Lily Selfies

I’ve been disappointed with my garden lately. On second thought — it’s not the garden that’s disappointing me, it’s the lack of photo opportunities. The plants themselves are doing what they are supposed to be doing. For example, the hollyhocks have stopped blooming and are now going to seed, which is great, because I want those seeds, but the plants are not very pretty. The stalks are brown and scraggly, and the leaves have huge holes where the grasshoppers have been feasting.

Today, however, I was surprised by the lilies. I had forgotten I’d ordered and planted the lilies almost two years ago because only one ever poked its way above ground, but this year, several are growing and a couple of them are even blooming. And wow! Those flowers are big!

I had a hard time photographing the flowers, because they are shy things and hang their heads.

Luckily, I remembered that my phone’s camera has selfie capabilities (the function was easy to forget since I never take selfies), so I put the phone in selfie mode and managed to get a good look at the lilies. Lovely! And such dainty colors.

As I was heading into the house, I happened to see a pairing of flowers that looked so beautiful together that I took that picture too.

I enjoy growing things, but photographing the blooms adds to my enjoyment, so much so that sometimes I wonder if that’s why I like gardening — it gives me a reason to use the camera.

***

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

Walking to Walk

For the past few days, I’ve been taking walks, and it’s felt strange. I haven’t walked simply to walk in months. Ever since the advent of gardening season, I’ve spent the cooler hours in my yard — digging, planting, weeding, watering, mowing, sometimes for several hours at a time. Supposedly gardening is exercise, and if sweat is a meter to go by, then for certain I was exercising. By the time I finished my gardening chores, it was too hot to walk, so I stopped walking. Actually, that’s not true. I’ve been walking all along, but any walking I did had a purpose — going to the grocery store, stopping by the dollar store, visiting the library, heading to work.

With gardening upkeep at a minimum right now (nothing to plant, whatever grass there was is dead, and the big weeds haven’t grown back) I’ve suddenly had the time and energy and inclination to walk. So I did.

That’s what feels so strange — walking for no other reason than to walk. To be honest, I’m pleased I still have the ability to walk. I think a person ages rapidly once the ability to walk diminishes. Right now, I’m walking less than two miles, which at one time felt like no more than a walk around the block, but now . . . well, come to think of it, it still feels like a walk around the block, but I’m not ready to ramp up my walking to a more challenging distance. I need to ease into it to make sure I don’t overtax my knees.

It’s a shame there’s no open space with trails right around here — the closest place, from what I can gather, is about fifteen miles away, and although it’s a nice place to walk, driving to walk feels even weirder to me than walking to walk.

Once the garden season comes to an end and my flowers start dying, I’ll probably have to do a lot more digging and hoeing to get rid of the old plants and to try to tame the grass and knotweed that creep into my flower beds, but perhaps I can work just a bit at a time so I can keep up with my walking.

But that’s getting too far ahead of myself. I’m just glad to be able to roam around town even if there is no real reason for the walk — other than to walk, that is.

***

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

Lackadaisical

Although I enjoy writing this blog, perhaps because nowadays it’s the only writing I do, I somehow end up procrastinating when I open the computer instead of getting right to work. Today’s procrastination activities centered around a search for a cheap but sturdy outdoor dining set for my gazebo. Not that the gazebo is finished — it’s not. It’s still the same bare-wood, roofless crib that has been taunting me for the past year.

When I talked to the contractor a few weeks ago, going over all the work that still needs to be done, he mentioned he’d be coming to finish the gazebo himself rather than sending one of his employees as he has been doing. I’m sure he will eventually do the work, since eventually most things do get finished, and though I have no real expectations of the gazebo being done this summer, suddenly today I decided I needed an outdoor dining set of some sort for when the thing is finished. I found one I like, but it only comes with two chairs, which shouldn’t be a problem considering how seldom I have company, but I have it in my mind that I need four. So far, I haven’t found a four-chair set that I like, but then, I don’t have a finished gazebo either.

