Statistics That Seem to Speak for Themselves

I came across an interesting statistic the other day: between 2000 and 2019, the number of students in the USA increased by 7.6 percent, the number of teachers increased by 8.7 percent, and the number of district administrators increased by 87.6 percent. In case you think that’s a typo . . . well, it isn’t.

It goes go to show where the problem with our education system lies — in the bureaucracy. It explains the politicization of the schools and why students are being taught so many topics parents think are their purview, such as sex education, gender identification, political leanings, and a whole slew of other subjects that don’t really belong in schools. Or maybe they do. I do know that, as many totalitarian political leaders discovered, if you want to change the social fabric of a country or a world, you start with the youngest. (I hesitate to use the dreaded term “indoctrination,” but that’s what anything beyond the basics — reading, writing, arithmetic — comes down to.) Such changes aren’t made immediately — it takes generations and whole lot of political hacks to force those changes.

Not surprisingly, the blue states have a greater growth in the number of administrators, since it seems that what is being taught in schools is more of a liberal agenda, but in all states, education funds and authority are flowing away from schools and toward the bureaucracy.

Do I sound outraged? Well, I’m not. I’m all out of outrage. During my life, I’ve dealt with a vast number of outrageous matters — systemic injustice, torture, genocide, terrorism, horrors galore. Not that I experienced much myself, though I was alive for many such instances and beyond that, I learned of some ghastly occurrences from history classes, and the rest came from my years of reading. (It’s why I stick with mostly fiction nowadays — if there’s an issue I don’t want to deal with, I close the book or skip to a more felicitous chapter.)

Still, these statistics do surprise me, though they shouldn’t. There is a war going on this country between two completely different ideologies. In my younger years, it didn’t matter too much what one’s politics were — we all basically wanted the same thing: a safe place to live and to raise families, freedom to believe what we believe, a chance of financial success or at least a living wage. Nowadays it seems as if the ways of getting those things are vastly different depending on one’s politics, so much so that it’s hard to believe people still want the same thing. In fact, how one defines those things are different from person to person and party to party. One side wants a heck of lot more government intervention, the other side wants less.

Admittedly, this division hasn’t simply sprung up in the past few years. It started generations ago — long before I went to school. And now this war is taking place in the classrooms to a greater extent than any time previously.

And oops. I can’t believe I wrote this. I try to stay away from anything that smacks of politics because nothing I say really matters and only makes people argumentative, but oh, well. The statistics seem to speak for themselves.

***

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.

Pizza For One

I came across a commenter somewhere who claimed that pizza for one is the loneliest meal, and I had to laugh. For that person, I’m sure the claim was true, otherwise they wouldn’t have thought it, let alone said it (unless they said it for effect), but it certainly isn’t true for me.

The loneliest meal I ever had was the Thanksgiving after Jeff died. I was at my dad’s house, hosting my brothers and their wives. My dad was at the head of the table, and I was at the foot, closest to the kitchen, so I could easily get up and fetch whatever people needed. It felt in so many ways that I wasn’t even there — I was still feeling removed from life because of grief, and I had been more or less forced into my deceased mother’s place. Perhaps my family thought they were being kind by having me sit at the foot of the table, but I felt more as if I were a stand-in for her than as if I — as myself — were present.

After dinner, my brothers and their wives left, two-by-two, and I stood there with my dad, watching them leave. My dad went to watch television, and I continued to stand there, completely immobile in my loneliness.

The second loneliest meal I ever ate was a Christmas dinner shortly after I moved to this town. I’d joined a women’s club, but that particular meal was for the husbands, too. I sat across from the woman who had invited me to join, but then someone came and said they needed to sit in my seat since it was easily accessible. So I moved down one space. Then the husband came, and they asked me to move down another space. Then another couple came and said they needed to sit by that couple. By the time everyone was seated, I was at the far side of the table, one husband next to me, with his back to me so he could talk to his wife, and one husband across from me, also turned away from me.

I didn’t really know any of those people, and up to that point, no one had said anything to me except to move down a space. I desperately wanted to leave, and I might have except that I had caught a ride, and it was too far for me to walk home in the dark. I tried to get involved in the discussions, but they were talking about people and things I had never heard of. So I sat there, totally ignored. (I quit that club. I figured if they weren’t interested in me, I certainly wasn’t interested in them. Luckily, this was the only truly bad social experience I’ve had since moving here.)

