Plots and Plats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Ghost Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Feeling Like I’m Back in Kindergarten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheesh.

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

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

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

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

***

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

 

Making My Bed

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

But look! So worth it!!

***

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

 

Building My Nest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

 

Where Generations Overlap

A few years ago, I lived for a short time in a gated modular home community for older adults. It wasn’t a good experience — I was renting a room in the house along with a fellow who spoke not a word of English and had mental problems of an undisclosed nature. Even worse, a key was necessary to leave the park on foot, and since the owners didn’t see fit to give me a key to the gate, I felt trapped. Worst of all, there was a high school outside the gates, which made me feel as if I were living in some sort of apocalyptic science fiction story where people were forcibly segregated by age.

I didn’t live there long — just a few months. Then the park manager evicted me. Apparently, although I was there to house sit, I couldn’t live in the house without the owners being present. (I don’t think the manager understood the concept of house sitting.)

That whole experience creeped me out. I can still see that place — the old folks walking around inside the walls, the teenagers milling around outside. It’s not something I ever wanted for myself, and luckily, I didn’t end up in such a situation. Many of my new neighbors seem to be around my age, but there are a few younger folks with children.

One neighbor (who happens to be the son-in-law of the people I bought the house from) planted my mailbox for me. Most people in town have their mail delivered to their door, but there are now separate rules for newcomers, and though this guy is a friend of the postmaster and tried to get me a dispensation, the postmaster stuck to the rule. So my pretty new mailbox is sitting out on the curb without any of its ilk to keep it company.

Another neighbor is a lovely young woman who wanted a job, so I’ve been letting her take care of my weeds that for now form what is laughingly called a lawn. Generation-gap relationships offer new challenges for me. The girl told me she thought my house was cute and that she liked the woman who’d moved into it. I gave her a spontaneous hug, and then later realized I probably shouldn’t have since kids today are being taught not to let anyone touch them without permission.

The next time I saw her, I apologized. She said she was glad for the hug, that it had made her day, but still, the incident reminded me to be careful.

Most of my socializing (to the extent I do any socializing) is among women about my own age, but still, it’s nice to be in a place where generations aren’t segregated.

***

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.

The Nasty Thing in the Wood Shed

I didn’t mean to drop a zinger and then leave you hanging. Well, maybe I did. I am a writer after all, and we writers like to leave you wanting more.

Besides, I only learned the truth about the nasty thing in the wooden shed a couple of days ago. To be honest, I didn’t think the capped pipe was anything at all. I was simply being mysterious for the sake of the story. What spooked me (a bit) was the way the contractor kept staring at the sewer pipe and saying, “Anything could be in there.”

He didn’t tell me until afterward that he wondered if it might be a pipe bomb, and he hadn’t wanted to worry me.

As it turns out, nothing was in the tube, though the pipe wasn’t as innocuous as I thought it was. It was a makeshift hydroponic contraption for growing marijuana. There were several holes drilled along the length of the pipe, one for each seedling. After the plants were in place, the pipe was then filled with water. Drains were attached to the capped ends to remove or change the water without disturbing the growing plants.

Since the pipe was empty, it was easy enough to dispose of — it went into the dumpster.

There haven’t been any other discoveries. A winter storm put the work on hold, but also that same winter storm helped ease my sinus condition. Apparently, I am allergic to the ornamental pear trees that are prevalent in the neighborhood. They truly are beautiful, with those bright white blossoms, but the beauty is not worth the pain. (Though it will have to be. This is a neighbor’s tree, not mine, so I’m stuck with the sinus problem.)

Next week, perhaps, the gas company will come and move the gas line so we can finally get the porch foundation poured. After that, they will put in the subfloor so we can get at the basement.

I wonder what we will find when we start moving things around down there? Dust of course. Lots of dust. And dirt because the basement is bordered on two sides by an open crawl space. But other than that, who knows? Anything can be buried in a 90-year-old basement.

***

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.

Something Nasty in the Wooden Shed

My next book seems to be writing itself, which, now that I think about it, is a good thing since obviously, I am not writing it. Obvious to me, anyway. When I am not actively involved in my new house and new neighborhood and new town, I loll around on my new couch and read new books from the library.

All of which might make for a nice life, but doesn’t do much for the word count.

