Winter Redux

In the light of a warm spring day, it’s hard to remember the harshness of winter. It’s even harder to believe that winter weather will be returning in just a few days.

Winds will be bringing in a new storm, and snow is forecast. The lowest temperature on those supposed snow days will only be about 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so I wouldn’t believe snow was coming (and not just because of the bright day) except for the fact that I put away my snow shovel today. It’s been residing in my enclosed back porch for the winter to make it easy to grab when it snowed. Previously when I left it in the garage, I couldn’t get to it. Not only did snow pack in around my back door, but I needed the shovel to shovel my way to the garage to get the shovel.

But now it’s back in the garage, hanging up on my newly installed tool bar. I didn’t know if I should take a photo of the bar since it would show my oh, so valuable, discount store tools, but decided it would be okay since I doubt anyone would want them. What people steal are small power tools that are easy to sell, and the only thing powering my tools is me. And to be honest, that power source is not worth much of anything.

No one will be here working for the next few days. They have a lot of tree work that needs to be done before the winds hit, but maybe they will come on the windy days.

Meantime, I am enjoying the work that has been done.

It’s amazing to me how nice the place is shaping up to be. I never imagined owning a house, never imagined a garage for my aged car, and I certainly never imagined a landscaped yard (though there will be some wild and weedy spots) and yet it seems that I will eventually have all three — not just the house and garage, but a nice yard.

In my pre-grief years, I’d never been one to talk about the good things in my life thinking it was akin to bragging, but now I know it’s about acknowledging my blessings and being grateful for the way my post-grief life is going.

And I am definitely grateful.

Who knows, I might even be grateful for the coming winter redux.


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 the Wind Blew In

I had a lovely surprise today. I went outside as usual to check the weather, though I really didn’t have to — I could hear the strong winds and knew they would be pushing mountain air our way — but I wanted to see what if anything the wind blew into my yard. What I discovered was . . . workers!

I didn’t expect them today. The one worker who lives nearby comes on the weekend if he comes at all, and with the wind, I was sure they’d find a different job rather than battling with the weed blocker fabric that needs to go under the ornamental rock around the house and the breeze pathways.

And yet, here they are!

Apparently, it’s too windy to do any of their other work, especially putting on siding and trimming trees, so they came here to get caught up a bit. One is working outside and the other — lucky fellow! — is working in the basement out of the wind. I’m especially delighted with the work being done on the basement. It’s an old project that was never finished. The cement floor was put in, which I was most concerned about since the old crumbled concrete floor seemed so dangerous and gave the basement a dungeony feel. I haven’t really been concerned about the cracks in the walls being fixed since they are superficial, and more importantly from my standpoint, I won’t be using the basement for storage. If I do need it for storage, I have a much bigger problem than an unfinished project because I should be getting rid of things rather than accumulating more stuff.

I am concerned, though, about having the sump pump put in, which I reminded them about today. The water table here is high, and when there are copious rains, as there occasionally have been, basements get flooded. It’s sort of silly to be concerned about it during a time of great drought, but in my experience, droughts tend to end with huge rainfalls.

Still, whether necessary or not, it would be good to have one project completely finished.

We also talked about what to get to hang my tools, and once those racks are up, the inside of the garage should be completely finished. The gutters would then be the only extant garage project, but installing them is not a project for a windy day.

I am truly delighted with the paths that are going in. Not only will they add to my safety, they will define the yard as well as fill in a lot of the space I would otherwise have to care for. Right now, caring for the yard is not a problem. To be honest, it’s not a problem because I haven’t been doing anything to care for the lawn, but when I do need to start taking better care of my yard, a couple of patches of grass will be about all I can handle. And I do want some grass since it adds to the curb appeal. Besides, what’s the point of having a lawn mower if you never use it?

The paths aren’t far enough along to show in a photo — mostly all you’d see is the gray fabric, so here are photos of the hen and chicks I planted last year. They are doing surprisingly well considering the harsh winter we had.