Next to these experiences, pizza for one is a treat. Actually, I eat pizza so seldom, perhaps once a year, that pizza really is a special treat. And anyway, I generally prefer eating by myself, accompanied only by a book, though I do occasionally have a meal with someone else. Yesterday, for example. Another widow and I have been getting together for Thanksgiving, not so much that she really wants a Thanksgiving dinner, but more for her (and me) to have an excuse to turn down invitations to other families’ meals (no matter how well-meaning and kind the people are, being a third wheel at a family feast is a very lonely experience).

Whatever the reason for us to get together, it was nice sharing a meal and the cooking. (I contributed the turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, she brought corn muffins, cranberry sauce, seasoned corn, roasted brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes with ginger, and desert. We both contributed a bottle of sparking apple juice.)

She goes away for Christmas, otherwise we’d probably get together then, too, but I’m just as happy spending the day by myself. I didn’t do anything last year that I remember, though this year I might treat myself to a special meal.

Pizza for one, perhaps.

***

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.

It’s Weird Being the Same Age as Old People

I saw a saying on a tee shirt that made me laugh: It’s weird being the same age as old people. Because . . . oh, how true that is!

So often now when a character in a book is described as old, the character’s acquaintances go on and on about being worried about the old person, or the character’s children wonder how they are going to take care of their aged parent, or the detectives discount what an old witness might have seen because of the unreliability of an elderly person’s eyesight or hearing. I find myself nodding in agreement, because elderly people can be frail, fraught with ailments, have the beginnings of age-related dementia, or any number of issues.

Then, like a static electricity shock directly to my brain, it hits me that I’m the same age or even older than the character. When did “elderly” characters in books get so young? Or maybe they have always been young. (At least from the point of view of someone my age.) For example, although Miss Marple’s age is never stated in any of Agatha Christie’s stories, various clues make her out to be in her mid-seventies, so that’s the age she’s generally portrayed in movies. But Agatha Christie’s great-grandson thinks the “elderly spinster” was meant to be much younger — perhaps in her 60s.

Either way, these “elderly” characters are a lot younger than I imagine them to be, so perhaps a better question than “when did elderly characters get so young?” is “when did I get so old?” Either way, it really is weird being the same age as old people.

Although I have often written about getting older and have mentioned some of my age-related debilities, such as my wonky knees, for the most part, I don’t see myself as old. I don’t see myself as young, either. I’m just . . . me. Admittedly, I do worry about growing old alone, but even that shows my age ambiguity — “getting old,” you see, rather than “being old.” I have a hunch if Jeff and I were still together, age wouldn’t be a factor at all — we’d continue to deal with whatever life hands us without putting labels on it, but since I’m alone, and have only myself to rely on, it’s important for me to prepare now as much as possible for whatever old age might bring.

And it’s not just me. Other people in my situation — women who lost their mates and have been left to live alone — also think about the same things. One friend told me she had to be careful because what if she fell and knocked herself out and no one knew? This happened to one woman I know, but luckily for her, it was her cleaning lady’s day to work. I try not to think about such things, because there’s not much I can do about it but be as careful as I can (and I do have a neighbor who pays attention to my window shades and gets concerned if I don’t raise them each morning, so that’s a comfort) but this is simply concern for the coming elderliness, not for now. Still, if I were a character in a book, I’d be worried.

In real life, though, I don’t have to worry about being elderly. From what I’ve been able to gather, most of us consider an elderly person to be anyone who is ten or more years older than we are, so from that standpoint, none of us is ever really elderly until there’s no one that much older than us left alive.

So perhaps it’s not being the same age as old people that’s weird. Maybe it’s just age in general that’s weird.

***

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.

Malfunctions

It’s surprising to me that after owning this house for more than three years, there are still many things I don’t know. With any luck, any things I don’t know will be only small issues and that I’m not overlooking anything major. Still, there are new things to learn rather frequently. Although it has nothing to do with the house itself, I’m continuing to learn how to take care of a yard, and that could be a lifelong endeavor.

But even in the house itself, there are still things to learn, most recently, the doorbell. The original doorbell that is wired into the house doesn’t work, and a previous owner set up a wireless doorbell right above the defunct one. Delivery people generally press the old bell instead of the new one when leaving a package, so I’m used to listening for noises on my porch rather than waiting for a ring. The other day, a couple of friends came to visit. I didn’t hear the doorbell, but I did heard scuffling outside the door, so I went to let them in. I mentioned about not using the defunct doorbell, but they said they rang the new one.

