Housewifery

People keep asking me if I’m writing, but . . . no, not to the extent that I’m actually putting words on paper (or what passes for paper in the computer world). I am still thinking of my next book, however, mentally putting together bits and pieces of my new life as a housewife (houseowner, actually, but it sometimes feels as if this house is a significant other, as if we’re married to death do us part).

I do have a victim for this potential book — someone I would like removed from my life: a fellow who plays his music way too loud too often, with the bass turned up (turned down?) so that it vibrates my windows and my brain pan, and can be heard for blocks away. (Someone said he’s letting his customers know his drug “store” is open.) Considering that he’s also been rumored to sell tools he’s stolen from a mutual neighbor, there would be a whole list of possible villains. (Though is it villainy if the doer gets rid of a neighborhood problem? Isn’t it more like pest control?)

But this vague musing is the only writing activity I’ve been doing. Mostly, I’m doing house things such as stuccoing over a doggie door, framing and painting a new door, and setting up solar lights. Ah, the things one does when it comes to the caring and feeding of one’s house!

The yard still holds a surprise or two. I woke the other morning to this little glory. It’s amazing anything can survive this heat, but some plants seem to like the area. Now I just have to find more things that can take care of themselves.

As for taking care of myself — I have days where I take care of myself and days when I don’t, but I am trying not to let the heat make me too much of a hermit. Yesterday I went with a couple of friends to see the Koshare Dancers — a pretty amazing troupe of dancers that tries to live up to the spirit of the native dances. And other excursions are in the planning stage. Oddly, considering that for years I spent hours every day roaming the desert, I seldom walk just to walk any more. Maybe when the house projects are coming to end, maybe when it cools off, I’ll be more likely to hoof it for the sake of hoofing it, but now, I merely walk for transportation — such as going to the library, to an occasional exercise class. Or to the hardware store. I’ve never before been on a first name basis with hardware store workers!

Such an adventure, this owning a house.

***

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.

Being Found

During all the years of feeling lost after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I wondered how one restarted a life. I knew I couldn’t continue being a virtual nomad, knew I needed to go somewhere, but where? When you can go anywhere, how do you choose? And once you’re there, how do you start over?

Well, here I am, in the midst of my new life, and to be honest, I still don’t know the answer to my quandary. It’s as if I was lifted out of one life and plopped down in the middle of another, with no real transitional period.

Within just a few days of being in my new home, I made friends. Although many of the people I’ve met have lived in this area their entire life, they are not at all cliquish, but have welcomed me into their midst. And each acquaintance, each friend, has introduced me to others, so that I am building a strong base. It doesn’t seem as if I’ve been here less than four months. I’m right smack dab in the middle of . . . well, a life.

Recently, I ended up going on a train ride through the Royal Gorge sponsored by a senior group. The only way to see the gorge from below is by that train — the walls of the gorge are too steep to hike down, and at the bottom, there are only the engorged Arkansas River and the thin line of tracks.

As I was sitting on the train, staring out the window, I had a hard time making the mental adjustment from the desert to the river. It didn’t seem real. How did it happen, that such a short time ago, I was a somewhere else, and now I was here?

Mostly I don’t think about such things. I just go with the flow, though occasionally the miracle, the blessing of my current life — like the Royal Gorge — strikes me as being so very immense.

I once was lost, and now I have found myself living a life I could never have imagined. I always aspired to a simple life. Owning not much of anything.

I suppose in some ways I pictured my life as that Royal Gorge trip — traveling light, going with the flow, seeing what there is to see.

But the train stopped.

And now, when my peers are downsizing, I am upsizing. I never wanted to own a house — way too much responsibility! I never even wanted to own any furniture, and yet here I am, with a house full of furniture.

It makes me wonder how else the years of grief have changed me.

For the better, I would 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.

Have Caulk Gun Will Travel

I just got an email from a friend who suggested I post a blog to let everyone know how I was doing. I shrugged it off, thinking I’ve been doing that very thing, but I checked anyway to see when my last blog was. Wow! Has it really been a month since I last wrote? It just goes to show . . . well, I’m sure it shows something, I’m just not sure what.

Some of the work on the house is going well, due mostly to a visit from my brother and sister-in-law who brought with them their expertise and just about every fabulous tool they own. Still, oddly enough (at least odd to someone who has never before owned a house), very little can be crossed off my to-do list. There always seems to be one more thing to accomplish on every job.

Caulking all sixteen windows and repainting the framework has been left to me. Since I have never in my life done any work on a house — growing up, I was just a girl, you know, and so such tasks were never allotted to me — my share of the work is slow going. (BTW, the window is a true rectangle; the odd shape is due to the angle of the camera.)