It’s kind of funny, but when my new neighbor moved in and saw how seldom the workers came, he thought they were taking advantage of me. I suppose they are, in a way, but mostly, I don’t care because the longer they draw out the work, the longer I’ll have the excitement of work being done. And then, with my car taking forever to get fixed (one weird mechanical malfunction after another that entails weeks of waiting for the parts to come in), he thought the mechanic was taking advantage of me, too, which is possible, but I don’t really need to go anywhere, so it doesn’t really matter. None of that is what’s funny; what I find amusing is that now he has the same issues with people promising to do things and then not showing up. And a vehicle of his has been in the shop for months now, and no sign of it ever being finished.

We’re not the only ones — a woman has been waiting for several months to get a window replaced, a friend can’t find a contractor to do some needed work on her house, and another neighbor has someone sporadically working on his house when the worker feels like it.

We’ve come to the conclusion it’s the area that somehow fosters a lackadaisical attitude. His dog, a rescue animal, was hyper when they first got here, always wanting to be on the go and running away when she didn’t get enough walks in a day. Now she’s so laid back that she sleeps most of the time.

I doubt the dog has become lazy — I’m sure her somnolence has to do with the heat. And when it comes to contractors and mechanics, I’m sure that’s not laziness, either. In fact, so often the problem is these people have too much to do, not enough time to do it, and too few employees who are willing to work, but they do seem to be able to ignore their broken promises and to make changes in their schedule they don’t bother mentioning.

Still, today, I had to go searching for a patio dining set for a gazebo that might not be finished until next year. Or the year after.

I didn’t buy anything, of course. It would have taken too much effort to overcome my own lackadaisical attitude.

***

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

Getting Up Early

I’ve always been rather a night owl. Left on my own without needing to get up early to go to a job, my normal hours were midnight to nine a.m. During the first year I lived here, I kept those hours, finding it amusing that anyone would be awake and alert enough to get to the senior center for exercise at eight. It just seemed so dang early, though I did manage to make it a few times. I also needed to know ahead of time when any workers were planning on coming so I could set my alarm and be up before their eight a.m. arrival.

Then suddenly, for no reason, about the time The Bob made itself known in this country, I started waking at first light. I’d blame melatonin, which regulates one’s circadian rhythms, except that I’ve been taking it for decades without any need to wake early. Even when I wear a sleep mask, the dawn manages to find me and wake me despite the darkness I see behind the mask.

Getting up at five and even before seems bizarre to me, though luckily, the sun is sleeping in a bit later these days, so now I can too. It also seems weird to be able to get so much done before my normal waking hours. Generally, by nine o’clock when I used to get up, I’ve made my bed, folded my daily quota of origami cranes, spent time with my tarot cards, done some stretching exercises, watered my various garden spots, weeded a bit. Then, during the time I’d normally be doing those things, I get other things done. For example, today I went to the library, took a drive (even though the brake warning light is coming on, I figure I need to keep the car in shape), staked some of my tomato plants that somehow became unstaked, and played with my new leaf blower. (I hoped the blower would be strong enough to clear the twigs off my landscape rocks, but it’s so powerful that instead it blows the rocks off the twigs.)

Later, I showered, ate, read, played on the computer, and now I am catching up on my blog. When I’m finished, I’ll be going to work.

It seems that the day is so very long when I get up early, but it isn’t, especially since I conk out early. Last night, admittedly, I stayed up late reading as I always used to, probably because I’d napped in the afternoon, and I did sleep in — all the way until 6:30!

That is so not me — these early hours

Except, apparently, now it is.

***

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

New Project!

I am rather proud of the way my project for today turned out — creating a flagstone path across the rocks from the sidewalk to the mailbox. It looks as if it was simple task, but some of those flagstones were so thick, I needed to create a three-inch-deep space in the rocks to accommodate the stones.

