A Good One

When I was young, I had a five-book boxed set of Pollyanna books. Every time I got sick and so couldn’t go to the library for a fresh stack of books, I reread the ones on my shelf. Despite having read the Pollyanna books perhaps a hundred times, the whole “glad game” thing never took hold in my life. I simply could not see the benefit of being glad you didn’t need the crutches you received instead of the doll you wanted. I thought gladness should be effortless rather than a struggle to find something good about bad times.

Ever since Jeff died, though, I tried to play my own version of the game (though I didn’t know that’s what I was doing) by finding something to appreciate every day. I needed a way to ground myself because so often during those first years I felt as if I were teetering on the edge of the abyss, and without a firm footing, I feared I would topple into that bottomless black pit.

The lessons learned back then have served me well. I make sure to appreciate every flower that comes up, every blade of grass that shimmers in the sun. In a glass half full/half empty sort of way, I try to see what’s there rather than what isn’t. For example, to see the plants and sections of grass that are doing well instead of worrying about the areas of the yard that are desiccating no matter what I do.

Some days, however — like today — I find it hard to appreciate much. It’s been too hot for too long; it’s too much work trying to keep the weeds from taking over; and it’s too hard to focus on what is still growing rather than what once was doing well but is no longer thriving.

I took this same curmudgeonly attitude on my walk today to check out how my friend’s roof was coming along. The job site was deserted, but I could easily see why — the roof has been re-sheeted, ready for to be shingled whenever the rest of the roofing materials are delivered. On my way back home, I stopped to pick up an item at the dollar store, and when I checked out, the clerk said, “Have a good one.” Sometimes I can let that idiocy go, but on a day when I cannot even appreciate that I have glass, let alone whether it’s half full, I find it impossible to hold my tongue.

“Have a good one what?” I asked. The clerk had to think about that one for a minute, then said hesitantly, “Day?” The thing is, all the elderly people I have taken care of become fixated on their bowels (mostly because moving them has become a difficult non-daily task for them), so they are always pleased when they “have a good one.” Anyway, the clerk finally said, “Have a good day,” but then as I turned to leave, she said again, “Have a good one.” I just looked at her and shook my head.

Some things are just not worth dealing with.

Although I have temporarily given up on trying to keep the weeds in check, temporarily given up on caring about the less-than-appealing areas of my yard, I still do manage to find something to appreciate if only in passing, such as the lance-leaf coreopsis, pictured below. Now that was something effortless to be glad about — the original seeds were strewn three summers ago, and these perennial plants raise themselves without any help from me.

So maybe the “good one” the clerk told me to have was this flower. In that case, I should have thanked her for the pretty bloom instead of giving her a semi-rough time.

Anyway, have a good one, whatever “one” it is that you want to be good.

***

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.

Ice Cold Blog

On hot days, an “ice cold” anything sounds good, so how about an ice-cold blog? Not that this blog itself will be ice cold, because the blog can only be as cool as the running temperature of whatever device you are using to read this, but the topic is, for certain, “ice cold.”

In a book I skimmed through, the woman character ordered an ice-cold beer, which always seemed silly to me. Wouldn’t an ice-cold beer be a frozen one? As I found out, after wasting way too much time googling various “ice cold” themes, beer can be ice cold without being frozen.

The temperature of ice is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Water freezes at thirty-two degrees, but the temperature of the ice cools to the ambient temperature of wherever it is stored, so it can get down to 0 degrees or minus twenty, or whatever temperature at which the freezer is set.

Beer, on the other hand, freezes at 28 degrees Fahrenheit, so technically, you can have an ice-cold beer at 32 degrees, but why would you want to? If you like beer, that is. The colder the temperature, the less the flavor — good or bad — of beer is discerned, which is why it is suggested that lite beers be served ice cold. The optimum temperature for good beers to be poured at a bar or restaurant is 38 degrees, so that when it gets to the imbiber’s table, it will have reached its optimum drinking temperature of 48 degrees — cold enough to be refreshing, warm enough so that all the flavor (and the odor, which is a part of what we discern as flavor) is apparent.

