Fishing Peers

November elections are coming up, and mail-in ballots are being sent out. Locally, the city wants to raise the sales tax to fund recreational activities and improvements throughout town, as laid out in this photo of that part of the ballot:

Sounds good, especially the construction of new recreation amenities. Parks. Bike Paths. Bike Parks. Fishing Peers.

Wait. What? Fishing peers?

Does this mean that if the bill passes, the city will provide fishing buddies to anyone who wants one? Since they are going to construct the fishing peers, that must mean robots of some kind. Sounds very avante garde for this area of the country, but I suppose even rural areas need to get with the times.

There are no fishing holes in town, at least not that I am aware of, so perhaps the fishing experience will be an inland excursion of some sort, just our fishing peers and us hanging around, holding a fishing rod, and hoping for some flying fish to waltz on by.

Or not.

Since a shooting range might also be part of the package, it’s possible we and our fishing peers might be shooting fish in a barrel.

What can I say: It’s government. You never quite know what you’re going to end up with when you “cast” your vote.

***

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.

Peace and Plenty For All

In the book I just finished reading, the trillionaire hero was using his resources to find vaccines for the common cold as well as coronaviruses that exist now and will exist in the future. He’s also trying to revamp the medical establishment so everyone has equal access to care. And, to top it off, he’s on his way to discovering cheap, renewable energy. All in the hopes of ushering in a golden age of peace and plenty for all.

Not surprisingly, a whole lot of people want him dead, not just those you’d expect like those invested in energy businesses and medical businesses, but politicians and even humanitarians who want only to save the human race. As one such fictional humanitarian said: “People need hardship. They need something to struggle against. Someone to hate and feel superior to. Without these things, they lose their identity and sense of purpose. And they can’t handle it. Without a real enemy, they start turning on each other.”

That made me stop and think. Is it true? Do we need hardship? Struggles? Someone to hate and feel superior to? Are we really so petty that such things define us?

Hardships do change us, and perhaps even make us grow (and grow up), but would we wallow in purposelessness if we don’t experience adversity? I think about my life now, with no great hardships and hopefully, none on the horizon. It sure seems to be a good thing and is exactly the way I like it. I realize grief changed me, but before Jeff died and I became somehow different, I was just fine. If he hadn’t died and I hadn’t endured all those years of grief, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, but I’m not sure it would matter, because I only became this person so I could survive the trauma of his death, my loss, the pain, and my altered circumstances. Either way, I’d still be me with the same core values and a belief in kindness at almost all costs.

Without any trauma in my life, the only real challenge is to find something to write about every day to post on this blog. Other than that, I don’t feel as if my life lacks purpose. To be honest, I don’t think if we all were living in a trauma-less time, anyone would feel as if their life lacked purpose. As humans, we are fully capable of creating our own purpose and meaning. Besides, if we need something to struggle against, we don’t need other people; there is always our baser self which provides plenty of challenge and scope for improvement.

I do think if humans as a species always had an easy time of it, we’d probably still be living in a pre-stone-age society because it was the challenges of daily life that forced people to come up with ever more sophisticated tools. How that particular theory brings us to the age of computers, I don’t know, because there is nothing in our lives — except for our sheer numbers — that require such a mind-boggling tool. Nor does the age of computers in itself bring meaning to our lives. In fact, we bring meaning to computers, as we find novel ways of using the tools. The truth is, tools don’t bring meaning, and tools don’t bring happiness. Societies that manage to live as they always have for thousands of years are as happy or happier than we are. They don’t know — or care — about the “advantages” that a civilized life full of hardships, tools, and people to hate can bring.

I could be wrong in my assessment, but I truly do not see how a golden age could bring about a lack of purpose, with people turning on each other for no reason other than a need to have someone to look down on.

***

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.

Ghosts Who Write

I got a book from the library written by what I thought was one author but it turned out to be written another author I’ve never heard of. So often, in these days when bestselling authors become brand names, after they are dead, their name lives on in the hands — and mind — of a different writer.

