Saying Goodbye

A dear friend left town today to go back overseas where she grew up so she can be with family and friends as she lives out her last months. I never got a chance to say goodbye, though I’m not sure that matters. This way I can always think of her the way she was the last time I saw her: happy, contented, glad to be done with pain for a while.

To be honest, I am glad she is going to be with her people. Although she fit in well with our small-town America environment, she’s from a major Asian city with food and shopping and friends on every block, and she missed all the bustle.

To be even more brutally honest, though it might make me seem small, I am glad I won’t have to watch her deteriorate. I’ve watched too many people die, and I simply cannot do it again, especially not when it comes to her.

From the first moment we met, we connected, as if we were long-lost sisters. She was so vital, so charming, so interested in everything, that the news about her being afflicted with cancer came as a shock to me. Even worse was when I found out the cancer had metastasized. And now she is gone from my life, though for a time, at least, we can still connect via email or FB messenger.

Her husband, who’s also become a friend, has already been through this before. I can’t imagine the courage it takes to find a new love and then once again, to lose that love to death. He’s got a hard time ahead, not just watching her fade away, but having to be jolly in the face of it because she doesn’t want anyone to be sad.

After the sorrow of this day, knowing she is journeying far beyond my reach without one last hug, I intend to honor her wishes and think of her at home. Happy. With her husband and family and old friends.

There will be time enough for mourning when her days are finished, but maybe even then I will simply think of her as being home where she belongs, and be happy she came into my life.

***

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

Celebrating My 3,000th Blog Post

As the title of this blog post indicates, this is my 3,000th blog post. It seems amazing to me that I’ve managed to find so much to write about. It seems even more amazing that after writing all those words, as well having written nine books (all published!), that I don’t feel wiser. But then, becoming wiser was never the goal. The goal was simply to write, and that I have done.

When I was a kid, I often used to get diaries for Christmas. I loved those books with the little key that could lock one’s thoughts away. I always started out disciplined, writing a bit every day, but gradually, perhaps after the first week or so, the entries became fewer and fewer. And always, most of the pages remained blank.

It’s not surprising, really. When one is so young, there’s not really much to say. “I went to school.” “I went to church.” “I did my homework.”

I hadn’t yet learned to try to work out my feelings on paper. In fact, I hadn’t yet learned my feelings were valid. Life just is, when one is so young. You don’t know that life can be different. You don’t know that you can be different. Each day seems so much the same, with the same drudgeries being replayed and replayed again. School. Homework. Chores.

I suppose I could have written about the books I was reading, but I had not yet learned to be critical. I read in the same way I breathed: inhaling without thinking about it.

When I grew up and left town for a while, I used to write letters to good friends, telling about my trials and tribulations, but after a friend found some of my old letters and read them back to me, as if expecting me to share her hilarity at my naivete, I stopped writing my thoughts and feelings to anyone, not even myself. I still talked about such things, but I never again wanted a record for anyone to laugh at. (She thought I would like to know how much I had grown after the letters had been written, but I didn’t see that at all; I only saw that the younger me with all that angst had become a figure of fun.)

And yet here I am, telling the world my every thought, my every pain, even my triumphs.

Although this blog — this weblog — was not supposed to be anything more than a platform for my author-ity (authorness?), it became so much more after Jeff died — a scream of pain, a way of finding sanity in the chaos of grief, a place to tell the truth about what I was feeling. Later, as the pain abated, it became a way of tracking my growing will to live, to become someone who could survive — and thrive — alone.

Even later, it became something of a travelogue, as I wrote about my various road trips, and later still, it became the chronical of first-time homeowner.

What I have ended up with, after all these years, is that diary I never had the discipline to keep when I was younger. I seldom go back and read older articles, but they are here if I ever need to remember all I have done in the years after Jeff’s death.

Mostly, though, I just write for the day. It has become a way of standing tall, and saying to the world — and myself — “This is who I am right now.”

And who I am right now is someone who is celebrating her 3,000th blog post.

***

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

Arrogant Authors

I finished reading a cold war era spy novel, and weirdly, the very next book I grabbed was a futuristic spy novel. I say weirdly because I don’t particularly like spy novels and seldom read them.

The first book was readable and had a recognizable story, but the second one started in the middle of the story, recounted events minute by minute, and never actually went anywhere. Apparently, this was the second book in a series; the story was set up in the first book, continued in this one, and might be finished in a third book or even a later one, but it won’t matter because I won’t be reading anything else by this author. Ever.