After the woman in the book drank her ice-cold beer, she went home to her ice-cold apartment, because supposedly, that was the temperature that her ancient dog preferred. Really? That old dog who was near to dying preferred the house temperature to be set at 32 degrees? I think not. The ideal inside summer temperature for dogs is between 75 and 78 degrees, but for small dogs (as the story dog was) such a temperature is too cold, so for them, between 78 and 80 degrees is a better temperature. A comfortable winter temperature for most dogs is 68 to 72 degrees. So that gives us a comfort range for dogs from 68 to 80 degrees. That is a far cry from an ice-cold 32 degrees.

Such ridiculousness from authors who should know better leaves me cold (though not ice cold), so I skimmed through the rest book to make sure I wasn’t missing anything and tossed it aside.

I did learn something, though it wasn’t from the book but from my research into optimum temperatures. Unlike what I used to believe, it is possible to drink an ice-cold beer, and has been possible as long as ice has been a commercial product. In fact, the term “ice-cold beer” has been around since 1887 when the Wild White Elephant Saloon in Fort Worth apparently coined the phrase.

So now, after reading this ice-cold blog, do you feel a bit cooler?

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

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

Learning About Roofs

I stopped by my friend’s house today to check on the progress of his roof, and I was shocked at what the naked roof looked like, though I don’t know why I should have been since the only roofs I’ve had any dealings with have been my garage roof and that of my gazebo. In both those cases, the construction workers built the roof from scratch, nailing OSB board (Oriented Strand Board) to the trusses.

Every step of the construction of those edifices seemed clean and sturdy, which of course, it would be since the materials were all new. This old roof, on the other hand, is . . . old. More than 100 years old, to be inexact.

At one time, my contractor — the same guy who’s doing this job — and I talked about a new roof on my house. My roof is less than fifteen years old and is in great shape, though some of the granules have come off the shingles, so our talk was more hypothetical than a serious discussion. (The granules were mostly apparent in the detritus after the gutters had been cleaned, so it could have been an accumulation over several years which is normal.)

Anyway, after seeing my friend’s roof with all the various layers of shingles pried off, the contractor told me that my roof could look the same since that’s how they used to build roofs.

He said that because of the additional cost of replacing the sheathing as well as the shingles, I shouldn’t even consider replacing the roof until it leaked, got damaged by hail, or shingles started blowing off. That’s pretty much what I had already decided because I see no point in replacing something that’s working, but it was nice to have the corroboration from someone who knows what he’s talking about.

I suppose it’s possible that when my roof was last reshingled, they replaced the sheathing too because that’s something insurance companies demand, but I don’t think they did it. There is a hump in the roof where the house and the back porch meet, and if the roof had been installed correctly, there would have been no hump. But who knows. They might have replaced the house sheathing but not the porch, or the porch could have been done at another time, or . . . any number of things. With any luck, I won’t ever find out how my roof is made because the roof could hold up for the rest of my tenure here. If luck deserts me, at least I have a vague idea of how much it would cost to replace. (“Vague” because construction materials are inflating at a much higher rate than other products.)

I always figured if the roof had to be replaced because of hail damage or something like that, the insurance would pay for it, but apparently they only pay a prorated portion, and because of the moderate age of the roof combined with the exorbitant hail-damage deductible prevailing in Colorado, I wouldn’t get any money from them. Makes me wonder why I’m paying such a high premium if they’re not going to pay out for damages, but for now, it’s better if I don’t think of that and simply hope for the best. (Normally, “hope for the best” is not a good financial plan, but at the moment, it’s all I have.)

It is interesting, though, watching my friend’s roof being redone. It’s like a dress rehearsal for if I ever have to replace mine, giving me some idea of how the process works. I just hope this second-hand lesson is all I ever have to learn about roofs.

***

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.

Loads Off My Mind

I miss having work done around my place. There is something compelling about watching men work.

There is still plenty to do around here, but other jobs take precedence right now, such as “my” work crew reroofing the house I’m looking after for a friend. I’d stopped by to check on the work earlier today, and had planned to be back in plenty of time to post a blog before I go to work myself, but I stayed to watch. As I said, it’s compelling to watch men at work.

It’s just as fascinating to watch things being destroyed as being built. For now, all they are doing on the roof is pulling off the multiple layers of asphalt shingles as well as the bottom layer of shake shingles.

