Happy Thirteenth Bloggiversary to Me!

I created this blog exactly thirteen years ago today, back when I hadn’t yet become a published author, back when I had just acquired my first computer and didn’t even know what a blog was. I had read how important blogging was for authors, both as a way of getting known and as a way of connecting with readers, so I decided to “act as if” I were going to be published in the hopes of making it happen. I had nothing to say, no one to say it to, no reason to say anything, but I didn’t let that stop me. I started blogging on September 24, 2007, and haven’t stopped since.

Did acting as if I were going to get published work? Perhaps, though there is no direct connection that I know of. Still, one and a half years after starting this blog, my first two books were published. I now have eight books available: five suspense novels, one mystery, and two non-fiction books about grief. A ninth book will soon be published, a novel that my publisher said, “is playful, fun and well-written. It spans genres, so I’m not sure if there is an exploitable target audience. I don’t care. I like it.”

Two-and-half years after I started this blog, my life mate/soul mate died, and his death catapulted me into a world of such pain that it bled over into my posts. This blog became a place where I could try to make sense of what I was going through, to offer comfort and be comforted, to find my way to renewed life. And I struck a chord with people who were also dealing with grief. It’s no wonder my top posts are grief related: What Do You Say to Someone Who is Grieving at Christmas? with 82,261 views and The Five Major Challenges We Face During the Second Year of Grief with 38,122 views.

This blog sustained me during the years I cared for my father after Jeff’s death, and it gave me a place to rest when my father died four years later, and I was thrown out into the world, alone and orphaned.

And this blog offered me a place to call home when I set out alone on a five-month, 12,000 mile cross-country road trip, gave me a place where I could talk about all the wonders I was seeing. Often on that trip, when I was between visits with online friends, I thought of William Cowper’s words: How sweet, how passing sweet, is solitude! But grant me still a friend in my retreat, whom I may whisper, solitude is sweet. And this blog became a place where I could whisper, “Solitude is sweet.”

Currently, as I am continuing to settle into a house of my own, it’s nice to know that whatever life throws at me, whatever problems I encounter, whatever challenges and adventures — and joys — come my way, this blog will be here for me.

During the past thirteen years, I have written 2,842 blogs, received 19,481 comments, and garnered 873,352 views. It amazes me that anyone wants to read anything that I write here. This is so much a place for just letting my thoughts roam, for thinking through problems, and (I admit it) for pontificating a bit. It’s been a kick, writing this blog, and I want to thank all of you for indulging my whims and whimsys.

Thank you for reading. Thank you all for your comments, your likes, your support. They have meant more to me (especially this past ten and a half years) than you can ever imagine.

***

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.

100 Days

There are one hundred days until the end of the year. What are you going to do with those days? Will you finally get around to the New Year’s resolutions you made and promptly forgot? Are you going to slack off, giving yourself permission to take a break from the breakneck speed of your life? Are you going to get going on that novel you wanted to start, continue, finish, or edit? Are you going to make inroads in the pile of to-be-read books on your nightstand, or finally read some of those ebooks you downloaded? Are you going attempt the photography project you always wanted to do? Are you going to blog every day?

That’s what I’m going to do — recommit to blogging every day. I’ve been blogging every day for the past 365 days, and I intend to extend that commitment to the end of the year. (I’ll try to make the blogs interesting because posting something just to post something sort of negates the “challenge” part.) Feel free to join me! We can help each other, offering encouragement or topics when the will begins to wane. And it does. When I was grieving, it was easier to come up with topics than it is now when I am in a more comfortable situation. It’s hard to find lesson in being at peace. I suppose peace is a lesson in itself, but what can you say beyond that you’re at peace?

Still, I do manage to find something to write about. My sincere apologies for the more mindless posts and my eternal gratitude to everyone who reads what I write. A special thank you to those who comment, and a heartfelt appreciation for the thought-provoking responses. It’s always good to have more thoughts in my head than simply those I put there.