Besides the lack of story, there was no characterization whatsoever. The story people could have been crash test dummies for all the personality they showed, and what was shown was truly bizarre. The female narrator of the story had an identical twin, and she kept saying that no one could tell them apart. In fact, the sister kept impersonating her, even though the sister was more flirtatious, wilder, immodest. Oh, and taller and prettier and thinner. All through the book, the narrator kept saying things like, “She thinks nothing of walking around with nothing on and maybe I would too if I had her body.” Huh? Identical but not? I suppose it’s possible the two really are identical but the narrator has body image problem. Or else it was simply poor writing in a book that has way too much poor writing.

The author supposedly researched the book for two years, and she managed to insert all two years of research into the book, leaving no room for a story. The book is replete with sentences such as: “The vehicle included a HEL that fires from a RAT. Both work hand-in-hand with the TATL to warn and defend again SLAMs and other AGs.”

And, even though this is a world-renowned millionaire author, her writing style has become execrable. Way too many non sequiturs, often as many as four or five to a page. I suppose some readers can pass them by without paying attention, but they sure called out for my attention. For example: “I recognize the man from the motel, and the woman has short black hair.” “Opening the door and she hugged me.” “Mom made chili, cornbread, and I was hungry.”

Yikes. The only good thing about this abomination is that I picked it up at the library and didn’t have to waste a cent on the book, though I sure wasted my time. I should have stopped reading early on, but I have a hard time returning a book unread. Besides I wanted to know why she and her sister had been implanted with all sorts of electronic gadgets, turning them into living computers, and I wanted to know when it started. There were hints that the twins were conceived for this purpose, but it was never explained.

What it does show is that once authors start making a fortune for their publishers, they never have to deal with . . . oh, I don’t know . . . writing, perhaps? It’s possible they were always atrocious writers but had good editors, and now they have no editors. Or if they do, the editors are probably kids just out of college and too intimidated by the stature of the author to make any corrections.

Either way, there is a huge amount of arrogance that goes into writing and publishing a book that does nothing but insult the reader.

Still, if I sold as many books as this author does, I might be just as arrogant.

***

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?

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Altering the Truth Without Altering the Facts

In the cold war era spy thriller I’d spent the past couple of days reading, a Russian says to an American ally, “You have a unique gift of altering the truth without altering the facts.”

Quite frankly, it doesn’t seem like a unique gift to me; it seems to be the basis for most politics, legal maneuverings, and news reporting nowadays. Often manipulation is propaganda, pure and simple, a way of interpreting the facts to put the best possible spin on what could be a damaging fact. Other times it’s a way of getting people to vote for someone or to approve of something that they would not normally go for.

It’s also called fake news. Not that the news item is necessarily fake, but if someone calls it fake news, then it immediately casts doubt on the truth.

I am currently staying away from all news sources, fake or not. There have been too many times lately where the facts were spun so much that nothing but mush remained. And there were too many times where the very people involved were the ones who vetted the news to prove it fake, which means the facts could be false or the vetters could be playing false with us. I have never, in all my years, been so confused as to the truth of anything. There were so many undisputed facts, false “facts,” half-truths, truth told as lies, lies told as truth, videos and photos altered to show a different story than what actually happened, as well as dirty tricks I’m sure I missed, that it was impossible to sort out the truth.

For example, when it comes to the disease I call the “The Bob,” we the people know almost nothing. Oh, we know a few facts — there is a virus running around infecting people because we all either got sick or knew someone who did. We knew people who died, but beyond that, all we have to go by is what the “authorities” tell us, and those very authorities are the ones who know how to alter the truth without altering the facts.

The so-called authorities are not the only ones with this not-so-unique gift. A lot of people on all levels of society know how to alter the truth without altering the facts simply telling only the facts that leave them in a good light. For example, someone can say, “Yes, I went to the store. I bought a few snacks and a couple of sodas,” leaving out the salient fact that they also bought alcoholic drinks or illegal drugs or that they visited the person they are seeing on the side.

To be honest, I wish I had that sort of talent, to lie by telling only part of the truth, but generally, I’ve found it best to tell the truth as much as possible. It’s a lot easier to remember what I’ve said that way! Now that I think of it, though, almost no one tells “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Unless you are a representative of the people, in which case you owe the people the truth (though the folks in power don’t believe that at all and certainly don’t act on it), you don’t really owe anyone the truth. Or the facts.

As I said, I generally tell the truth, though sometimes on this blog I alter things a bit to protect either the guilty or the innocent, or even myself. I also sometimes use false birth dates and such because I am — or at least was — so active on the social networking sites that I needed to protect myself.

As for “altering the truth without altering the facts,” it also works the other way around. Novelists do is all the time: alter the facts so we can tell the truth.