It makes me wonder what’s lurking under the outer layer of my shingles. Probably nothing good — there is a bump on the roof where the house meets the back porch, so whoever did my roof did something weird. Luckily, I don’t have to deal with that right now. And except to make sure the guys do the work and to check on them occasionally, I don’t really have to deal with my friend’s roof, either. They seem to have it well in hand.

An extra benefit of having gone to check out the worksite was that I met up with the person who sodded my lawn. I told him my sad sob story (sad sod story?), and he will help me figure out how to fix it. That’s such a relief! I felt bad about the swath of grass dying and another swath being overtaken with Bermuda grass, so it’s good to have someone else helping to shoulder the burden and ease my mind.

And if he doesn’t get time to stop by, if other things take precedence (as so often happens with this overworked crew), then I’ll continue my original plans of tracking down the right seed, reseeding the worst places, and then waiting to see what happens during the fall.

Meantime, it’s good to know that my friend’s roof will be fixed so I don’t have to continue to check for inside leaks. Normally, of course, that wouldn’t be a problem since we’re in a severe drought, but we’ve been getting quite a bit of rain lately, and I sure would have hated for my friend to return after having spent so many months taking care of an ill wife to find that I managed to destroy his house.

So that’s two loads off my mind! Whew.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

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

Science Says

A physicist at École Centrale Paris posted a detailed photo of a distant world that had supposedly been captured through the world’s most powerful space telescope. After the image got thousands of likes and oohs and aahs, he admitted the image was not a celestial body but a slice of chorizo sausage. He claims he perpetrated this hoax to make a point about fake news and how easily things were misinterpreted. He wanted people to proceed with caution and to be wary of studies and experts that support a particular point of view.

It seems to me that if he really wanted people to be wary, it would have made more sense to simply tell people to be wary, but where’s the fun in that? This fellow seems to like practical jokes — apparently, he’d posted the same photo online four years ago, claiming it was the blood moon as seen in Spain. (It makes sense in a whimsical sort of way since a slice of chorizo is a full-moon shaped, blood-colored product from Spain.)

Whether this particular usage of the photo was an actual hoax that he tried to backtrack from, a joke, or a timely warning as he claims, what I found interesting was not that people fell for his trickery (because truly, there’s no way we ordinary folk can tell if a photo is of a distant world or is simply a piece of pork) but that people want to believe in something bigger than they are. Even more, they want to be awed.

According to the dictionary, science is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” More simply, science is “the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena,” and “the discovery of general laws or truths that can be tested systematically.”

Despite science being a discipline of shared knowledge that is changed or refined as more observations are made and more experiments are done, many people look to “Science” (with a capital “S”) as an immutable authority, a secular replacement for religion as something both to believe in and to be awed about. Even worse, “Science Says” is often used as an excuse, a not-to-be-argued-with dogmatism, or a justification of one’s beliefs or actions, when in fact, “Science” says nothing. It has no voice. Scientists say things, and as shown above, what scientists say may not be the truth.

We certainly don’t need to turn our attention to scientists for something to believe in or something to “awe” over. We can go outside, look around, and see what we can see. After all, that’s how science as a discipline started, with people simply looking. Admittedly, we won’t see a piece of photo-shopped sausage, but we might see something even more intriguing.

***

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

New and Improved

I’d been buying a seltzer water at a nearby store for the past few months. It was simply carbonated water with natural flavorings — no sugar or salt or chemicals — but it hit the spot on those days when just plain water didn’t seem refreshing enough.

Unfortunately, it was a short-lived product for that store, and now it’s gone from the shelves. The manager told me they have a store brand of the same product, but like most so-called sparkling waters, theirs are nothing more than a clear soft drink, with most of the same ingredients (lots of chemicals!) as a diet soda.

This reminded me of all the other things I liked that were discontinued over the years, as if my liking a product sounded the death knell for it. One example that immediately comes to mind is Space Food Sticks. I really liked those things — they were the first energy and meal replacement bar, and helped keep my appetite — and weight — in check. And then one day, with no explanation, they were gone.

Other products, like Rely tampons had been misused, and girls who had no idea what they were doing died of toxic shock syndrome. The product, of course, was removed, leaving those of us who “relied” on them out of luck. The same thing happened with the original Sensodyne toothpaste, where the pain deadening ingredient was strontium chloride. Used as directed — only as needed — it was perfectly safe, but people used it every day, which caused problems. Now, there is no sensitive-tooth toothpaste that works for me, and to get a modicum of comfort, I have to use the products available every day.