Which leads me to believe that old bestselling authors don’t die, they become ghost writers. (Though “writing ghosts” or “ghosts who write” might be more accurate.)

I got fed up with Sue Grafton and her characters long before she hit the middle of the alphabet, but I must admit I admire her for her stance on letting her series die with her. So Z really was for zero. (That was supposed to be the final book, Z is for Zero, but she never had a chance to start writing it.) Besides, once a new Sue Grafton writer finished with Z, so would the author be finished because there is no letter after Z. Unless, of course, her publishers started inventing new letters so that the series could continue indefinitely. (<~> is for <~>####, perhaps?) Luckily for us, Grafton put an end to that.

But other authors and publishers aren’t so kind. One author (who is still alive, by the way) has written and cowritten an estimated 278 books. (I think only 71 by himself, though such numbers are hard to find.) After he’s gone and each of those co-authors continue the brand, a thousand books — two thousand books — isn’t beyond possibility. According to one estimate, there are 26 new releases from this fellow. Some people only read books with his name on the cover, which is okay because I never do. His less than stellar writing does not appeal to me. What surprises me is that people don’t care about this particular book farm (where he raised books like cattle). They buy his books anyway.

But that’s not what this particular blog was supposed to be about. The whole purpose was to post my silly thought about dead authors being ghost writers.

My writings might continue to be read after I’m gone — after all, blogs are forever, and some of my books are on the Amazon treadmill (as long as people order them, they will be published) — but no one will continue writing in my name except by accident. (Mine is not a common name.)

I’m glad that I won’t be a writing ghost, though I would be just as glad (I think I would, anyway) if my books sold well enough for my name become a household brand.

***

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.

The Bluest Skies You’ve Ever Seen

Despite what the song says about the bluest skies, I’d be willing to bet that the Colorado skies in October are much, much bluer than those in Seattle. The thin, dry Colorado air gives the sky a purple cast so deep and vast you can only call it the color of infinity. 

Jeff and I lived off a highway, so unless I wanted to take my life in my hands by dodging demented drivers or being asphyxiated by exhaust, I walked laps up and down the .3 mile rock- and gravel-strewn dirt lane in front of our home. Although the scenery provided a gorgeous setting for the trashy trailers and tacky houses, after about the ten-thousandth lap (not all in the same day!), the scenery faded into the background. Except not on the day when I took this photo. A perfect, cloudless, Colorado sky.

002f

Today was another such day and another such sky, but the scenery was much less impressive, hence the old photo.

It’s amazing to me I had such a beautiful view for so many years. No wonder I need to create an impressive back yard to give me something wonderful to look at. Otherwise, my only scenery would be neighborhood houses, broken sidewalks, and cars parked on streets in need of repair.

And the sky, of course. Always that gorgeous Colorado sky.

***

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.

Walla Walla Walla

Decades ago, I heard an interview with the actor who supposedly came up with “Walla, walla.” Whether he did or not, I don’t really know because the term was used in radio days and I don’t remember if he said anything about radio in the interview. I do remember he specifically mentioned being an extra in a courtroom scene on a television show, where after a Perry-Mason-like pronouncement by the lawyer, the folks in the courtroom were supposed to murmur in approbation and surprise. He said that he said, “Walla, walla, walla, walla,” syllables that are supposed to mimic human speech without actually meaining anything. One reason for the non-word is that actors were paid by the word, and since the syllables weren’t actually words, or at least not assigned words, they didn’t have to be paid as an actor with a speaking part. (As a matter of curiosity, in England, they use the word “rhubarb” for the same purpose.)