As you can see, the dandelions are also doing well.


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.


For a hermit, I see rather a lot of people, at least on a casual basis. This morning, I talked with the woman who is helping me look after the house of mutual friends who are out of town dealing with a medical emergency. On my way back from watering their plants, a friend pulled her car up in front of me, and inquired about those friends. We talked for a while, then I headed on home. I spied my next-door neighbor outside, and so I stopped to chat with her for a few minutes. And then I chatted with the fellow who recently moved to the house on the other side of mine.

I’d been worried about having neighbors on both sides since I’m not one for noise, but so far, it’s been nice. Although the new neighbor has a dog, he’s been quiet, which I appreciate. It means that since he doesn’t bark at any little thing, there have been no major problems. I might rethink this once the new guy starts working with his power tools to turn a bus into a motor home, but I can’t really complain since I’ve been the source of noise over the past two years — building the garage, for example.

This is a temporary arrangement because when the bus is finished, the new neighbor will take off, but for now I like having neighbors on both sides. Not only is it a friendly way to live since the neighbors on both sides are nice, but it makes me feel safe.

The electricity isn’t turned on next door yet, so the guy asked if he could use my electricity for a couple of projects. My tendency is always to say yes and regret it later, so I told him I would have to check with my brother. My brother’s tendency is always to say no, so it helps give me reality check. In the end, his main objection was that the neighbor would take advantage (which I told the neighbor, sort of as a joke as well as a warning), but if that doesn’t happen, the good will would be worth it. (The owner has always been nice to me in a rather distant way, though he did let me transplant some lilac shoots, which was truly neighborly.)

Besides these neighbors, there is a third neighbor who lives across the alley behind me that I talk to frequently, as well as one across the street I talk to occasionally.

I’m surprised, but I like having friendly neighbors. It is fun, especially at this time of year when we are all outside more. In a way, it feels like it did when I rented a room in a house, where everyone had their own lives and their own space and yet the casual encounters were friendly. It’s also nice knowing that someone would be aware if something happened to me. My permanent next-door neighbors and I have a sort of code — when I wake in the morning, I raise a certain shade, and they tend to look for it. So far, I’ve not had a problem, but if I didn’t raise the shade, they would at least send a text to find out what was going on.

It’s amusing to me that of all the situations I could have imagined before I moved here, I never imagined that I would end up being so much a part of a neighborhood.

And speaking of neighbors, these tulips belong to another, more distant neighbor, but I had to take a photo to assuage my tulip envy. Maybe someday, I’ll have a patch of tulips as extensive as hers!


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.

Continuing Car Saga

Several years ago I had a hard time with my car because, as I found out later, the mechanic I went to at the time was a cheat and not only didn’t do what he was supposed to, he actually sabotaged the vehicle. In one case, instead of replacing the leaky brakes, he cut the rear brake line and blocked it with a bolt. I still don’t understand the reasoning behind that. And there was something about the points. Either he put in bad points or used cheap ones, or something, because the car kept breaking down.

I eventually found a mechanic who only dealt in air-cooled VW Beetles. He switched out the original ignition with an electronic ignition, which eliminated the points problem. Of course, things are never that easy. It turns out that the electronic ignition and the carburetor no longer “spoke” to each other, so he had to put in an older carburetor, which entailed reworking various connections.

Fast forward to today. The carburetor he put in no longer works, so my current mechanic ordered and installed a new carburetor. And no surprise, it doesn’t speak the language of the electronic ignition. The mechanic spent all day yesterday trying to get everything meshed, without much luck. (I felt bad that he had to do all that work, but he seemed happy enough to have something different to do since it’s a far cry from what he normally does.) He’s trying one more thing today, replacing some connectors, but he doesn’t think it will work. While researching the problem, he found site after site that categorically said not to put an electronic ignition in this particular model and year because of the very problem he encountered.

