Surprises. Mostly Pleasant.

I made good use of my day off and mowed the grass. The hardest part of using any bit of machinery seems to be cleaning the machine after use, and this mower, because it’s a mulcher that chops up the grass after it’s cut, seems to get “gunkier” than most. I never can clean all the grass gunk (for lack of a better word, and believe me, I’ve been on Google looking) off the underside of the mower. The second hardest part is emptying the grass catcher, mostly because it has to be done so frequently. This grass grows fast, and it is densely packed, so there is a lot of it. I’ve been using the ensuing mulch for mulch, so in some cases, I had to pull weeds before I dumped the clippings. The easiest part of mowing is . . . mowing. Though even that isn’t as easy as I’d hoped. Still, the whole project doesn’t take long, just a little more than an hour, so it’s not all that onerous.

After I finished with the grass, I watered the bushes and other plants that didn’t get a drink yesterday, then I planted hollyhocks. I have a lot of seeds grown from last year’s hollyhocks, and even though I planted them in the fall as my neighbor (who gifted me the original hollyhock seeds) suggested, none came up. A few minutes online gave me a different method — to soak the seeds overnight, then just lay them on the ground without covering them with dirt. Apparently, they need the light to germinate. So that’s what I did. I have plenty more seeds to experiment with if these don’t sprout.

When these tasks were finished, I roamed my pathways, looking for anything new, and I found some nice surprises.

The first rose of the season! I have never been able to find out what kind of roses these are. A rather lengthy bout of online searching didn’t produce any definitive results, though some people call this five-petaled flower a simple rose, a prairie rose, a shrub rose, a native rose, a wild rose, or any number of other names. All I know for sure is that it is some type of rose.

This allium grew among the lilacs. I didn’t even know it was there since it had never bloomed before. It’s so pretty with the purple allium, the green leaves, and the white lilacs.

The honeysuckle is in bloom, too. This honeysuckle is an old one and has been here for many years, perhaps even decades. It’s a bush, not a vine as many honeysuckles are, including a few I planted a couple of years ago.

I was also surprised to see an iris blooming. Before the fence was built, I’d tried to transplant some of the irises that would be caged between my fence and the neighbor’s garage, but most of those transplants seem to have died. This is the first time an iris I planted actually flowered.

The only unpleasant surprise was a pile of dirt off to the side of one of my paths. I thought I’d somehow shoveled dirt onto the path when I dug up some weeds, but when I started to push the dirt back where it came from, I discovered the real culprit of the dastardly deed. Ants!! Red fire ants are building a home. Considering how vicious the bites are from those ants, I’m lucky I managed to remain bite-free. If they continue to deconstruct my landscaping, I’ll have to do something about them, but I really don’t want to. I’m one of those people who literally won’t hurt a fly, or any creature, for that matter, but I make an exception for any that hurt me.

Luckily, my surprises were mostly pleasant ones.

***

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

The Day is What the Day Is

I’ve finally become acclimated to the clock change we had to make because of daylight savings time, and the disorientation I felt because of the change has abated. Unfortunately, I’m dealing with disorientation again, though this time it’s confusion not about hours but about days.

My work schedule was abruptly changed this week after almost two years on basically the same schedule. Now, I work one day that I always did, one day that I sometimes did, and sometimes one day that I never did. (Did that confuse you? Now you know how I feel!) In addition to all that, my “weekend” was changed to the middle of the week.

I’m not complaining. It’s actually a good schedule for me, with more free days than working days, so I’m sure it will be easy to get used to the new routine. But until then, I am rather lost in time, never quite sure what day it is or what I am supposed to be doing on that day.

Even though I had to work today, I still managed to water my grass. Tomorrow, I will water the bushes and trees. So that’s good. It’s easy to know where I stand when it comes to my yard — if I watered the grass yesterday, then I don’t need to do it today Same with the bushes. (If that sounds like a lot of watering for this time of year, we’re going through a hot spell — 97 degrees Fahrenheit today — so I am on a summer watering schedule.)