But I now know how to use a caulk gun, and even better, I know how to clean caulk off my fingers. (Nail polish remover!)

I still don’t have a workable garage. The crack in the floor was fixed, the place insulated and dry wall added, but then the floor recracked, so for now, the garage is just a big shed. One day, perhaps, I will be able to use it to park my car. Perhaps . . .

The back room is mostly done. Although foundation is rebuilt, the walls and ceiling painted, and the floor installed, the doors still need to be framed, though that job is scheduled for Monday. (Fingers crossed!) It’s a lovely room, now, and can no longer really be considered a porch, enclosed or otherwise.

My exercise equipment (even a ballet barre!) has been set up in the room. I can no longer use the lack of space as an excuse not to exercise so I’ll have to find another excuse.

The above mentioned aren’t the only tasks to be finished/started, just the more obvious ones. (Fixing the basement floor from long ago flood damage and reinstalling a sump pump are perhaps more pressing, but since I don’t go down into the basement, it’s not an obvious task. Not to me, anyway.)

For all these months, a lot of my stuff has been piled in the dining area, and now that the back room is usable, I no longer have to use the dining area as storage. And suddenly, this place seems huge. It’s still technically a small house, but for a person who has been living in a single room for the past few years, it seems a surfeit of luxury to have so much space. After all, I can only be in one room at a time.

But of all the problems I have dealt with in the past decade, this embarrassment of riches is one that is easily shouldered.

***

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.

Playing House

When I was little, I wanted a playhouse. It seemed the ultimate fantasy to me — to have a tiny house of my very own to play in.

A few years ago, thinking about a nomadic life, I looked at tiny houses, campers, gypsy wagons — grown-up playhouses, in other words. As it turned out, hauling around a tiny house of any kind would be more than my ancient car could handle, so I’d not only have to buy the house, but a heavy-duty truck, too, which made that idea unfeasible.

I’m still not quite sure how it happened, but here I am with my own little house. It’s stationary, not something I could haul around, but that’s okay. I like having a plot of land with its dreams of future flowers. And I like having a playhouse. I was never one for housework — it was too energy consuming and there were always other things more important to spend my energy on. But today’s cleaning tools make housework seem so easy. Dusters that pick up the dust instead of pushing it around. Sweepers that dry mop the floor swifterly. A kitchen with a place for everything.

There’s no drudgery when you’re playing house!

The things that need fixing around the property are still not getting fixed, but I have a hunch one of these days everything will happen at once. Then I’ll wonder what hit me. For the most part, though, waiting is not a problem. I’m used to waiting, and besides, I’m getting to know the house and the town. In some respects, it’s as if I’ve lived here a very long time — I’ve made some good friends, and I feel at home here.

On a more serious note, it’s odd to think of all the deaths and traumas that led directly and indirectly to my having a home of my own — odd because I don’t really feel those deaths anymore, not even Jeff’s. It’s been too long since I was with Jeff, and I’ve become so different that I have few tears left in me. It’s hard to believe I was ever that woman, or rather those women. The one who loved with her whole being, the one who numbly kept a death vigil for many years, the one who screamed her grief to the uncaring winds. All of those women are gone. The woman I am today is both less and more than they were. “Less” because I seem to have burned out all my deep-seated emotions and come to a time of lowered expectations; “more” because I have reached a place of peace and perhaps even joy.

(I sometimes fear that I am getting so far from my grief that if a new friend loses a spouse, I will shrug it off with a private feeling of “been there, done that.” But that’s a worry for another time.)

I’m still not back to writing, though I have come upon a couple of more bits for a possible mystery. I found a remnant of fabric in the grass, and when I couldn’t simply pick it up, I got out the shovel. Turns someone had buried a red-spattered shirt. The red was part of the shirt design, but it could easily have been something more sinister. And then there was the baby photo hidden in the basement . . .

Not everything is hunky-dory, of course — it never is. My bugaboo is literally a bug. Or rather, lots of bugs. Mosquitos, spiders, monstrous beetles. But we’re reaching an accommodation of sorts. I leave them alone if they leave me alone, but they take their life in their mandibles if they get into the house. It’s a playhouse, after all, not a bug house!

***

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.

Revenge of the Roses

I’ve been having a different sort of adventure lately — gardening. Or I should say, trying to garden. My next-door neighbor let me transplant a few of his lovely purple spikes. He couldn’t remember the name, just that he had some seeds he’d tossed about his yard a few years ago. Such a hardy plant!

I also transplanted some vinca that I found in my yard. They were growing near the driveway, and I didn’t want them buried under a layer of gravel, so I moved them to a safer area.

Both plants are doing well, or as well as can be expected after being operated on by an unskilled practitioner.

The roses, however, are a different story.