What made me remember this interview is that yesterday I watched the news with the friend I get paid to sit with (a great gig if I do say so myself), and all the newscasters talked about for a solid hour (and since it was “breaking news” they didn’t even break for commercials) was a fire. It wasn’t a particularly bad fire — at the time it was only about thirteen acres in a flat rural area, and only one dwelling had burned (the dwelling where the fire started, actually). I realize that it is a terrible and terrifying thing for the people involved, especially those who were under mandatory eviction status as well as those on the ground fighting the fire, but otherwise, it’s not a particularly noteworthy event. And yet, the news people talked and talked and talked, saying the same thing over and over again in various ways, and when the newscasters interviewed the “authorities” (the fire chief and others whose occupations I didn’t catch), those people said the same thing. Then the newscasters took over the microphone again and repeated what the interviewees had said.

At least I think they did. Around about that time, all I heard was, “Walla, walla, walla, walla.”

Because of the walla-walla-ing, I was able to tune out the newscast despite the high volume, and finished reading one of the woman’s Reader’s Digest condensed books published many years ago. (Normally I wouldn’t read such fare, but I can’t get immersed in a “real” book while I am working because I need to keep an eye and ear out for her, even if she is napping in a nearby chair, so the digest versions work well.)

Luckily, I have a day or three off from work to give myself a rest from the walla wallas.

Despite the cavalier tone of this article, I truly do hope the people affected by the fire are lucky too and that they and their property come through the crisis unscathed.

***

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

Smoke Alarm Emergency

It might be true that there’s no smoke without a fire, but it’s also true that a smoke alarm can say there’s smoke even if there isn’t a fire.

One of my smoke alarms went off a little while ago, and I about jumped out of my skin. There’s no fire, no smoke, I’d recently changed the batteries, it’s only a couple of years old, and still it went off, scaring me half to death. A few minutes later, it went off again. I changed the battery because that’s all I could think of to do since there was no fire to put out.

I’m sitting here waiting to see if it will go off again, my heart still pumping, my ears still ringing, my hands still shaking from the adrenaline rush.

I wish there was a way to adjust the sound level of a smoke alarm. The sound emanating from that smoke alarm is ridiculous, made worse for being in a small hallway in a small house. If there really was a fire, and all the smoke alarms went off at once, I’d either have a heart attack or go deaf. There are three alarms all within six feet of each other — one in the hallway, one in the bedroom, and one outside the kitchen. As I said, this is a small house, so to put one in each necessary locale, they are clumped together. If the noise level can’t be adjusted, then there should be quieter ones for small houses. But of course, if there were, people with large houses would use them, they wouldn’t hear them if they were in the far reaches of the house, and I’d get sued for having such a stupid idea.

But oh, man — that noise is enough to wake the dead. And if not that, it’s enough to get people to join the dead.

I wonder if anyone has died because of the alarm? (Pause to go check Google.) All I could find was a study showing that the emergency alarm has been implicated in the high number of adverse cardiovascular events and coronary heart disease related deaths observed in United States firefighters. A fire station alarm is not the same as a house alarm sounding from a smoke detector, but it’s close, especially since the firefighters are relatively young and healthy, and not everyone who lives with a smoke alarm falls in that category.

The screech seems to be silenced for now, but yikes. What an awakening! If the thing wanted a new battery, all it had to do was chirp, and I’d still go running to do its bidding.

***

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 Spy With My Little Eye

I spy with my little eye something beginning with the letter “B.” Not just one thing, actually. Lately I’ve been spying a lot of things beginning with “B.”

Blossoms of course. Although I don’t have many flowers, there are enough to add splotches of color to my yard. These African daisies certainly are cheerful!

Butterflies. Not “of course,” because I seldom see any butterflies, but yesterday, a bunch of yellowish white butterflies (cabbage butterflies, probably) descended on my yard. The adults are not harmful, and the larvae are only harmful if you are growing things like cabbages and Brussel sprouts. These butterflies are migratory, which could be why there are so many so suddenly.

Surprisingly, while I was watching these small butterflies, a monarch — looking ever inch the king among its smaller subjects — stopped by to dine, too.

Bees. Bumblebees. I used to see these big black and yellow furry bees only sporadically, but I see them quite frequently now. They seem to really like my zinnias.