Unfortunately, the rest of my life isn’t as easy to figure out. If I worked yesterday, does that mean I have today off? If I have today off, does that mean I work tomorrow? Eek.

Luckily, I have calendars, both paper and electronic, to help keep me oriented. Mostly, though, I only need to keep track of what calendar day it is so I know whether to go to work, whether the library is open, whether . . . You get the idea. In the long run — or the short run — it doesn’t matter if today feels like Saturday or Sunday or Monday. The day is what the day is. And today is the day the first larkspur decided to bloom!

***

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.

Weeds and Weeders

I got a new long-handled weed digger. The first one I had was advertised as tap root weeder. The prongs closed over the root when you stepped on the lever, and then you yanked the whole weed up, root and all. It worked well until the handle broke. (The handle came in two pieces that needed to be screwed together, and the weeder broke at the break.)

This new weeder I got is better built. The handle is a single piece, and it has a release button to push the weed out of the prongs. The only thing I don’t like is that the prongs don’t close. You just twist the tool once the prongs are in the ground, lift up, and release. It seems to work okay for most weeds, but I’m thinking of getting another weed puller like the first one I had since it was better for tap roots, though I would make sure the handle is one piece.

I’m also mulching with my grass clippings since my mower mulches the grass as it cuts (in other words, it cuts it into small pieces rather than leaving the grass blades long), so I’m hoping that will cut down on the need to weed, but so far, it hasn’t worked. The weeds around here are tenacious and laugh at my attempts to keep them from growing.

With my luck, I’d invest in another weeder, then the weed problem would clear up on its own and I wouldn’t need either weeder. I used the phrase “with my luck” ironically, meaning I have bad luck, but the truth is, I have good luck (that’s how I ended up here in this house — good luck), so it seems as if investing in a new weeder would solve the weed problem once and for all. Either I’d have a weeder for any type of weed, or I’d have no weeds and two unnecessary weeders. I know which one I would choose!

Oddly, some parts of my garden areas that were overgrown with weeds last year seem to be fairly weed free this year. I’d dug up all the weeds last fall when I cleared out the dead flower stalks, so perhaps that helped. Or maybe they are waiting to gang up on me in the heat of the summer when I really don’t feel like digging weeds. Other garden areas, of course, seem to have more weeds this year.

But that’s part of gardening, right? Figuring out what plants you want and how to keep them growing, and figuring out what plants you don’t want and how to keep them from growing.

It’s all about learning, and learning is one thing I’ve learned how to 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.

Becoming a Gardener

It rained enough last night to drench the ground, so I was able to miss a day of watering my lawn, bushes, and other plants. Unfortunately, the rain must have been enhanced with weed growth hormones, because the weeds took over. I suppose I should have used the opportunity of a free day (no work today as well as no watering) to pull some of the weeds, but I didn’t want to deal with the mud. This is clay soil; I’m certain you wouldn’t want to deal with the thick, slippery goo either.

Instead, I did an inside chore or two, then hunkered down to assemble some kitchen chairs. A relative wanted to get rid of the chairs, and he sent them to me. I’d planned to put the reassembled chairs in the basement in case I ever have to spend time down there, such as in a tornado emergency, but I had visions of myself falling while trying to descend with those light but awkward chairs, and falling is so not on my to-do list. So I stowed the chairs in my garage until someone younger and more agile shows up, someone I can cajole into doing the deed for me. Actually, the cajoling part is easy — any of the workers who have been here would be more than willing to take the chairs to the basement. It’s getting them here that’s hard. Eventually, though, they’ll stop by to do a bit more work. Meantime, the chairs are doing no harm in the garage. Besides, they’re close at hand if I decide to sit outside.