A large patch of roses is growing next to my garage. Technically, they are on my neighbor’s property, but he said I could remove them if necessary to paint the garage. I took him at his word, and spent an hour or so attacking those well-entrenched roses.

And they attacked back.

They caught my foot in a tendril lying along the ground, and the next thing I knew, I was lying in a bed of thorns.

Ouch.

Despite the vindictiveness of these roses, they are lovely, so I transplanted them. I’m hoping they will forgive me the clumsiness of the operation and take well to their new location. As far as I know, roses don’t hold a grudge. But we’ll see.

Tomorrow I will weed an area of the yard where a couple of honey locusts planted themselves. It’s a perfect spot for them, so hopefully they will appreciate my efforts.

Meantime, it’s time for a cup of tea, a good book (or any book for that matter) and a rest for my weary bones, sore muscles, and thorn-pricked skin.

Wishing you a flower-full 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.

Plots and Plats

During the past few days, I’ve seen movie trailers on Facebook that are all about guns and killing, seen ads for games focused on killing one’s opponents (both human and cartoonish monsters), started a movie that began with a cyborg war, and I read a so-called romance that was nothing but a guy manipulating/abusing a woman because even though she repeatedly said no, he knew she really loved him and keeping after her was the only way to get through to her.

At the same time, whenever I’ve gone on Facebook, I’ve seen many anti-gun rants, anti-men rants, anti-everything rants. Well, anti everything but violent movies and books and games. Those seem entirely acceptable.

And yet people blame guns alone for real-life killings. And yet they say the violence people see every day, the violence their lives are steeped in have no affect on what they do.

How can it not have an effect? If an impressionable youngster (or oldster) sees how easy it is to get rid of a problem by blowing it away, why wouldn’t they attempt it? Especially since, in the violent fictional world, those blown away never truly die. They are resurrected for movie after movie, or game after game.

And how can young folk believe they have the power to say no (and that others have the need to heed the “no”) when they so often see that no means yes?

There is a growing movement in our culture today toward all dark and light without shades of gray, though one person’s dark is another’s light and vice versa. (This sentence is a graphic example of the dichotomy I am talking about. I originally wrote our world today is “all black and white,” but I feared some would see in this rant a racial slant that wasn’t intended, so I had to change my wording.)

It used to be that the two sides of a political or cultural discussion were more about ways to achieve the shared goal both sides wanted, but today, the goal itself is up for grabs. Making things more confusing, many of the folk (for example) who are attempting to make guns illegal are the very ones who are cashing in on the gun-ridden movie business.

I’m not sure I would even have noticed how truly bizarre and confusing all this is if I hadn’t been spending way more time off line than on. Maybe my life, my world, is so much less confusing than it’s been for the past decade that I am more aware of the confusion in the not-me world. Maybe I’m seeing a bigger picture and am not so swayed by those who wish me to focus on a single aspect of a situation. Maybe . . .

Maybe I should go back to talking about my house — which is still a sheer joy — and ignore the confused signals being blasted into the ether.

My neighbors and I have been trying for the past two months to figure out where our property lines are. (Apparently, the county assessor’s office knows how big the various properties are, but have no indication of property lines.) It wasn’t a big issue because we are all rather easy-going, but still, I needed to know where to put a fence. So I had my property surveyed. When I got the finished plat, all confusion was gone. We now know exactly where we stand. (Two feet to the north of where we thought we stood.)

I find the plat fascinating. At a glance, I can see every aspect of my property and how it fits in the whole, which made me think how nice if every confusion or dilemma were resolved so easily — if instead of political and cultural plots, we had plats.

***

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.

Ghost Adventure

I try to drive once a week to keep my car running and to prevent today’s low quality gas from rotting the fuel lines. Mostly on my driving day, I’ve been heading to the bigger town to get items I can’t get around here, and to pick up the groceries too heavy or bulky to carry when I’m on foot, but today, I didn’t need enough to warrant an errand trip. So I went adventuring.

I’ve been wanting to go hiking in the the state wildlife area that’s just a few miles from here, but when I finally found the area, I was only able to drive about a quarter of a mile on those washboard roads before I gave up. Such roads rattle my poor old car, and I always worry I will end up like one of those jalopies in comic strips, where the hero hits a bump, and that old car falls to pieces.

I drove very carefully back out to the paved road, and headed toward a nearby historic area with a ghost town. Many of the buildings had been washed away in a long ago flood, but the ones that remain are in good shape and house  a museum of sorts.

This ghost town is on the Santa Fe trail — a ghost trail for real. Those travelers who didn’t die on the trail have been settled in graveyards for a century or more.