So now the best option seems to be to order a new ignition of the non-electronic variety and install that. I had no problem with the original-style ignition until the days of the cheating mechanic, so I’m okay with that, and in a way I prefer it since it restores the car to its original condition. Although I had no objection to the electronic ignition, I never really liked the idea of a non-regulation carburetor.

I do like that this new mechanic seems to be invested in my car. I think he gets as much a kick out of people commenting on the vehicle when it’s in his care and listening to their reminiscences of their experience with a VW bug as I do.

Even though some people think I need to get a new car (and as I get older and have a harder time clambering in and out, I sometimes agree), I’ll stick with this one to the end — either my end or the car’s end. The money I put into the car each year is a lot less than a monthly car payment would be. Besides, it’s to the point that I almost have to keep it. I mean, how many people have bought but a single vehicle in their entire life, and are still driving that vehicle? It gives me a weird sort of prestige. And makes almost everyone I meet an instant friend.


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.

Rules to Live By. Maybe.

I have been reading the Orphan X series by Gregg Hurwitz about a child who was taken from an orphanage at a young age and trained to be an assassin. The person who trained the orphan who would become “The Nowhere Man” also trained him to retain his humanity as much as possible, and gave him a series of commandments to live by.

I was intrigued by the rules the orphan was taught because most of them seemed to be things that we all should know. (The eighth commandment for most of us would be to never kill anyone, not just a kid, but I suppose if one is an assassin, the distinction is necessary.)

The First Commandment: Assume nothing.
The Second Commandment: How you do anything is how you do everything.
The Third Commandment: Master your surroundings.
The Fourth Commandment: Never make it personal.
The Fifth Commandment: If you don’t know what to do, do nothing.
The Sixth Commandment: Question orders.
The Seventh Commandment: One mission at a time.
The Eighth Commandment: Never kill a kid.
The Ninth Commandment: Always play offense.
The Tenth Commandment: Never let an innocent die.

Honorary mention – Don’t fall in love with plan A.

And from a different series by a different author: Don’t believe everything you think you know.

A couple of these “commandments” really make me think, especially the second one. Is it true how you do anything is how you do everything? If so, it makes sense to pay attention to how you do the simplest thing to make sure when it comes to something important, you act the way you need to act.

And though the final rule about not believing everything you think you know isn’t something Orphan X was taught, but was a precept taught to new cops in another series, it fits with the rest, and it, too, makes me think. We do tend to believe what we think we know, and that is true today more than ever since that’s basically all we can do — from all the various “facts” at our disposal, we choose which ones to believe, though some of those “facts” have to be false since not all of them can be true.

Whether these are rules for us normal, real live humans (rather than characters in a book) to live by, they are intriguing, to say the least.


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.


Today has been a day of waiting. My car was supposed to have finally been made road ready by this evening, but even after a day of waiting — another day of waiting — the car still isn’t finished. It started several weeks ago when I took the car in because it kept bucking and stalling. It turns out that the spark plugs had burned out way too fast because of a leaky carburetor. (Too much air in the gas makes the engine run hot.) He ordered a carburetor, which took a couple of weeks. When it came in, I made an appointment for my day off. He likes having the car all day, and he leaves in the evening before I get off work, which pretty much limits his ability to work on my car.

When I showed up for the appointment, he couldn’t work on it. He was backed up, and because of the heavy rain, I didn’t mind waiting another week.

So the next week when I took it in, he changed out the carburetor, but didn’t have time to adjust the valves, and without that adjustment, the car runs like an old rusted out truck that hadn’t been maintained for decades. So, another appointment for today.

And I’m still waiting.

Luckily, he was able to put the car in a bay for the night, which not only protects the car but makes sure it’s at the head of the line for tomorrow. Keeping my fingers crossed!

I don’t know why a day spent waiting feels any different from any other day. I mean, I did the same things — read, play a game on the computer, take a short walk, wander around my yard, talk to neighbors. Oh, and I took photos of my tulips!