After I assembled the chairs, I worked on my Three Years in Bloom project. Although I was only recently given the journal, the journal itself starts in January. It seemed as if I had two choices — wait until next January to start or start the journal now and then circle back to next January. Then a third option struck me — I could fill in those first months using bits from my blog. So I did. It was harder than I thought it would be, mostly because there was so little to work with. Apparently, I don’t do any gardening in January when there is snow on the ground. (I’m being facetious here since not many people garden in the snow.) Nor had I done much planning or dreaming about what to plant come spring. I’d purposely not looked at the seed and plant catalogs that piled up — I wanted to wait to see what takes hold this spring before I go looking for other plants. So until mid-March when I planted my greengage plum trees and a couple of crocus bloomed, the only thing I’ve written about that has any possible connection to gardening is the weather. During those winter months, I was able to take a break from watering my grass, so there wasn’t even that to talk about.

Still, I managed to bring myself current on the journal.

Speaking of gardening — I noticed that the rain not only brought out the weeds, it also budded the larkspur. I should be seeing some purple flowers very soon. I also noticed a few alliums. I’d forgotten that before we put the rocks around the house, I’d dug up the allium bulbs that would have been buried, and transplanted them. This forgetfulness seems to indicate the importance of keeping a gardening journal. On the other hand, if the bulbs hadn’t come up this year, it wouldn’t have mattered that I forgot them.

It does amuse me that I am turning into a gardener since I’ve always had a brown thumb. It must be the right time in my life for such a new pursuit. A garden is never truly finished and perfected, but is an ongoing work in progress. So too, it seems, is a gardener.

I started this post talking about weeds, and I will finish the same way. We’re not expecting any more rain for a while (in fact, we’re back to fire weather watch), so tomorrow the ground should be dry enough on the surface to make it a good time to pull weeds. I just hope I don’t pull non-weeds in the process. But if I did, would I even know?

***

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

Feeling Old

I had a rather cryptic e-conversation with a therapist friend who recently attended a grief workshop. She mentioned that they stressed things I’ve written about but aren’t commonly known, such as there being no way to do grief wrong (it might be painful, but it isn’t wrong). She said I was ahead, and that this wasn’t the first time.

I responded, “It’s nice to know. But then, I already knew.”

She came back with, “Yes, you did. And I am sorry you had to learn.”

I was about to agree that I was also sorry that I had to learn about grief the hard way, then I realized how remote all those years of grief seem now, so I wrote back, “It’s funny, but it was so long ago, none of it seems to matter anymore, except, of course, for the part about Jeff being dead. That will always matter to me.”

She agreed, “Except, of course, about Jeff, that will always matter. I feel that about many things.” Then we come to the cryptic part. She ended by saying, “Maybe it is age, maybe perspective, but I am feeling many things not felt before.”

I’m not sure what she meant by that final sentence, but it got me thinking about the things I feel now that I have not felt before, and only one thing came to mind: I feel old. That’s sounds so terrible, but it really isn’t. I don’t feel old as in decrepit or sick or helpless, but old as in a different era of my life.

When we were young, the old seemed separate from us, as if they’d never been like us, as if they’d always been old. Most of us were smart enough to know that wasn’t true, but since we’d never seen the elderly when they were young, it seemed true. The other side of that feeling is that we never really thought we ourselves would cross that line from youth to old age. Most young people feel they are different from the elderly, that they will be the exception and will remain forever young. Well, I certainly wasn’t the exception, and now the line has been crossed and I am on the side of the elderly.

Oddly, just as I’d imagined the elderly when I was young, as if they’d always been old, that’s how I feel. As if I’ve always been old. My youth is now as distant and as unimaginable as old age once was. That girl I was, that young woman, that half of a couple, that griever are all lost in the past and no longer seem to have anything to do with the woman I am today.