Even something as simple as sassafras tea disappeared, or at least became uncommon, because of harmful side effects. But oh, I did so like sassafras tea and the root-beer-like flavor.

Some products that disappeared are available under the same name, but the product is completely different, such as Dreamsicles. The Dreamsicle of my youth was a creamy concoction, with a soft sherbet outer layer, melding into an ice cream center. Truly a dreamy treat!

Even something as ubiquitous as Dawn changed. The blue-colored Dawn advertises itself as the original scent, but it isn’t. The original scent had no floral undertones. But then, that’s just one of the thousands of products that have been “new and improved” to make more money for the manufacturers and less bang for the buck for consumers.

And on and on. Dozens of products gone or morphed into something completely different. That’s the problem of my having lived during a time of great population growth and growing corporate greed, though that may not be a fair assessment. The past several decades have also been a time of unprecedented product development, so there have been way more products available at any one time than ever before.

Still, it is tiresome always having to find and break in new items only to have them disappear on me a short time later. But maybe that’s a good thing? Who knows. Certainly not 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.

Big Sibling

Detectives and other operatives in current mysteries and thrillers look to the internet and the sites where people hang out for clues, so much so that when an author fails to mention those social sites, the absence is glaring. Just as when they don’t mention cell phones. Because cell phones make our lives so much easier and make it harder to be out of touch, the cliché is that the character forgot to charge the phone or is out of range or some such excuse to put the character further into jeopardy.

Which reminds me of Judge Judy and how when defendants talk about a text conversation, and Judy wants to see the message, the defendants always say that it was on a different phone that got broken, and now they have a new one. It happens so often that it’s rather a running joke. But as amusing (or not) as that may be, this post isn’t about cell phones but the social sites.

Have you ever noticed I cannot bring myself to call it “social media”? The closest I come is “social networking sites,” which is what they were known as when I first got online. The “media” part, I suppose, is to make us think these sites have some sort of credence, which they don’t. Not only is the news (on any side of any matter) suspect, so are the lives people portray. As if they are better — or badder — than they are in real life.

In fiction, the lives portrayed online are counted as evidence, especially if someone tells a detective they hadn’t seen the victim in several months, and an online photo shows them together. Or if they say they have never been to a certain place, and a post says otherwise.

Since this happens in real life too, I have never been so naïve as to think that anything I post online is private. I have assumed from the first day that “Big Sibling” is watching me. (Trying to be gender neutral here.) To that end, I have never posted anything I wanted to keep private. In fact, I want people to see my posts and to get to know me in the hope that they will buy my books. Still, I do wonder what I am inadvertently giving away. Anyone can do a bit of detective work and find out where I live, but any official would already know that. Anyone can put the clues together and come up with my age. A few people know when I was born, but generally online I use a pseudonymous birthday. And anyway, that information is available in any official data bank, and especially is available to anyone who has access to my driver’s license, so it’s not much of a secret.

Those officials could comb Facebook for my friends, but then, they would probably already know who they were. And Twitter and LinkedIn? I have no idea who most of my connections are, and I have no interaction with them. In fact, my profiles on both sites are more or less moribund, though the link to my daily blog is posted on both sites. Or at least it’s supposed to be. I haven’t checked recently to see if that is currently the case.

I don’t post photos directly to Facebook, though I suppose they are stored on their servers anyway because of the link to the link to my blog that I post on the site. But that’s okay. Lately all I’ve been posting are images of flowers, not me and whatever victim I might be accused of victimizing. (Though my life is so boring, I’m sure if any official were to check with my neighbors, all they would have to say about me is, “Yes, I know her. Yes, I saw her. I don’t remember what day, but it doesn’t matter. I see her out in her yard every day.)

I am so used to telling the details of my small life that if I did have a secret, I probably wouldn’t have one. I would have blabbed it here, and a blabbed secret is no longer a secret. Though come to think of it, it’s possible they would think that anyone so bland would have to be hiding something (something other than blandness, that is).

Too bad. It would be fun to have a secret. Or maybe not, if fiction is anything to go by. People with secrets are often victims. Since that brings us back to the beginning of this post about officials who come to social sites looking for clues as to who might have wanted to erase the secret by erasing the victim, I’ve apparently come to the end of what I wanted to say.