The path was mostly supposed to be for show, since I like the looks of paths of all kinds, but it has turned out to be an important addition. Normally, I would walk down the driveway to the street and then check my mail. If there was any rain, however, water flooded the driveway for several days until it evaporated (the drainage on this side of the street is a joke), making it impossible to traverse. When the driveway was flooded, I used to have to deal with weeds and mud to cut across the right of way to get to the mailbox. There hasn’t been any rain for several weeks, but now the driveway is unusable since it is heaped with the rocks that will eventually be spread around the house to protect the foundation.

Luckily, the right of way is now landscaped with rock, but unluckily, the bed of rock is even more treacherous to cross than the weeds and mud were. Luckily, I found enough flagstones around this place to create my little pathway to the mailbox. Unluckily, I seldom get mail, but luckily, since I have to check the box anyway, I now have safe passage.

I got confused with all the “luckily”s and “unluckily”s, especially since in the middle of writing that paragraph, the doorbell rang with a package for me — a leaf blower to keep the rocks cleared of debris. Still, I tend to think I came out ahead.

And if not, well, here’s one more “luckily”: luckily, I was able to do the path myself and not have to wait for errant workers to show up and do the job for me.

***

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

Doing the Best We Can

Yesterday was the third anniversary of my older brother’s death. He’d been homeless, possibly bipolar, and driven by rage. As another sibling said, “I will probably always be tormented by thoughts of the torture his demons inflicted upon him.”

We are a myth-making species, and the myth another sibling has adopted is that our homeless brother took upon himself the demons that haunted our family so the rest of us could be free. It’s a pretty myth that allows her to make sense of his life, and for all I know, it could be true, but I can’t shrug off his problems that easily.

My brother hated Jeff, partly, I think, because my brother felt abandoned when he discovered he and I weren’t in the same boat — loners with never a chance at a real relationship. He also felt he should be the one to look after me, though he couldn’t even look after himself.

Back when his problems started showing up, no one even considered the possibility of mental illness; they just thought he was a troublemaker. He and my father were so much alike. They both thought they knew the right of things, and they often fought. For most of my life, they used me as the rope in their game of tug-of-war, and I wasn’t smart enough or hard enough to discover a way out. I remember as a young woman thinking I’d never have any peace until they were both dead, and that the depressed me to no end, not only that I would think such a thought, but that it might be true.

For many years with Jeff, I did managed to evade much of their conflicts and the despair those conflicts (and my divided loyalties) engendered in me. After Jeff, died I went to look after my then ninety-three-year-old father, and when my brother showed up shortly afterward, the fighting escalated. And again, I was caught between the two of them. This lasted until my father’s death.

Oddly, although I often think of my brother, I don’t usually think of the horror those demons put us through. I think of the irony that because of his homelessness and his demons, I have a home. It was his death that started a whole cascade of events that led me here, to this house. In a way, I benefitted from his demons, though I don’t feel guilty. It’s just something I ponder.

We can never know the truth of someone else’s life. I learned this after Jeff died. I was wailing to a hospice social worker that he hadn’t had much of a life since he was so often sick, and she told me that he did have a life. It might not have been a happy life, but it was his life. It took years for that particular lesson to soak in because our lives had been so entwined and we thought so much alike that it was often hard to tell who had what thought first, but the truth is, it was his life. I might have been a part of his life, but I wasn’t the whole of it.

It’s the same with my brother. Whatever I think of his life, the choices he made and those that were thrust on him, I try to allow him the dignity of owning his own life.

One other thing I’ve learned from all of this — the conflicts, the deaths, and especially my grief — is that we all do the best we can with what we are given. It’s hard sometimes to separate out the unfairness of life, since some people are given so much — good physical health, good mental health, wealth, joy, companionship — while others get by on a paucity of such gifts.

And even when we, in hindsight, think that others could have, should have done better with their meager gifts, if we’d been inside their heads, with their demons poking at us, we might realize that yes, they did the best they could.