I don’t think this feeling is a bad thing since it is what it is. It doesn’t feel negative, anyway. It’s just an acknowledgement of a different time of life. The whole maiden, mother, crone trilogy, perhaps. My mother stage sort of came first because as the oldest girl of a rather large family, I so often had to take care of the younger kids. My crone stage came in having to shepherd Jeff and my parents out of this world — a midwife to the dying, so to speak. What’s left is the maiden stage, and that’s not happening. Though in a way, it is. Buying my first house so late in life, starting over in a new place. Just . . . starting. That is all part of the maiden era.

People often talk as if the elderly are simply youngsters in a decaying body, and that might be true for some people, but that isn’t true for me. Despite my facetiousness about going through my “maiden era,” I don’t feel the child in me struggling to escape the burden of age. I feel ageless, or perhaps I feel more as if being my age — the age I am right now —is the right age. And so it was during all the “right now”s of my life. (Meaning that whatever age I was, that was the right age for me at that time.)

The bad part of being old is that the body is wearing down and wearing out. Weird little things happen, such as rolling over in bed and suddenly the knee is out of whack and you can’t walk or your trusty immune system doesn’t work as well or things slide down the wrong tube when swallowing. But even these matters don’t seem so much a part of growing old as of . . . entropy, perhaps.

I might change my mind about all this as I slip from a young elderly age into an older elderly age, but whatever happens, I hope I can continue to see the aging process as just another phase of the adventure we call life. After all, that’s how I tried to deal with grief: accepting it as much as possible as another experience — a rather painful experience (to put it mildly) but no less valid than the pleasant times.

Just as our culture seems to frown on people who admit to feeling grief, as if grief is failing, it seems to frown on people who admit to feeling old, as if that too is a failing. But I didn’t hesitate to admit to feeling sad, so I certainly am not going to hesitate to admit I feel old. It’s just the way life is. And it’s just the way I am.

***

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 Special Treat

I had a special treat today.

A friend and I went to a nearby town with more amenities than our town to do some shopping — nothing exciting, just groceries, slip-on shoes for quick trips outside, and a long-handled weed picker for each of us, as well as a new hose for me.

As nice as it was to stock up, to get a new tool, and to spend time with a friend, that wasn’t the “special treat” mentioned above. The treat? You’ll laugh, after all this buildup, at the mundane aspect of the treat. For the first time since this friend and I started going to “the big city,” as we call that town, I didn’t have to hurry up to put the groceries away and, exhausted, get ready for work. Instead, I got to leisurely stow the items I’d purchased, leisurely fix a meal, and leisurely read while eating. Or perhaps I mean leisurely eat while reading. Either way, the emphasis is on leisure.

Now that is a treat!

My work schedule was changed rather abruptly and quite unexpectedly — unexpected to me anyway. I’m sure the change was in the works for at least a couple of weeks. In fact, others in the community learned about the new schedule before I did, and they clued me in before my bosses told me, which was sort of unsettling because I’d taken the “clue” as simply a case of smalltown gossip.

But however I found out, and whatever my initial reactions, the truth is, my new schedule worked to my advantage today. My friend and I have had difficulty finding time to go shopping together since we worked different days, and different hours on those days, so we’ve been having to go in the morning on a day I had to work. Today was the first day we went on an excursion where neither of us had plans for the afternoon.

So nice! And yes, a special treat.

Come to think of it, the new schedule is also a special treat. Fewer hours, of course, but even better, fewer days. I like having more days off than I work, which hasn’t been the case the past months, and I’d been getting burned out. And if not burned out, then at least a bit charred.

It’s funny how when a person is used to working a certain day, and that day suddenly becomes a free day, it feels even freer, even like a . . . you guessed it! Like a special treat.

***

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.

Ah, Procrastination!

Sometimes procrastination is a good thing. In this part of the country, gardeners are cautioned not to plant before May fifth because that is traditionally the last freeze. This year, I’ve been watching the forecast, and the low temperatures for the coming day were nowhere freezing, so I’d been planning to start sowing seeds in my garden and perhaps even setting out some bedding plants. But I procrastinated. With all the wind we’ve been having, I didn’t feel like spending any more time outside than I had to.