I pushed the button, and sure enough, the doorbell didn’t work. (It’s not that I disbelieved them, it’s that I wanted to see the problem for myself.) Thinking that maybe the outlet the chime was plugged into wasn’t working, I plugged it into a different outlet. Still didn’t work.

I shrugged it off, thinking maybe it was time to get a new doorbell, but my friends thought perhaps there was a battery that needed to be replaced. There wasn’t a battery in the chime part, and there was no easy way to check the doorbell itself, so we ripped it off the doorframe. My friend managed to open it, and sure enough, there was a battery. Luckily I had the right battery (one of those nickel-sized batteries) as well as some thick two-sided tape to replace the now-working doorbell.

It just goes to show how few people come to visit because I have no idea how long the doorbell hasn’t been working. Obviously, it wasn’t a major issue, but still, it did surprise me that there was one more battery to replace that I didn’t know about. I knew about smoke alarms, of course, and I quickly learned about the thermostat battery and the carbon monoxide battery. The low-battery chirping from the carbon monoxide detector came on it the middle of the night once, and since it sounded exactly like the smoke alarms, I got up and changed the batteries on all the smoke alarms, and still that annoying sound kept me awake. I don’t remember how it finally dawned on me to check the carbon monoxide detector, but I do remember unplugging it from the outlet. Blessed release! I went back to sleep, and I am ashamed to admit that I never replaced the battery and put that detector back. I know how important it is, but I get tired of always changing batteries. Maybe someday . . . Or even better, right now. (Okay, I did it; the carbon monoxide detector is plugged in again.)

It makes me wonder if there will be more surprises. I know there will be problems like appliances that need repair, pipes that will freeze (though I do leave a faucet dripping when the temperatures dip too low in the winter) and any number of other things. (I’ve already had someone come deal with a toilet ring seal that needed to be replaced, a washer that wouldn’t spin, pipe malfunctions, and various other breakdowns.) But surely, after all this time, there aren’t any more hidden batteries or other house details for me to be aware of.

If there are, I suppose I’ll learn about them the same way I’ve learned about everything else — when they stop working.

***

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.

Stay Warm!

No wonder autumn seems like such a short season — it is. Summer borrows from fall to extend the torrid weather a couple of more weeks, and winter butts in on the back end, shoving the temperate season out of the way so it can get in a few early weeks of cold and snow.

According to the calendar, winter doesn’t arrive for another 32 days, but according to the weather, winter is already here. The high yesterday was about 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and although we only got an inch of snow yesterday, there was enough ground cover to warrant sweeping. And then, to clinch the winter encroachment, the temperatures last night got down close to zero, with a minus 7 windchill factor.

I was going to mention how cold it felt, but to tell the truth (as I try to do), I barely noticed the chill since I was outside only long enough to sweep off my front ramp and to check my mailbox. The rest of the time I was snuggled inside where it was warm.

Luckily, it warmed up to a sizzling 41 degrees today, so I was able to go to the library and replenish my stock of books. One of the books was on hold for me and I was about thirtieth in line (though admittedly, most of those people were from other libraries, and like most libraries, this one is jealous of its new books and holds on to them for about three months before sending them elsewhere), but sometimes being a good patron has its perks. Since this was Saturday afternoon, and the library doesn’t open again until Monday afternoon, the librarian let me check out the book ahead of the next person in line. Although she didn’t stipulate that she wanted it back early, she knows she’ll get it back quickly. Now that gardening season is over, what else do I have to do with my time but read?

Well, if it warms up into the fifties next week as the weather forecasters are anticipating, I will have to mow my lawn one last time, and probably even water since a scant inch of fluffy snow doesn’t amount to much moisture. (The average snow-to-liquid ratio in the USA is about 13 to 1, yet in the dry west, it’s closer to 50 to 1, so that 1” of snow we got yesterday is about .02 inches of moisture, a far cry from the .50 inches per week my grass needs in the winter. To get that .50 inches of moisture, we’d need 25 inches of the light powdery kind snow we often get. No thank you!)

Luckily (I think) when the frost comes and stays around without warming up during the day, I won’t have to worry about the grass. And who knows, I might eventually have to give up on the lawn altogether. Now that the Bermuda grass has gone dormant, leaving a wide perimeter of brown grass around the green, I can see how much that weedy grass has encroached in only a year.