I hope you have a very nice (and very private) day.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

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

Second-Class Mind

In a book I just finished reading, a teacher accused a grown character of doing a job anyone could do. As he said, “You have a first-class mind. Or if you want to quibble, a good second-class one.” That tickled me for some reason, perhaps because that would be how I’d like myself described, as having a good second-class mind. For sure, no one ever accused me of being a genius, of having a first-class mind. In fact, one teacher in high school said to me, “I bet you think you have a high IQ, but you don’t. It’s average.” Why a teacher would tell a student that — no, let’s be specific. Why a teacher would tell me that, I don’t know. I do know that teachers always thought I was an overachiever, as if my good grades came from constant study. In fact, one teacher told my mother that I worked too hard and that I should take it easier. I’m sure that confused my mother since she never noticed me studying or doing homework, but then, teachers never saw me for anything other than a passable, passive child who didn’t cause trouble.

I’ve been decades away from the influence of teachers who underestimated me, and yet, perhaps they were right. Like the character in the book, I haven’t been doing much with my good second-class mind. In fact, if you must know (which is a silly way to preface a comment because no one “must” know anything about me), I’ve been spending this lazy summer afternoon dozing . . . cough, cough . . . I mean reading. Or should it be the other way around? I’ve been spending this lazy summer afternoon reading . . . cough, cough . . . I mean dozing.

Either way, it’s not the day that’s lazy, but me. In my defense, I was anything but lazy this morning — watering, weeding, chatting across my fence with neighbors.

At least this afternoon was more productive than yesterday afternoon. I have a OneDrive account that I set up when I got a new computer so I could easily transfer my files, and now that my free space is filling up, they want me to start paying for the service. Instead, I spent an hour or so deleting redundant files and folders, and I accidentally deleted an important folder — my blog photos. Come to think of it, it’s not that important since all the photos have been uploaded to my blog, but still, I didn’t want to delete it. I had marked the folder as one to save on my computer no matter what, but apparently, when I deleted it from OneDrive, it still deleted it from my computer. And since the folder in its entirety wasn’t in my recycle bin (each file was listed separately), I had to restore the entire recycle bin. It took my computer hours to get everything back where I had it.

Not that what I did had any importance, it’s that the net result of my falling asleep this afternoon while reading had the very same results as yesterday’s attempt to clean up computer files.

So what does all this have to do with having a good second-class mind? Nothing really except it goes to show that whatever class mind I have (even, perhaps, no class at all), I’m not using it.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

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

Procrastination

I’ve been procrastinating, not having anything in particular to write about. I don’t want to bore people with talk of my yard and garden, and I certainly do not want to continue crying about the brown sections of my lawn that are not improving but instead are getting worse. It’s not as if it’s a major catastrophe, not when people in devastated areas are losing not only their lawns, but their homes and even their lives. Still, I do find it depressing, seeing all that brown when just a couple of months ago those same spots were such a vibrant green. And, of course, the death of anything is hard for me to take. (I’m one of those who truly will not kill a fly.) The unsightly patches wouldn’t be so hard to take, I think, if I could immediately address what worries me, as I always like to do, but it will be a month or even more before I can start reseeding.

So when a friend stopped by to see if I wanted to go on a trip with her, I was glad of an excuse to continue procrastinating. Unfortunately, I had to turn down her invitation since she was leaving tonight and I wasn’t at all prepared to be gone for several days, but it was nice chatting with her.

Then I roamed around the internet for a while and stumbled upon an interesting interactive site: https://dinosaurpictures.org/ancient-earth#0. You can put in the name of your city, and it will show you what that bit of Earth looked like at various times over the past 750 million years. Now that certainly put my concerns into perspective!

And anyway, there is still much for me to enjoy in my yard. In fact, today when I was clearing out weeds, I saw what I thought was a rock, but when I picked it up, I discovered it was a cucumber. Most of the cucumbers on the vine are tiny, no more than an inch or two, so I have no idea how that one grew so fast.

And there are always a few flowers to cheer me up.

Well, what do you know — I just noticed that even with all the procrastination, I’ve managed to write enough to fill a blog post! 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.