Beetles. I don’t pay attention to beetles so I don’t know how ubiquitous they are around here, though I imagine there are many species mucking around in my dirt, but I’ve never seen a beetle as big as the one I saw late yesterday — it was pure black and must have been an inch and a half to two inches in length. Before I could get my camera, it disappeared beneath the ornamental rock, which is fine — I’m not really that interested in coming across such a monstrosity in my image folder.

Oddly, I haven’t been seeing many birds lately, just a few migrating vultures, though there must be plenty of birds in the area because those who keep their feeders full are always having to top them off.

Your turn. What did you spy today?

***

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

I’m going to Blog for Peace. Will You?

On November 4th, people all over the world will blog for peace. Blog4Peace was created and founded by Mimi Lenox, who believes that because words are powerful, blogging for peace is important.

Mimi began blogging for peace in November, 2006. Thirteen years and thousands of peace bloggers later she — and all those she inspired — are still blogging for peace. On every continent. In 214 countries and territories. In war-torn countries and peaceful villages. Whole families. Babies in utero (yes, really!) Teenagers. Senior citizens. Veterans of war. Poets and singers. Teachers. Classrooms. Authors and artists. Doctors. Lawyers. Cats (many, many cat bloggers). Dogs. Gerbils. Birds. Goats and Bunnies. Scientists. Designers. Researchers. Stay-at-home-parents. Kids. Baby Boomers. From the Netherlands to Kansas. And everywhere in between.

I joined the peace bloggers in 2012. And I still blog for peace. 

This year’s theme is “Courageous Peace in a Time of Great Change,” and that is a theme I can adopt. Although I do not believe in the possibility of world peace (because war and stressful times are never our personal choice but are fostered by others or foisted on us by circumstances) I do believe in personal peace, in finding peace within ourselves no matter what happens to provoke us into chaos.

And yes, words are powerful. And yes, this matters.

How To Blog For Peace:

  1. Choose a graphic from the peace globe gallery http://peaceglobegallery.blogspot.com/p/get-your-own-peace-globe.htmlor from the photos on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BlogBlastForPeace#!/BlogBlastForPeace/app_153284594738391 Right click and Save. Decorate it and sign it, or leave as is.
  2. Send the finished globe to blog4peace@yahoo.com
  3. Post it anywhere online November 4 and title your post Dona Nobis Pacem (Latin for Grant us Peace)

Sounds cool, doesn’t it? See you on November 4!

***

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.

Garden Dreams

The tenant in the house next door told me that when he looks back on this time in his life, he will always remember me with a shovel. That’s a fair assessment. When I look back on this time, I’ll also remember me with a shovel. I must have dug a ton or two of dirt, removing weeds and grass from what I hope will one day be a mini wildflower meadow.

You’d think after all those weeks and all that effort, I’d be glad to hang up my shovel (literally, hang it up — my long-handled tools are hung on a rack on the wall of my garage), but apparently not.

I got a notice that one of the bulb collections I ordered will be here in a couple of weeks. The place where I want to put them was once part of a graveled driveway. I figured it would take me a while to dig through all that gravel to get deep enough for tulips and daffodils, so I decided to get a head start on the project. It did take a while, but now I’m ready for those bulbs whenever they get here.

Still not completely fed up with shoveling, I’ve spent the last couple of days digging up more weeds. Although this property isn’t particularly wide, it’s long, and hasn’t been taken care of, so there are a lot of weeds to dig up. I cheated in the spring and early summer and simply mowed them down, so I made use of this gorgeous weather to dig up the roots of some of those weeds. Luckily, a lot of the worst areas for weeds are now covered by weed barrier fabric and rock, though I’m not sure how long that will last. Although the fabric was the strongest available, grass is poking through the fabric. Come to think of it, it’s called a weed barrier, not a grass barrier, so I can’t blame false advertising for the holes in the fabric.