My procrastination turned out to be a good thing because tonight it will be getting below thirty. I doubt it will remain that low for very long, so perhaps the plants that are coming up will be okay. Luckily, I didn’t spend time and money on plants that have no chance to make it through this freeze. By the time I have a chance to do the planting I want to do, we should be long past the chance of a frosty night.

One thing I did put off that maybe I shouldn’t have, was mowing my lawn. A neighbor wanted my grass clippings, and since he was supposed to come this past Saturday to mow the lawn to get the clippings, I let the grass grow a little longer. When the grass is that long, it cuts unevenly because the lawnmower tires mat down the grass as it moves along, and the grass doesn’t immediately spring back as it does when it is shorter.

Anyway, he never showed up, not to mow and not to tell me he changed his mind. So I did it myself. That poor lawn! It looks as if it has a Mohawk haircut in spots. So now I know — I have to mow every week without procrastination.

Another time procrastination turned out to be a good thing was when it came to weeding. I have a hard time telling the difference between larkspur and the wild mustard weed when the seedlings are small, so I’ve been letting the mustard get a bit taller than I would like. Good thing. Some of what I thought was mustard turns out, with a bit of online research, to be the California poppy seeds I strewed around last fall.

Continuing the procrastination theme: a few days ago, was gifted with a gardening journal. The journal begins with January, and since this is already May, starting it now doesn’t feel right. But I’m not sure I want to wait until next January to start, either. I did come up with a solution — I’ve talked about gardening enough on this blog during the first four months of the year, that I can copy some of those blog entries into the journal.

Deciding to do the first months retroactively is one thing. Actually doing them is another. On the other hand, if I procrastinate long enough, January will be here, and I can simply start fresh next year. Is this a case of procrastination being a good thing? Who knows.

***

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

Turning a Spotlight on Spotlight

I came online a while back to post a blog, but the faint thunder and lightning with a few raindrops suddenly turned into a massive storm. It soon passed by, due, I’m sure, to the high winds we’ve been having lately, but I don’t feel comfortable being on the computer in a lightning storm, especially since there’s been problems neither my go-to tech person nor I have been able to solve.

The problems are minor and have nothing to do with how the computer runs, but the effects of entropy (or whatever it’s called when an electronic system slowly builds up errors) niggle at me.

One of the problems is only indirectly involved with my computer. A couple of months ago, I stopped getting notifications on my phone when I get an email from an account I reserve for family matters, and since the app on my computer stopped, too, I missed an email that needed a fairly quick response.

We tried various things on the phone, trying to get the notifications to show, but had no luck. Next we tried to fix the email app on the computer, which always shows that I have two new emails even when I get a new one and even when all are read. Somewhere along the line I got lazy and stopped manually checking that email, presuming erroneously that I’d be notified. We couldn’t find a way to fix the app, either, but it’s not a problem since I don’t like the app anyway. I prefer going directly to the email to check it. (When I remember, of course.) I removed the app from my tool bar and startup, and that’s all I’m going to do. I always see that “2” on my lock screen when I start my computer, but I can ignore it.

That lock screen is the other problem. The Spotlight locked and so I always saw the same picture. I didn’t mind the image, but since I thought the “2” and the lock screen were somehow connected, we tried to fix the spotlight problem, following the very detailed instructions we found on a tech website. But the spotlight still didn’t work. More research told us that it’s a bug in the Windows 10 system, and after a while, almost everyone deals with the same problem. The only way to fix it is to reinstall Windows.

Um . . . no. That’s not going to happen.

This computer is already three-and-a-half-years old, so chances are the machine has reached its half-life. In another three-and-a-half years, I’ll probably need to get a new computer anyway.