I guess it’s more that I don’t have my normal sense of untimeliness when I’m waiting because waiting for something almost by definition indicates a timeline.

I should be used to waiting by now, considering how sporadically anyone comes to do work on the house. I’ve figured out the problem — the same problem a lot of people around here have. The jobs are too small for a contractor to use a full crew, and many workers can’t work without supervision, so it’s hard to split crews into smaller groups. Or something like that.

Not that it matters. If I weren’t waiting for any of these jobs to be done, I’d be waiting for others since there always seems to be something that needs to be fixed.

Meanwhile, there are tulips.


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.

Esoterical Egyptian Tarot

The tarot deck I am using this month is a collector’s item: the 1980 Enoil Gavat tarot, also known as the Tarocco Esoterico Egiziano (the Esoterical Egyptian Tarot). It’s another large deck, though it’s easier to fan out than the one I used last month, and is packed full of every imaginable tarot-related symbol. Supposedly, there are a few jokes hidden in the cards, most notably the name of the deck, which is the artist’s name, Tavaglione, spelled backward.

The word on the back of the card Opotoim is another backward play on words — mio topo — and is in honor of the movie El Topo, written, directed by, and starring the tarot master Alejandro Jodorowsky. The movie is a 1970 Mexican art film and El Topo in Spanish means “The Mole,” though in Italian Mio Tope means “My Mouse.” Another example of the artist’s sense of humor?

My card pick for today was the page of wands, and the main keyword is “stranger” or “foreigner.” A different interpretation of the page of wands mentions that I have a curious mind. And both those meanings are so apropos of today.

When I stepped outside to check the weather as is my habit, I noticed a U-Haul pulled up to the vacant house next door. Later, when my walk took me past the truck, (see where the curious mind comes in?) I got to talking to the fellow and discovered he’s going to be using the place, and the owner’s help, while turning an old school bus into a traveling home. I told him it sounded fascinating (which of course it does) and asked if he minded if I checked on his progress from time to time. He seemed delighted with the idea, though I got the impression it was more for the safety of his tools and such than bragging rights. The more people out and about, the more cautious nefarious folk tend to be. And he’s right to be concerned. There has been an inordinate amount of theft in the area, though I have heard that the main thief now lives in a different neighborhood.

Thievery isn’t the only problem. People also leave things behind, and that’s just as bad as people taking things — this morning, another neighbor had to clear away someone’s “home” — a sleeping back and other paraphernalia from one of the many homeless here in town. (Compliments of the homeless coalition that brings homeless here from the major cities in Colorado and elsewhere, and if people wash out of the program, they move into our alleys and abandoned houses.)

I don’t really see anything mystical in this particular card showing up on this particular day. After all, the law of averages dictates that at least some of the cards would be spot on.

But it is interesting, nevertheless — both the card and the stranger.


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.


It’s amazing how sore a person can get doing a bit of gardening if it’s at the beginning of the season and she is not yet used to digging holes.

This morning when I went outside to see what the day was like (still the most accurate way of checking the current weather), I noticed that a few of my tulips were budding, and one was in bloom!

I was so thrilled with the discovery that it gave me the energy and inspiration to transplant a couple of lilac bushes. The bushes I planted last year from the Arbor Day Foundation all just stared at me when I watered them, and though they greened up a bit, they never grew. And this winter killed them. I was able to get a couple of “volunteers” from a neighbor to replace the poor moribund twigs.

It didn’t take me that long, and I thought I was outside for a short while, but now? Oh, my. I am sore from head to foot.

So tomorrow, whatever happens inspiration-wise when I go out to check the weather, I will simply enjoy the tulips and resist the urge to do more.

The tulips that flowered are those I planted this past fall. Considering the massive failure of the previous fall’s plantings, I was very careful to prepare the soil and measure the proper depth and distance to plant each of the bulbs. And they did well.

