get claustrophobic around too many people, and it takes all my energy to keep from running away. (The only reason I don’t is that generally I get a ride when the meeting is out of town and so have to wait until the end before I can leave.)

I am aware that my life is already too restricted, yet I’m secretly thinking of restricting it even more. Even if I don’t voluntarily make changes to restrict my activities, age and circumstances will eventually change things. For now, I am quite content with my quiet days, but it’s certainly not surprising that I’m wondering what’s next.

Luckily, it’s only two months until spring (though almost four months until spring planting), and then I’ll be too tired and too busy gardening and taking care of my yard to wonder where to go from here.

***

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.

A Storm with No Name

I don’t notice any difference between a named storm and a storm with no name. Either way, if you give it a name like “Winter Storm Iggy,” or just call it “snow,” it looks the same from my front door. And it shovels the same.

I truly didn’t think it would snow, and for a silly reason: I planted my wildflower seeds yesterday morning. I figured there was a good chance this storm was just a rumor as they so often are in this forgotten corner of the state, and that the seeds would blow away, but surprisingly, they are now buried under six inches of snow. The seeds might be overkill, since I did put some out there after the first snow had melted (it only took a month!) and before the next snow sprinkling came, but I don’t think it will matter. They are desert seeds, so they might not like the volatile weather we get here. And even if they can get acclimated to the weather, some of the seeds take a year or two to germinate.

I hadn’t expected to, but I am enjoying this snow. I have nothing I need to do, nowhere I need to go, so I figure, let it snow. Not that the snow cares what I think — it’s coming down anyway, as it has been since about 6:30 last night, and will continue as long as it wants whether I give it permission or not.

It will be interesting to see what affect these snows that come and stay will have on my yard this spring. It sure would be nice to see a plethora of blooms! And it would be nice to see if my defunct grass will green up without my having to replant it.

But for now, the white is nice.

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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.

Nice Day of a Different Sort

Yesterday was a lovely winter day here in southeastern Colorado — plenty of sun, still air, dry streets, highs in the forties — though elsewhere in Colorado people were digging out from the heavy snows that had been dumped Wednesday night. Because of the nice day we experienced in my corner of the state, I went for a couple of rambles around town, once by myself and once with a friend. Interestingly, everyone we met mentioned the coming storm.

According to the weather forecast on my phone, there is only a 48% chance of snow today, though they also say there could be an accumulation of five to six inches. I thought it was another of those taunts that the forecasters deal out — too often, there is no snow despite their predictions. In fact, the only real snowstorm we got this winter was supposed to have left behind a mere drifting of flakes. But then today I got an email from the regional energy supplier reminding us customers to take safety precautions because “Winter Storm Iggy” is going to bring heavy snows to this area.

Perhaps that’s true. After all, despite the sun that’s shining right now, it’s supposed to get cloudy with conditions that are right for snowfall, but what I really got focused on was the whole “Iggy” thing. What the heck is a Winter Storm Iggy? When did they start naming storms? They’ve named hurricanes and other tropical storms for decades, but this was the first I’ve heard of an intracontinental (rather than a coastal) storm being named. But what do I know? I don’t watch television or listen to the news or visit any of the online sites where people share news, fake and otherwise.

So I do what I always do — turned to Google. And I’m still confused. Is Iggy the name of this particular storm? Or is it a type of storm? Last year in February, there was an Iggy in Australia. And an Izzy in the United States.

As it turns out, it’s no wonder I’m not familiar with names of storms since it’s strictly a television phenomenon. The National Weather Service does not recognize names for winter storms. Nor do they have any plans to do so. It was The Weather Channel that started naming storms a decade ago, and these names have become part of the vernacular.

Sheesh. It’s bad enough trying to keep up with weather without having to try to remember what storms have names and what don’t. I certainly don’t want to clutter my mind with television idiocies especially since I can barely remember the names of people to whom I’ve been introduced and whose names I need to know.

I’m getting off the track here. Or maybe not. Maybe there isn’t a track. All I know is that yesterday was a nice day, and today will be a nice day of a different sort, snow or no snow.

***

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.