I’m planning on taking the day off from shoveling tomorrow, but since I have nothing else planned to take the place of the “fun,” I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself outside with a shovel again.

I’ve managed to keep enough plants alive to give me hope that one day all this work will be worth it, though it’s worth it anyway — it gets me outside, gives me something to do, and fills my head with garden dreams.

***

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 Long and Short of Grief

A therapist friend wanted to know the difference in grieving between someone who lost their life mate/soul mate at the beginning of their relationship and someone who had many years with their mate.

I hesitate to compare grief because we all grieve in many ways for many things, but after a grievous loss, such as that of a spouse, there is a general pattern to grief that one’s mind and body seem to follow. If there weren’t similarities, then no one’s story would have any relevance to any one else, and I do know that what I have written about my experiences with grief resonates with many people. So my answer doesn’t have to do with the depth of grief. There is no way to measure that. I’m mostly discussing the two cases on the base of the patterns of grief.

A long life with a loved one and a short life that was cut off before the relationship could deepen aren’t the same — can’t be the same — and yet, in some respects they are similar. We grieve the loss of an entire lifespan of a person and a relationship. I grieved for both the time I had with Jeff and the time I didn’t have. The fiancé of an acquaintance died right before their wedding. She didn’t have the same amount of time with her fiancé that I did with Jeff, but she will still grieve for the time she had and the time she didn’t have. I had more loss looking back, perhaps, but she has more loss looking forward. For both of us, too many plans and hopes didn’t come to fruition, but especially in the case of the woman who went to a funeral instead of to her wedding.

Losing a loved one to death is always hard. It’s possible in the long run, the fiancé will have it a bit easier in that she won’t have as many habits that are abruptly cut off. When you spend a lifetime with someone, you develop habits to enable to you to cohabit, and then when the habits come to an end because of the loss, your brain goes into overdrive. We do so much by habit, and then suddenly, after the death of a spouse, you have to think how to do everything. (It’s like trying to remember how to walk instead of simply walking.)

Also, when you spend a lifetime with someone, you have the whole problem of your lizard brain going haywire because the other half of your survival unit is gone and when it doesn’t return, your lizard brain suddenly realizes that it too will someday die, and what a horror show of chemical and hormonal imbalances that part of your brain can foment! She won’t have that, but she might have other issues I don’t know about, such as a feeling of unfairness. We all feel the unfairness, of course. My parents had 60 years together. Jeff and I had half that. And oh, did that seem so unfair to me! I imagine the sense of unfairness the fiancé felt was off the charts, because it was incredibly unfair. She didn’t have even one year with her mate, and I got 34. For those of us who have spent many years with our loved one, eventually we are left with a feeling of gratitude for the years we did have to balance the unfairness, and I’m not sure there is much to balance the unfairness of what the fiancé experienced. She’s happy now, married to a widower, and has children, but still, there is always that grief for a love cut short, regret for a life that might been.

There is the terrible shock of death we all feel. There is also a sense of waiting. In my case, I kept waiting for Jeff to call and tell me I could come home, and the fiancé had that, too. Waiting. Always waiting to hear from someone who is so utterly gone from this earth.

And confusion, of course. As confused as I was after Jeff died over where he was and how he was doing, it must have been even greater for the fiancé. Even thinking about it, I feel confused. How is it possible that such things happen? So unfair.

A major factor in the loss of a mate, long-standing or not, is the nearness of death. When you are deeply connected to someone who has died, you feel as if you are standing on the edge of the abyss, as if any loss of balance will pull you into eternity.

That feeling of being able to reach out and touch the love one depends on your level of connection. Some people who have been together many years never had (or have lost) such a deep connection, while some new couples feel it immediately. Still, the presence of death is never easy to handle.

I’m not sure I helped my therapist friend with this analysis, but it was the best I could come up with. All I know for sure is that the death of a person intrinsic to our live dims the light of the world and it takes many years before we adapt to that dimming.

***

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.