Many of the original bulbs are growing leaves this year (to my surprise and delight), but very few are budding, which according to one gardening site, could mean they weren’t planted deep enough. So next fall, I will have a choice — pile more dirt where the bulbs are, or dig them up, spread them out, and make sure they are replanted at the proper depth.

Or, of course, I could do nothing and see what happens.


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.

Things Are Happening

I dragged out my hoses today and watered my plants. I don’t know if it was the right thing to do, since I don’t know if they need water, but I am erring on the side of wetness. We haven’t had any moisture for several days now, and the last time it rained for any length of time was more than a couple of weeks ago. Considering that today was the first of a series of 80 degree days, the water seemed called for, but I might be sorry when the temperatures drop again. And they will. The last frost around here is around the fifth of May, and that’s still a month away.

The problem with an area like this with early warm temperatures and late frosts is that so often plants grow expecting it to be spring and then go into shock when they realize they woke too early.

Eventually, I’m sure, I’ll be more confident when it comes to gardening, but for now I have to do what I think the plants will appreciate during these unseasonably warm days, and that is give them water and hope I’m not overwatering.

So far, it seems, most of my bushes came through the winter okay. The only ones that seem to have given up the ghost are those that struggled all last summer. Luckily, I am in this for the long haul, so the garden spots in my yard don’t have to be perfect. It’s more important for me to cultivate plants that will survive the wide swings of temperatures.

The most surprising thing so far this spring is that bulbs are springing up all over the place. The first fall I was here, I planted 300 bulbs all around the front lawn area, hoping to see flowers midst the green, but not only did a scant few of the bulbs peek out of the ground, the grass remained inert, too. I figured the bulbs were a lost cause, but apparently not.

It’s amazing what even a sort of wet winter will do! So far, though, only the greenery is visible. No buds. The crocuses bloomed, but they were short-lived. Now the glory of the snow is coming up, and they seem to be hanging around a bit longer than the crocuses did.

Someday, maybe, I will have a yard to be proud of, but for now, the bushes are still tiny, the greengage plums are trying to decide if they want to live here, and many of my fall plantings seem to be hibernating.

Tomorrow, perhaps, a couple of the workers will come to lay out more rock. (Another reason I watered today. I didn’t want to get in their way if they do show up.)

So little by little, things are happening.


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.

Happiness and Contentment

In a book I’m reading, a character described herself as happy but not contented or satisfied. Can you be happy if you’re not content? I thought happiness and contentment were pretty much the same though, though some people equate happiness with a more robust feeling than contentment, sort of like an inner effervescence that bubbles outwardly to affect those around them.

But then, what do I know. I say I’m happy, but what I really am is at peace, contented, grateful, accepting of my life. Anything more than that, at least to me, seems to be overkill. People make a lot of effort to be happy, though happiness was never my goal in life. I was more interested in reading, learning, trying to lead a meaningful life. I do enjoy the moments of effervescence, though there’s always a letdown afterward, but I don’t live for them.

Unless I’m wrong about what happiness is?

(A pause here while I look up “happiness” in an online dictionary.)

Well, that sure was productive! According to the definition I found, happiness is the state of being happy. Sheesh. So I looked up “happy.” “Happy” is defined as an enjoyable or satisfied state of being.

Now, of course, I’m more confused. Or maybe the author of that book was. Unless by “happy” the author meant being problem-free, able to get or to do whatever one wants? The character certainly had that, at least up to the point where she was killed, ostensibly for being too happy.

I don’t suppose it really matters what happiness is, how it is defined, if we pursue it or wait until it finds us. It’s something each of us knows we have.

Actually, no. That’s not true. Studies have shown that happiness is found mainly in retrospect. When someone is involved in a challenging situation that takes all their time and energy, they don’t realize until later they were happy. In fact, often while going through this “happy” situation, people think they are decidedly unhappy.

So what does it all mean? Who knows. I don’t, and that author sure didn’t. Maybe you do?


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.