But however you look at it, in our current society, it doesn’t seem as if there is a whole lot of truth going on.

***

If you haven’t yet read A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel of a quarantine that predated this pandemic by more than ten years, you can read the first chapter online here: http://patbertram.com/A_Spark_of_Heavenly_Fire.html

Buy it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0024FB5H6/

Download the first 30% free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842

Disdaining Improper English

A character in an older book I just finished reading was a stickler for proper English. Many of his objections were constructions I had no idea were improper, such as the use of “due to unforeseen circumstance” rather than “owing to unforeseen circumstances.” Since I didn’t know it was improper, I’ve always said “due to” rather than “owing to,” though now I will make sure I say it properly.

It made me wonder what other phrases I have been using improperly all my life, which led to the realization that my own disdain of improper English is probably misplaced. If improper phrases such as “due to unforeseen circumstances” are so prevalent as to seem proper, then today’s ridiculous constructions that I abhor will become (in some cases have already become) the preferred usage among the populace. “Veggies,” for example. I despise the cutesy word, suitable only for small children who have to be enticed to eat food they don’t particularly like. It isn’t at all a grown-up word, and yet everyone uses it. I can’t remember the last time anyone but me used the proper word, “vegetables.”

“Intestinal fortitude” is a phrase used in place of courage and the strength of mind to bear adversity, which is utterly silly. “Fortitude” alone means exactly that. I imagine somewhere along the line, someone thought they were being cute, using an erudite-sounding construction instead of saying “guts,” but eek. The phrase “intestinal fortitude” irks me as much as “veggies” does.

“Supposably” instead of “supposedly” has become so common, it no longer grates on my poor ears, though I will lop off my tongue if I ever hear myself say it.

An “executive decision” is one made by a person or group of persons who have executive power, so a person who decides something for a group of people is making an executive decision, but a person making a decision for himself alone, one that affects no one but himself, is not making an executive decision, but going by what I read and hear, everyone nowadays must be an executive because they are all making what they claim to be executive decisions. A decision is a decision. It needs no qualifier.

As for “get out of Dodge.” I can’t believe how often I read that phrase in books. Characters no longer get out of town, they always “get out of Dodge,” even if they are living in a major metropolitan area that in no way could be compared to Dodge. Luckily, so far, it is only a common phrase in fiction; I don’t hear many people saying it in real life.

Did you see what I did here? I said that my disdain of improper English is probably misplaced, and yet here I am, being disdainful. At least I kept the list of words and phrases I abhor short. Be thankful I didn’t go on a diatribe about the president of the United States being called the leader of the free world. Does anyone in France consider POTUS their leader? Does anyone in England? Or Germany? Or Canada? And what is the free world anyway?

Oops. I almost went on a diatribe after all.

***

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?

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Mixed Feelings

Today was a day of mixed feelings — happy, sad, shocked, sublime. I hadn’t been going anywhere or seeing anyone for a while, so when I found out the art guild was meeting today, I decided to attend. The town seems to be picking up the pieces of life, with various events that have been cancelled the past year being scheduled once again. For me, it mostly means coming up with another historic murder mystery scenario, but I have several months to think about it.

I was happy being around people, happy to do a project (we made small valentine banners), but I was shocked and oh, so saddened to hear about the death of one art guild member’s husband. My heart goes out to this friend. I’m just like everyone else when it comes to not knowing what to say, so I merely hugged her and said I was sorry. I also let her know I would be available if she ever needed anyone to talk to, which I think she appreciated, but I tend to think she’s still too shaken to be able to put her chaotic thoughts about her loss into words.

The sublime part of today (and the past couple of days) was the frozen fog. I don’t remember if I’d ever seen frozen fog before, though perhaps I did when I was young because the scene has a familiarity about it. I certainly hadn’t seen anything like it when I lived in the desert of California or the high plains of Colorado, so I enjoyed the whiteness. The white trees and shrubs, the white sky, the white . . . everything. It looks like snow, but it isn’t — we haven’t had snow for a couple of weeks. Apparently it’s cold enough (and yes, it is cold, though not as cold as it’s going to be this weekend; they’re talking about a high of zero on Sunday) to freeze the fog in the air and the moisture on the flora.

I’m still on hiatus from work, so it was nice seeing people, but it will be equally nice tomorrow when I stay inside and enjoy the frozen fog from the warmth of my rooms.