But this wasn’t supposed to be a discussion of my lawn. It was supposed to be more about my visit to the library and how I knew just about everyone who was there today. Apparently, I wasn’t the only reader who had finished all their books in record time and needed to restock. It made for a nice social occasion, though actually, I’ve been plenty “socialized” lately. After last week where I agonized about attending a luncheon meeting only to have it postponed, this week I simply went without a second thought. Then yesterday, a couple of friends came to tea, and today, before the library visit, I talked to another friend. Whew! As a hermit, I am somewhat of a failure, though I still do spend the bulk of my time alone.

And, since I’m updating you on various matters — weather, library, grass, socialization — there’s one more thing. I mentioned that I updated my operating system to Windows 11. It also seems to have updated MS Word at least to a certain extent. Although this version is much the same as my previous one, there are small differences that keep me on my toes.

I just noticed that the heat keeps cycling on, so whatever warmth the sun brought seems to have dissipated, and we will soon be down to tonight’s low of 11 degrees. Yikes.

Stay warm!

***

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 Tax on the Harried and the Unwary

I received a postcard in the mail the other day that looked like a solicitation for donations from one of those wilderness organizations that pretend to be government sponsored. Normally I throw those things away, but because it was one I hadn’t seen before, I took a closer look and then an even closer look. It wasn’t until I read the entire thing as well as checked the website online that I realized it wasn’t a solicitation. It was worse — a rather sneaky kind of tax on the harried and the unwary as well as the literacy-challenge

Apparently, Colorado has enacted a new program where a Colorado Parks Pass will be charged with one’s vehicle registration. From what I can tell, opting in is the default mode. One can opt out, but that’s a separate step, and entails paying attention to the paperwork that comes with the license plate renewal and marking the appropriate box, which is why I call it a tax on the harried and the unwary. Too many people pay their bills without bothering to study them to see what it is they are paying for, and in this case, they’d be paying for a parks pass they might not want or need

Admittedly, the pass available through the Division of Motor Vehicles is being offered at a greatly reduced fee, which is nice for those who can make use of the pass or for those who don’t mind making the “donation.” For people like me, it’s completely worthless. Most of the parks are too far away, and even if I wanted to travel the requisite distance, I can’t get near many of them because so often the approach is along a gravel road that would rattle my car to pieces. Making the matter more problematic, the pass is not transferrable and is only good for the registered car.

Although the program seems worthwhile — the purported goal is to “Keep Colorado Wild” by supporting the state parks system, aiding in conservation efforts, and increasing accessibility — the way they are going about it strikes me as being sneaky. And it seems as if they know this. The goal is to generate at least $36 million for the program annually, and obviously, simply selling parks passes at the normal rate isn’t getting the job done. At the reduced rate, they will have to sell four times the number of passes to break even, and to reach the $36 million goal they have to sell an untold number of passes to those who would never even have considered buying one in the past, so it does seem as if they are counting on the harried and the unwary to automatically pay for the pass.

Perhaps I’m just being cynical. Maybe the program is one that most Coloradans want. It could be that people will gladly pay for the pass even if they never use it. Still, whatever happened to the billions made from the Colorado Lottery? Since 1983, the Colorado Lottery has paid $3.9 billion to voter-selected beneficiaries to preserve and protect Colorado’s parks and wild places.

Oh, well. As long as I don’t get suckered into their machinations and remember to opt out when it comes time to renew my license plates, that’s what’s important (to me, anyway.) Besides, it seems that if I want to support the parks system, I’d be better off buying a lottery ticket. Or two. It’s more honest since I know what I am going to get — not much of anything. And it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a parks pass I wouldn’t be able to use.

***

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.

Operating System Upgrade

I had an interesting experience yesterday, one I’d never had to deal with before. When I opened my computer, I found an offer for a free upgrade to Windows 11. After looking into the pros and cons, both by checking online and by querying an IT person (or at least someone who is more knowledgeable than I am), I decided to go ahead and do the upgrade. There’s less than three years left for support of Windows 10, so the upgrade would extend the life of my computer, at least the Windows part.

According to the prompt, the upgrade was supposed to take twenty minutes, but the minutes dragged on and on, and an hour later, the download and installation still weren’t finished. I’m sure part of the lag was due to my internet service. I used to have a variable speed, with mostly fast speeds that were incredibly fast, but somewhere along the line, the internet provider divided the speeds into two separate categories, and since I could never find out what the cost of the higher speed would be (it was one of those deals where you had to pretty much sign your life away before you’d get to find out the new rate), I kept what I had. For the most part, the internet is fast enough, but until yesterday, I haven’t had to download any huge files since the change.