If there is anything I do feel guilty about, or at least unsettled by, it’s that I was right all those decades ago. It’s only now that both my father and my brother are gone that I’ve truly found peace. It’s a horrible thought, made even worse by the truth of it. The one mitigating factor is that if my belief is true — that we all do the best we can — then not only did they do the best they could, but so did I. It’s not as if I wished them dead. I didn’t. I simply wished for peace, not just for me, but for them, too.

***

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

Stepping Out

A few days ago I happened to encounter some friends at the library. We talked for a while, then they asked if I were going to a tea for a local artist. I said no, and added that I wasn’t yet comfortable being in group. One woman asked me if my reluctance was because of the virus or because I didn’t want to be around people.

I had to chuckle at her perspicacious comment. I was doing well trying to be sociable until the restriction on gatherings was put in place, and then suddenly, I was back in my milieu (being by myself). It’s one of the reasons that when a job opportunity arose, I took it — not only would it help with my bills, but it would keep me from being a total hermit in those hermitage times. I never felt uncomfortable, either with the women or with the prospect of getting sick, because we more or less formed our own little family group.

The truth is, though, now that things are opening up again, I really am hesitant to be around people. During the past year and a half, I never got sick. I had allergy flareups, but I never caught anything at all, no colds, no “regular” flu, no infections of any kind. I must admit, I did like that. A lot.

Still, the woman’s comment did make me rethink my ways. If I let the reluctance at being around people get any stronger, it could become a stranglehold. Though I didn’t go to that tea, I did attend a meeting of the local art guild, and when the opportunity arose to attend another get together, I waffled, but I did go.

It’s possible I’ll retreat into my lovely shell again (a reference to my house, of course), but I don’t know. I do know I enjoyed being around people again, so I might continue stepping out.

Unless I get sick, of course; then all bets are off.

***

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.

Unsafety

In a discussion forum about classic Volkswagen Beetles a couple of years ago, someone asked if I would daily drive such a car, and I said yes. I mentioned how long I’ve had it, all the trips I’ve taken, how well the car has held up over the years, and how in some respects, it’s a safe car for me because everyone notices the car. Often, predators go after those who are so unnoticeable that they are easily culled from the herd and that doesn’t hold true for me.

There’s always someone who has to get testy, although it took two years for any testiness to surface. As this particular fellow just said, “You have no worries for your own safety? Admittedly, a classic VW Beetle tends to stand out from regular traffic, but in the age of young testosterone-overloaded guys driving 400 hp diesel trucks with 40″ tires, I am surprised that being safe in an accident doesn’t seem to register with you.”

My response, “Maybe driving defensively and staying out of accidents is more important that being safe in an accident,” only ramped up his disgust with my lack of safety.

In a rather ironic twist of fate, a book I read yesterday happened to be about a teenager who was driving his rebuilt classic VW and was hit head-on by a drunk driver. Eek.

I understand that accidents happen even to safe drivers, but I’ve noticed that all the safety features in a car, while saving lives, also seem to encourage rash behavior behind the wheel. In an old car, there is no doubt one is driving — the noise, uncomfortable seat, and non-power steering tell you that. In today’s relatively silent cars with plush seats, people act as if they are sitting in their living room rather than behind the wheel of a lethal weapon. They rely too much on those vaunted safety features to save their life, but seem to have no concern for other lives they might be endangering.

I understand that the old VW bugs are dangerous, which is why there are so few on the road today — so many of them were wrecked in various accidents. Even I have been in accidents, mostly fender benders, never one where I was seriously injured. The truth is, though, that cars other than old VWs are those mostly involved in accidents nowadays.

Since it’s possible for anyone to get in an accident at any time, I never take driving for granted and am particularly careful to drive only when conditions are good. I don’t drive at night when visibility is limited. I don’t drive during rain or snow storms. (As you can see, I’d never make it as a mail deliverer because snow and rain and heat and gloom of night all stay me from completing any appointed rounds.) I don’t drive during rush hour. And I don’t drive in city traffic. I’d take these same precautions even if I were driving a tank with every imaginable safety feature because I understand that any car can be a weapon. (Most statistics just show fatal accident statistics, but non-fatal accidents are problematic, too. Approximately 1.35 million people die in vehicle accidents each year, but 20-50 million additional people sustain non-fatal injuries, often resulting in long-term disabilities.)