***

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

Nothing in My Head

This is one of those days when I have nothing to say, when there’s nothing in my head that needs to be put into words. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing, signifying that I’m at peace with my world, or if it’s a bad thing, signifying . . . actually, I don’t know what it would signify. That I’m stagnating? I just checked for synonyms for stagnating, and the words that showed up — festering, rotting, deteriorating — seem to indicate a lot of activity, and there really isn’t much activity of any kind going on in the thought department.

Oh, there is that conspiracy tale I’m playing around with but don’t really want to get involved with writing — you know the one where a certain disease that virologists were enhancing to be more damaging escaped from a lab. In my scenario, they do it on purpose, though what that purpose is, we won’t find out to the end of the story. As the story progresses, it turns out that the disease the citizenry are told that is causing the pandemic is something quite different from what it actually is, but since the official story blames a variant of a common virus, one that has been known for decades, a large percentage of those who are tested get positive results for that particular virus rather than the true one. As more and more people get sick, the various populations of the world start clamoring for a vaccine, which, of course, is what the perpetrators of the pandemic want. They have something they want to inject into the world’s population — perhaps some sort of tracking chip, though I haven’t yet figured out exactly what it is they want to inject — and they know people won’t accept the injection without a reason, so, they created the reason: the pandemic. Hence, millions of people swarm to get injected while the perpetrators look on with satisfaction.

Yeah, that conspiracy tale.

As I said, I’d never write it because part of it hits too close to home, and I generally stick with stories of government shenanigans based on events that happened decades ago, but it does make me wonder how much of that which we are told is true really is true. How would we know? In this case, we know people who got sick, even know someone who died, but beyond that, what actually do we know on our own without someone putting thoughts into our heads? (Which, of course, would be the sub story of this particular tale.)

Come to think of it, it’s probably a good thing my mind is mostly empty. I wouldn’t want to start believing my own story and get paranoid about all the changes going on in the world because of this misbegotten parasite. (Apparently, viruses are classified as microscopic parasites since they cannot live for long or reproduce outside a host body.)

In retrospect, since I’m mostly staying away from any news source, it makes sense that I have no deep thoughts about anything right now since I am purposely restricting what goes in. And, of course, nothing can come out if nothing goes in.

***

If you haven’t yet read A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel of a quarantine that predated this pandemic by more than ten years, you can read the first chapter online here: http://patbertram.com/A_Spark_of_Heavenly_Fire.html

Buy it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0024FB5H6/

Download the first 30% free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842

New Month, New Tarot Deck

Every month I’ve been using a different tarot deck in an effort to see if the deck feels the same as the rest, or if it resonates with me. Although I like a couple of the decks better than any of the others, either because of size or feel or the artistry, I haven’t felt any special affinity with any of the cards.

This month’s choice of decks is the Jungian tarot, which is based on archetypal images designed to activate the imagination. According to the designer of the deck, most of the current values assigned to the various cards were arbitrarily developed in the nineteenth century by occult groups. By contrast, he says the attributions in the Jungian Tarot were painstakingly researched in an effort to relate tarot interpretation to more ancient traditions.

Sounds good, right? Well, today’s card, the ten of wands activates my imagination not at all. The image gives me the impression of being weirdly inappropriate since it seems sinister, and the ten of wands is a rather benign card relating to careful management, functioning within a large organization, success, the loneliness that comes from success, and reacting defensively to badly organized ideas. Which is not a whole lot different from the meanings assigned by other tarot interpreters. Most say the card is about success and the perhaps oppressive responsibilities one has to take on because of that success; a need for prioritizing, delegating, and sharing your burdens. (None of which seem to have any relation to my life at all.)

It almost seems as if the major arcana (the cards most people have heard of, such as the fool, the hanged man, the sun, the moon, etc) are the cards that every tarot artist and interpreter spend most time on, and the others are “also rans.” (Which is why so many readings, such as online readings, use only those twenty-two cards rather than all seventy-eight cards.)

When I do graduate from picking just one card to doing a periodic reading (weekly or monthly), chances are I will only use those twenty-two cards until I get familiar with how the cards fit together to show . . . well, to show whatever it is they are supposed to show. I still don’t know. I do know the tarot isn’t really about foretelling the future; it’s more about communicating with our deepest being, but so far, there’s not a hint of what I might be hiding in my innermost depths. It could be I have no such depths. It could be the cards are not speaking to me, and if they are, I haven’t learned to listen. It could be that the whole thing is hokum.

So far, the only imagination it has activated in me is the possibility of using the cards as story telling cards — using each of the face cards as a character, and surrounding them random cards to see how their lives would unfold. But the idea has gone no further than that. Nor have I deepened whatever intuition I might have or learned anything I don’t already know.

But I have the cards, so it does me no harm to pick one every day just to see what I pick.