After walking the few feet of trail that’s in the historic region, I moseyed along the ghost river. This river bed was once a raging river, though in it’s current incarnation, it’s a placid creek about a half mile away from this river bed. (Though when the rains come, it reverts back to it’s wild youth, or so I’ve been told.)

It was a gorgeous day, perfect for taking photos and wandering the grassy trails. The only downside of the trip (well, besides not getting to hike in the state wildlife area) was plaque honoring the women who’d once lived there. Not that I object to the mention of the women. It was the story attached to one Indian woman that haunts me. She was married to a white man, and the lands she got as reparation for the Sand Creek Massacre helped build his empire. It just struck me as so wrong that the same sort of folks who destroyed the native peoples were in any way allowed to benefit. The cynic in me wonders how many men, married to Indian women, were instrumental in getting the reparations.

But they, too, are ghosts now — the man and his property-bearing wife. And anyway, my own ancestors were starving in a country far away across the ocean when all this happened, so it’s not as if I bear any personal responsibility. I will let it go and just remember the gorgeous day and my ghost walk under the lovely blue Colorado skies.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Feeling Like I’m Back in Kindergarten

I haven’t even been in town two months, and already I’ve started a brouhaha. It was an accident, but still . . .

I went to the senior center a couple of days ago for an exercise class, played dirty marbles (which is not at all what you gutter-minded folk think it is), and stayed for lunch. Since I walked, I had a hat and jacket, which I had placed on the table where I intended to eat. When lunch came around, that table was mostly full, and someone had shoved my stuff to the end where there was no chair. I asked if anyone minded if I moved a chair there so I could join them, and they all just stared at me as if they’d never seen me before, even though I had previously talked with most of them.

Refusing to give in to a childhood flashback, where no one wanted to sit with me, I just laughed and moved to another table where the occupants were waving me over. “You always have a place with us,” one of my dirty marbles friends said. “Good,” I said with a smile, “because that’s the second time they refused to let me sit at that table.”

It was a nothing sort of comment, but next thing I know, my dirty marbles friend and a woman from the other table were arguing, and the woman was slinging insults. By this time, I was thoroughly embarrassed. It hadn’t been that big a deal. Apparently, those women didn’t want a newcomer to sit with them (it couldn’t have been any reason but that, certainly nothing personal, because I have been all charm and smiles since I moved here!). Except for feeling a moment of discomfort, it didn’t really matter where I sat.

When the director came out to lecture everyone on being kind and welcoming to new faces, I wanted to sink into the floor. And afterward, she hugged me, and told me she hoped I would come again.

Well, I did go again. The next day, there was a meeting at the center about a planned outing to the Royal Gorge. I went to the meeting with a friend. She plopped her stuff down at the same table to which I had been welcomed and asked if there was room for one more. When the women noticed who the “one more” was, they laughed and said, “Pat is always welcome here.”

Then, of course, all the people at the table who hadn’t been privy to the episode had to be told the joke. And during the meeting, there was more talk from the director about being kind to new faces.

Sheesh.

I felt like I was back in kindergarten. Recess (exercise), cookies and milk, games, and being told to play nice.

At least this time, I am aware that the contretemps had nothing to do with me. The tensions had been in play long before I got there. My oh so innocent remark was simply the incendiary device that sparked long-standing animosities.

Perhaps the people who are nice to me have nothing to do with me, either, but are simply nice people. Still, I have already made a couple of lifelong friends, women with whom I instantly connected.

Life is good, and an occasional shark in the water merely brings out that goodness.

***

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.

 

Making My Bed

The hundreds of pieces that comprised the daybed for my office/guest room were intimidating, but making the bed turned out to be not complicated, just a long and exhausting process.

But look! So worth it!!

***

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 My Nest

I was sitting around doing nothing (well, I was reading, so that’s not really nothing) when it suddenly dawned on me that although the alterations on the house have again come to a standstill, my nest building didn’t also have to be on hold.

The foundation on the porch is finished, and the subfloor in place. The top floor won’t be laid until both the garage and the basement are done to keep from ruining the contractor’s hard work (and that won’t be done for a few more weeks, won’t even be started for another week), so I figured I could put all the stuff to be eventually stored in the basement and garage out on the porch instead of in my office (where it now is).

So I’ve been working — hard! And I have the stiffness and soreness to prove it.

It took a few days to clear most things out of the room. There is still a whole row of boxes along one wall, but a lot of that is in file boxes that will eventually be hidden under the bed.

So now it’s a matter of putting the daybed together.

If that’s not enough pieces to scare anyone, there are two boxes not in this photo, that contain perhaps a hundred tiny little pieces, not just screws and such, but pieces to lock the slats in place and a few other finishing touches.

Oh, my. Maybe I’ll go back to reading . . .

***

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.