Whatever the reason, the whole process took so long that I had plenty of knuckle-biting time.

[Weird aside. Knuckle-biter was once common slang for something that caused anxiety or suspense, but when I Googled the term, looking for a less trite way of saying the same thing, all I could find were myriad articles about dermatophagia, a condition where people compulsively eat the skin on their knuckles and fingers. The only reference I found to “knuckle-biter” meaning suspense is a “Polish knuckle biter,” which is a left-over Polish joke meaning that there is no suspense.]

But back to my upgrade. So, there I was, not literally biting my knuckles, but beginning to worry about all the things that could go wrong. I know nothing is a “piece of cake” except, perhaps, a piece of cake. And I know the answer to the blasé rhetorical question, “What could go wrong?” is that anything can go wrong and often does. The only other time I upgraded an operating system, it was done by an IT specialist who needed to install the new system so he could fix something else that was wrong with my machine, and he “forgot” to uninstall the previous operating system, which caused an enormous number of problems. (I think it was Trend Micro who, in looking for the reason why their program hogged all my CPUs, discovered the mistake and unistalled the old operating system for me.)

As more minutes ticked away, I worried about all the things that could go wrong. I didn’t care about my files so much since most are backed up, but I did worry about their messing with MS Word since I had such a difficult time getting it purchased and installed in the first place. (Not surprisingly, MS doesn’t want to sell the program — they make a whole lot more money by selling subscriptions.) Although I wasn’t worried about learning the new system — using a computer has always come easy to me — I did wonder about possible changes.

As it turned out, despite my concern, the only problem with the upgrade was the length of time it took for the new system to install itself. As far as I can see, everything I need is still in place and working well. Although there might be major differences under the hood, so to speak, for me, most of the changes seem cosmetic.

So perhaps it wasn’t such an interesting experience after all.

***

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.

I Love to Write Day

Today is national “I Love to Write Day,” so here I am, writing. To be honest, I’m not sure if I do love to write anymore; if I did, I’d be spending more time actually writing than simply thinking about writing. And I do spend a lot of time thinking about writing — wondering if I will write another book, and if so, what sort of story I would write, and mostly what I would do with the book when it’s finished.

How much I wonder about what to do with a book I have not yet written, don’t even have a clue as to plot or character, for sure makes me wonder how much I actually love to write. If love of writing was the key, I’d be writing, regardless of the disposition of the finished product.

What I need more than anything is a story I can get involved with and to be interested in for the year it takes to write, and so far, I haven’t found it. What I would like — to the extent that I would like anything to do with writing — is to get immersed in a world that is completely different from the one I live in, to become a character completely different from who I am, to tell a story that only I could tell.

I’d also like to write in a different way from I’ve always written, perhaps as diary or blog, where I discover the story, the characters, and their fictional world as I write. With all of my novels, I needed to know the antagonist, the protagonist, the basic conflict, the beginning, and the end, and then the creativity came in how I got from the starting place to the finish line. The closest I’ve ever gotten to writing without even a sketchy idea of where I was going is Break Time, the collaborative novel I did with friends from the Five Eyes countries (United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Britain). Break Time didn’t work out the way it was supposed to. As with the first collaboration I created, the Rubicon Ranch mystery series, the project was derailed halfway through because although it was supposed to be an online novel, those involved were more interested in getting it published than in keeping with the original intent.

So what if I did that sort of project by myself? Write a novel online as a blog — as a daily diary — creating the world and the characters as I wrote. If I did it online, I certainly wouldn’t have to worry about the disposition of the novel — it would be published online in blog segments as each was completed.

I’ve also been contemplating using the tarot cards as my story finder — to do readings for my characters to see who they are as well as daily or weekly readings (depending on how often I want to update the story on the blog) to see what they are doing. For an additional interest point, I could post the cards I used to write each segment of the story, which would give an added depth to those who can do their own reading of the cards, relating it to the blog segment.

Is this something that would keep me interested for the duration? I don’t know. Obviously, considering how seldom I am updating this blog, I am quite content not to write at all.

But things change.

And who knows what the future will hold? Not I, that’s for sure.

***

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.

Go? Stay away?