I could be wrong, but I tend to think that if everyone who got behind the wheel realized they were in control of a dangerous weapon that demands their full attention, there would be fewer accidents.

Although at the time of the discussion, I said that I did drive my car every day, things have changed, and now I seldom drive. This year, of course, there have been issues, such as carburetors and distributors and other parts that don’t talk to one another as well as brake problems. (What takes all the time is getting the parts. This far from civilization, there are no specialty car part stores, so everything has to be ordered online.) Even before the car parts issue, I curtailed my driving. I can get almost everything I need within walking distance. Those other things can be ordered online or purchased on the rare occasions when I go to a bigger town with more stores.

What concerns me more than driving or not driving is why anyone I’ve never met would have any opinion whatsoever about the unsafety of my car.

***

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

Zero Degrees of Separation

During a meeting I attended yesterday in the early afternoon, one of the women talked about relatives who’d come to visit. She mentioned how busy she was but managed to attend the meeting because her company had gone to a nearby town to visit other relatives.

Just chit chat. You know how it goes.

A couple hours later, when I was at my caregiving job, a couple knocked on the door. The woman explained they were in town visiting their cousin and wanted to see my client, who was the mother of the woman’s lifelong friend. They were a bit hesitant because they didn’t know me or why I was there, and since I didn’t know them, I too was a bit hesitant for a brief moment until I realized who they were.

I exclaimed in amazement, “I know you. You’re L’s company. She was just talking about you.”

Writing it out like that, it doesn’t sound all that amazing, and perhaps it isn’t, especially for a small town, and especially for a small town where half the people have lived here their whole lives and whose families have lived here for generations.

Still, I do find it amazing. I barely knew any of my relatives. My father was a bit of a slow rolling stone. He moved away from his family to start his own, and when we grew up, he moved away from us. And I have no friends I’ve known my whole life, though in recent years I did reconnect with some high school classmates.

Generally, in my life, there were many degrees of separation between the people I know and the people I meet. And yet around here, there’s barely a degree of separation.

I don’t suppose it will take long for me to become part of that lifestyle. Because of the woman I take care of, I know how many of the people here fit together, and in turn, the people I meet are figuring out who I am and how I fit in.

Of course, I’ll never really be part of that zero-degrees-of-separation life, because even if I live here until my expiration date, I’ll still be a newcomer. Luckily, people here like newcomers.

***

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.

Harvest!

When I was out watering my newly bedded day lilies, I noticed that most of the plants had a bit of green on them. If I had watered according to their directions — once a week — those things would have been fried in this heat. Out here, many things have to be watered every day in the middle of summer, though mostly I try to stick to every other day. Unfortunately, some plants die under that regimen, though fortunately others, even others of the same ilk, do well.

A couple of my cherry tomato plants seem to be dying, but a couple are doing so well that I was able to harvest a tomato off one of the plants.

I had to laugh at myself when I bought the plants — I spent more on those plants than I do on a year’s worth of tomatoes, and yet, it has been fun watching them grow. And the tomato I harvested and ate today was exceptionally delicious.

When the radishes were growing, I’d pick them while I was watering, wash them off, and eat them on the spot. I’ll probably do the same with the tomatoes. Now I just need to find other edibles that will also allow for grazing. I had considered a berry patch, but with all the birds around here, I’d probably never get a single berry unless I built a contraption to keep all flying creatures out and all berries in.

I did try to grow greengage plum trees, and one is doing well, while the other two will have to be replaced, but either way, it will be years before I get a single plum, and then there is the bird problem with those, too.

Well, it’s too late to plant anything else this summer and too early to plant anything for fall, so I have plenty of time to decide what I want to do.

Meantime, I’m looking forward to another tomato or two.

***

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