I still don’t know what the story is, though I do have the main character (Pat from Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare), and I have the setting (this house of course). And I have a sinister atmosphere with the spooky basement, the cistern we uncovered beneath the enclosed porch, and now the shed, and more specifically, the sewer line in the shed.

The shed is actually a garage, though because it can’t be used as a garage quite yet, we have all gotten in the habit of calling it a shed. One corner of the building leans severely enough to the right that it prevents one of the doors from opening. The contractor had thought overwatering the flowers near the foundation of the garage made the floor crack, which made that corner lean precariously. Since all the other corners of the garage are completely straight, however, he’s decided it’s unlikely the garage tilted, because if it had tilted, the opposite corner would have also had to tilt. And it didn’t. So now he thinks the garage was built like that.

Curiouser and curiouser!

Then, as we were checking out the ceiling in the shed/garage, he pointed out a ten-foot piece of turquoise pipe stashed in the rafters.

I’d never given a second thought to the pipe (never even given it a first thought!) — it was just one of the many pieces of junk that needs to be cleared out. He stared up at that piece of turquoise tubing and wondered aloud what it was doing there. And what he should do about it.

I told him he could haul it away with all the rest of the junk, but he kept staring at it. “The pipe is capped on both ends,” he said. “Anything could be stored in there.”

Oh.

See? Plenty of atmosphere for my new novel.

At least, I hope that’s all it is — atmosphere — and not something nasty in the wooden shed.

***

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.

One Month Anniversary!

This is the one month anniversary of my new love — my house! This love comes as a surprise to me because I’ve never been particularly interested in things, and a house is definitely a thing. A big thing!

At a time (and age) when people are downsizing, here I am — upsizing. Not only have I accumulated a house, I’ve accumulated furniture, stocks of cleaning supplies, extra dishes. And flowers!

This daffodil isn’t mine exactly. Although it’s on my property, I didn’t plant it or do anything to help it grow, so it belongs to the sun and the earth and to itself more than to me. But still, it’s mine to enjoy.

Work on the porch has come to a standstill. The gas pipe going into the house needs to be moved otherwise it will become embedded in concrete. Meantime, the contractor will be here sometime this afternoon to see if they can straighten the garage. One corner lists to the right, so the door doesn’t work, and there is a huge crack in the floor they will try to repair. All that damage was done because of overwatering the flowers that are planted along the edge of the garage, so I’ll have to eventually relocate the flowers if I want to water them. Poor daffodil. I hope it survives the move; who knows, maybe it will thrive as much as I am with my own move!

I went to a dinner play last night put on by the youth group of a nearby church, and it was very good, both the actors and the food. A new friend invited me, and I saw a couple of people I’d already met, so that was nice.

I moved here for the house — it was by far the best house I saw in my extremely low price range, and it seemed to call to me — but the town is turning out to be a great place for me, too. People are friendly and welcoming, the streets uncrowded, and everything I need (especially the library!) is within walking distance. I still go to a bigger town once a week to shop — it’s an excuse to drive more than anything else because otherwise my poor car would sit there unused.

It’s amazing to think I’ve been here a month already. It’s even more amazing to think of all I’ve done in that month.

***

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.

GRIEF: THE INSIDE STORY is now available!

Coping with the death of a loved one can be the most traumatic and stressful situation most people ever deal with. As the bereaved struggle to make sense of their new situation, they often find that the advice they receive is produced by medical professionals who have never personally experienced grief, is filled with platitudes and clichés, and is of very little practical help.

How long does grief last? What can I do to help myself? Are there really five stages of grief? Why can’t other people understand how I feel? Will I ever be happy again? Grief: The Inside Story answers such questions while debunking many established beliefs about what grief is, how it affects those left behind, and how to adjust to a world that no longer contains your loved one.

Although the subtitle is “A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One,” the book is written especially for those who have lost someone intrinsic to their lives, such as a spouse or life mate, and who now struggle to cope with their new realities. People always want grievers to “get back to normal,” but as Grief: The Inside Story shows, there is no “normal” to get back to back to, but grievers can eventually find renewal in their lives.

Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Grief-Inside-Story-Guide-Surviving/dp/0368039668/

If you have read the book and it proved valuable, please leave a review. The more reviews, the more visible this necessary book will become. Thank you.

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Pat Bertram is the also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Twitter. (@PatBertram) Like Pat on Facebook.