Back when “shelter in place” edicts went into effect, I happily discarded all my group activities. When I moved here, I’d been careful to get involved so that I wouldn’t become a total hermit and stagnate in my aloneness, but pulling back came at a good time. I already knew many people, had friends to see occasionally, a small job, and neighbors to talk to over my fence.

Even though most people seem to have gone back to their normal gregarious lives, I’m still leery about doing things in groups, though I have been attending meetings for the one group I still belong to. Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for the group), there have been several new members, just enough that the number of people attending makes me uncomfortable, but not enough to make me want to quit. Not that I would quit — all of the original long-standing members have become friends, and since they all have busy lives, the meeting is a good opportunity for me to visit with them. And anyway, I can generally handle anything for a couple of hours.

A lunch was added to the most recently scheduled meeting, with everyone to bring offerings to feast on before the business discussion followed by a special project, which would greatly have extended the time of being around others.

Thinking of all those people in a small room, especially since this is turning into one of the worst flu seasons in several years, and the flu season hasn’t even started, I worried about going, obsessed even. I didn’t want to take a chance on getting sick, but I also thought I should go since I seldom do anything in a group anymore. (And anyway, not everyone shows up each time, so perhaps it would have been okay.) All the dithering was driving me nuts, so I considered calling a friend and asking her to talk me into going. In the end, I decided to leave it up to the fates: if it was warm enough to finish my outside chores before it was time to get ready for the meeting, I’d go. If not, I wouldn’t.

As it turned out, despite the awful winds, I managed to water my lawn in plenty of time. Resigned, I started getting ready to go. Then I got a text: due to an emergency, the meeting was cancelled.

I laughed. Not at the emergency, of course, but at myself. All that worrying for nothing! It showed me the folly of becoming preoccupied by a situation that might not even come to pass. (Part of me wonders if all that obsessing somehow caused the emergency, which turned out to be rather minor in the end, but that, too is folly.)

So here I am again, apparently having learned nothing. The lunch and meeting have been rescheduled for next week, and I’m wondering: Should I go? It would be nice to step out of my hermitage and see friends. Should I stay away? It certainly wouldn’t be nice to be inadvertently exposed to any of the flus going around.

Go? Stay away?

Yikes.

When it comes time, I suppose I’ll do whatever it is that I end up doing, so there’s no real point to thinking about it before hand.

Or so I tell myself.

***

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 Turkey Day!

Thanksgiving is becoming like all other holidays, a time for people to trot out their favorite “racisms.” I understand their point, but the myth of the origins of the holiday in no way takes away from the benefits of having one day set aside to be grateful. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t be grateful at other times, but Thanksgiving is a group effort, not just a personal one.

Adding to the claims of racism against indigenous people are now claims of African racism, focused on the name of a traditional Thanksgiving food. Yams, that is. Apparently, a real “yam” is an African staple, a fibrous starchy root that can grow up to 45 feet. What we call yams aren’t yams, but sweet potatoes, even though those “orange sweet potatoes” have as much in common with a classic potato as the so-called yam has with a . . . well, with a yam. In fact, those orange “sweet potatoes” have more in common with a morning glory than with a classic potato. Yams, potatoes, and sweet potatoes all belong to different classifications; real yams are related to lilies, potatoes are part of the nightshade family, and sweet potatoes are part of the morning glory family.

Originally, there was a hard tuber that stayed firm even when cooked that was called a sweet potato. It vaguely resembled the yams of Africa, so the slaves called it a yam, and it became one of the “transfer” foods that helped captive Africans keep some of their own traditions. A staple of the southern diet for generations, it was considered an inferior food by rich whites. Later, when a new, softer, sweet potato was cultivated (the orange tuber we are familiar with), marketers needed a different name for the sweet potato, so they called it a yam. (A sort of racial theft.)

But it’s not a yam. Not a potato. Not even a traditional sweet potato. So who knows what it is. All I know is I cooked up a couple. (Unlike most people, I find the tubers sweet enough without the addition of sugar or marshmallows or whatever, and nibble on them without adornment as a treat.)

What does all this have to do with Turkey Day? Not much, really. These are just things I’m thinking and reading about as my turkey cooks. Yep. You heard it right. I’m cooking a turkey today. I was in the grocery store recently and having a hard time deciding what I’d like to eat. When I saw the turkey on sale, I thought, “Why not?”

Who says a turkey has to be cooked on Thanksgiving? Why can’t it be just . . . food?

So, that’s what I’m doing, cooking a turkey right now, which makes today a happy turkey 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.