Besides, I never did like Spotlight, even though I got used to it. So now I use one of my own photos for the screen, and when I get bored looking at it, I’ll change it. The photo below is today’s screen. I always did like the image of leaves and shadows, so now I’ll get to enjoy it for a few days until I get bored with it.

In a strange quirk, today I started getting notifications on my phone again from the family email account.

Electronics. Hmmph. Can’t live with it. Can’t live without 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.

Not Everyone Loves a Parade

There was a parade in town yesterday. I hadn’t planned on going because I am not a fan of parades, maybe because most of the parades I’ve seen as an adult are small town affairs that are best appreciated by those who know the folks participating in the parade. I am especially not a fan of this town’s parade. I saw it soon after I arrived in town, and I found it amusing that the town is so small, the parade consisted of mostly official vehicles from the sheriff’s department and the fire department.

Still, when a friend asked me to go with her to this year’s parade, I opted to go. (I am still trying to say “yes” to most invitations). It was nice. Instead of standing around waiting for the parade, we walked along the parade route and talked to people we knew. (One woman told me a horrific story of a neighbor’s dogs jumping their fence and attacking her and her dogs. The neighbors called the police, blaming the woman. The neighbors escalated the situation on FB, and eventually, somehow, the woman’s husband got blamed for the situation and he was fired. Yikes. Many of the dogs around here are a menace! Luckily the dogs on either side of me are tame, and even if they weren’t, they can’t jump a five-foot fence.)

When the parade drew close, we stopped and watched.

I was surprised by how much I appreciated seeing all those official vehicles in the parade this time. Considering the fires in the area as well as the ongoing danger, it was a tremendous comfort to see at least a half a dozen modern fire trucks and loads of equipment. The fire department is a volunteer organization, but there seem to be enough people brave enough to answer the call when the siren blows.

I was also tickled by the mounted police. I thought the police I saw were just mounted on horses for the purpose of the parade, but when I checked out the sheriff department’s website, I discovered the police on horses belong to an actual mounted posse. Some of the members of the posse are law enforcement officers, but many are members of the community who have full-time jobs and serve in their spare time as volunteer members.

The members of the sheriff’s posse participate in training to learn the different skills needed by law enforcement officers. The mounted unit trains and practices horsemanship skills, mounted law enforcement techniques, and ranch skills. The horses used in the mounted unit are owned by the members of the posse. All members of the sheriff’s posse have the opportunity to learn law enforcement skills; some of these skills are arrest control techniques, traffic control, report writing, and methods for searching for evidence or people.

Too bad I don’t have a horse, don’t know how to ride, and am too old and decrepit to be of use to a posse, otherwise the posse would be something I might be interested in. Even if I can’t join the posse in real life, I can certainly have a character be part of the posse. Sounds like a fun addition to whatever book I decide to write once I re-retire.

I had no idea a parade could be so interesting. Who knows? Maybe I’ll go again next year.

***

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.

Treasures!

This morning, before the wind got too strong to be comfortable, I wandered around my property looking for treasures. The first treasure didn’t take much looking — the red tulip really popped in the sea of green.

This was one of the many tulips I planted my first autumn in this house. None of those tulips had come up making me wonder about my ever becoming a gardener. And yet now, almost three years later, this particular beauty decided to make itself known. As did this grape hyacinth.

Interestingly, an acquaintance stopped by to drop something off, and he was so taken by these jewels in the grass, that he, too, called them “treasures.” But those aren’t the only treasures of the day. There are a couple of double tulips that are still blooming.

and two yellow tulips hold pride of place beneath the lilacs.

Speaking of lilacs, the purple lilacs I planted three years ago are blooming! So lovely!

As are the white lilacs that gleam among those shiny green leaves.

The people I bought the house from had planted some clove currents, and she occasionally asks if they are still here. I can honestly tell her that not only are they still here, but that they are thriving.

So many treasures! And with any luck, this is just the beginning.

***

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