***

While sorting through her deceased husband’s effects, Amanda is shocked to discover a gun and the photo of an unknown girl who resembles their daughter. After dedicating her life to David and his vocation as a pastor, the evidence that her devout husband kept secrets devastates Amanda. But Amanda has secrets of her own. . .

Click here to buy: Unfinished

Contemplating ESP

One benefit of being an eclectic reader is that once the cover of the novel about the sabotage of the electric grid system in the US was closed, the emergency was over. Not in real life perhaps, but as one reader pointed out, there are a million ways the universe is out to get us (since, after all, the end result of our lives on this planet is our death); 999,999 of those ways won’t get us, so why worry about them.

Now I’m on to another book-induced worry. Well, not “worry” exactly, more like a train of thought. This time about psychic powers, artifacts infused with psychic powers, and the ways these artifacts can be used for good or ill.

When I was young, I thought the various forms of extra sensory perception were an indication of a more enlightened being. I felt bad that I wasn’t one of the chosen, and I hated the thought of being just like everyone else. Now, I am exceedingly grateful for my normalcy. It’s hard enough dealing with life with the tinge of intuition I do have. Apparently, I have a built-in lie, manipulation, and insincerity detector, though it manifests as confusion in the case of lies and manipulation, and nausea in the face of insincerity. (Which is why I cannot watch any news, cannot listen to any politician.) The problem with such low-level perception is that often I don’t know what the lie is, just that it is. Which, of course, adds to the confusion. Even more confusing, it took me most of my life to realize what was going on.

I also have a bit of an ability to pick up vibes. For example, back when dancing with my class, I could feel the energy flowing in sync from all of us, as if it were lifting our arms and feet at the same time. I thought it was a universal feeling, that all the other dancers could feel the same thing, but that wasn’t the case.

Also, sometimes I sense an affinity with people I just met. Of course, we all have that sense of affinity at times. It’s just a matter of learning to trust it.

But to actually be able to read someone’s mind? To be able to move things with mental energy? To be able to see auras? To have visions, whether of the future or of things that have already happened? To be able to view things remotely? I don’t think so. If my life is steeped in confusion now, I can’t imagine the sort of extreme confusion I’d be afflicted with if I had such powers.

As long as I am reading the novel, I will be aware of such things and contemplate the possibility of extra-sensory perception, but I’ll be glad when the book is closed and I can go on to something more mundane.

Like a serial killer, maybe. Or perhaps covert activities. Or, even worse, a romance!

What about you? Would you like to have some sort of ESP? Do you think it would enhance your life or make it even more complicated?

***

If you haven’t yet read A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel of a quarantine that predated this pandemic by more than ten years, you can read the first chapter online here: http://patbertram.com/A_Spark_of_Heavenly_Fire.html

Buy it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0024FB5H6/

Download the first 30% free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842

Unwanted Thoughts

It’s interesting to me that so many of my daily one-card tarot readings talk of good fortune, windfalls, and such. I don’t really believe what the cards say because each reading negates the previous one, and the cards aren’t always positive, but I have come to believe that things are going to go well for me financially. So when things don’t, I feel affronted. I mean, how is my house insurance going up by 25% good fortune? It seems like a huge increase, though perhaps with more people staying home there are more claims? Or the weather in the area has been more damaging this past year? Or the company took a huge hit because of all the wildfires in the Colorado last year?

This particular area has inordinately high insurance rates, anyway, but whatever the reason for the increase, it isn’t good fortune! Or maybe it is? I guess I could consider myself fortunate that I’m not one of those who had to deal with damage.

It’s things like this — huge increases in expenses that aren’t reflected by increases in income — that made me not want to ever own a house, but I’d be paying it one way or another anyway. If I were still renting, the rent would go up to reflect the current insurance rate.

Luckily, once I get over the panic and affront of the higher rate, I’ll be okay for now because I am working, and so will have enough to pay the bill. Even more luckily, once it’s paid, I won’t have to think about it for a year. It does make me glad I didn’t reward this particular insurance company by switching my car insurance over to them. I would have saved a bit on the house insurance, but my car insurance would have gone way up, so I’d still be in the same position.

I did talk to my insurance agent in case there was a clerical error. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an error, though she too was shocked by the huge increase. She’ll look around to see if she can find a better deal for me, but back when I first got the insurance, this current company was by far the better price.

I really shouldn’t even be writing about this — it’s not anyone’s problem but mine — but it is on my mind, and writing about what I am thinking is how I get rid of unwanted thoughts, and I really don’t want these thoughts in my head!

***

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God