Even in a year as difficult and as slow as this one, the days do pass. And in 100 days it will be over. I have no great belief that next year will be better, so it’s not as though I’m counting down to the end of the year in order to get rid of this one. It’s more about taking something besides fear and isolation out of this year. It’s about making this year count, or at least making the last 100 days count. How are you going to make your days count?

***

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

Being Centered

After Jeff died, I feared I would stagnate, so I tried to get into the habit of saying “yes” to invitations and to following people’s suggestions about things to do. This led me to many interesting activities, including a short road trip along Route 66, learning to shoot various guns, and many meals with friends. (Going against people’s suggestions also netted me interesting activities, such as my cross-country road trip. Many people warned me of the dangers and said I couldn’t go alone, but I could and I did.)

More recently, ever since I heeded the suggestion to buy a house in southeastern Colorado, I’ve again been saying a lot of yesses. These yesses, too, have let me to interesting activities, including a train ride through the Royal Gorge, artistic endeavors such as painting gourds and making wreaths, and many, many meals with friends.

During the ten days after Christmas, there were no activities, so I spent the time by myself. It felt good. Centered. As if I were pulling my life back into my life.

It felt especially good to be able to structure my days. A bit of writing in the morning, walking around noon when the sun had taken the chill off the winter air, making raw vegetable salads and other healthy things in the afternoon. And reading in the evening.

I am so often torn — being disciplined or treating myself; being alone or visiting with friends; being structured or acting spontaneously. Being centered helps to mend the tear, to find a balance between what I want to do and . . . well, what I want to do. I want to do all of it, because obviously, if I didn’t want to be disciplined, I wouldn’t even try. If I didn’t want to treat myself, I wouldn’t give in. If I didn’t want to be alone, I would add to my activities, if I didn’t want to be with people, I’d say “no” more often.

Daily blogging began the process of centering me. It’s both a discipline and a treat, a way of being alone and visiting, a way of being structured and spontaneous. Writing has always been important to me, and it’s good to have an excuse to indulge myself (though truly, one needs no excuse to write).

A center needs to be held loosely — if you hold on too tightly, the pressure can blow it apart. If you hold on too loosely, it turns in “a widening gyre” and the center cannot hold. Still, without doing any harm, I can certainly be more careful what I say yes to. I’ve backed away from one of the clubs I joined, will back away from some shared meals, and am backing into a healthier regime.

Oddly, I no longer fear I will stagnate. Perhaps what I called stagnation was simply being centered.

***

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.

And the Streak Continues!

Can you believe it? It’s been fifty days since I started blogging every day again. Wow, that went fast! For me, anyway. For you, it might have been a long slog since my post topics have been all over the place, with only a thin theme to bind them together: what goes on in my life and in my head.

I blogged every day for many years, and then things happened to get me off the track. Buying a house. Moving. Starting a new life. Even before the house, though, I’d stopped blogging about whatever came to mind. When I was trying to find an agent for Grief: The Inside Story — A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One, I needed to present myself as someone who knew what she was talking about, and a post about apples, for example, just wouldn’t cut it. So I tried to focus on grief topics.

The problem was that I had nothing left to say about grief. I’d spent months working on Grief: The Inside Story, and I included everything I had learned about grief in the book, especially the things that the professional grief community got wrong.

When I started writing the book, I’d been more or less pain free for a year or two (there are always upsurges of grief that one cannot plan for), so I had to dig deep to reconnect with my grief, and in doing so, I’d wrung myself dry.

Consequently, there were no non-grief posts, but no grief posts, either.

As it turned out, it wouldn’t have mattered whatever I wrote for this blog. Literary agents are only interested in people who have tens of thousands of followers, and I’m nowhere close to that number. The irony of it all is that if I had such a following, I sure as heck wouldn’t have needed the agents!

By that time, though, I’d lost the habit of daily blogging, so I finally challenged myself to blog daily for 100 days in an effort to kickstart my writing.

Now here I am, halfway through that self-imposed 100-day blog challenge, and enjoying it immensely. I’d forgotten how good it feels to find something to write about each day, something that happened, maybe, and try to show why it was important.

The challenge ends on January 2, 2020, which means there are forty-eight days left until the end of the year.

What are you going to do with those days?

I know what I’m going to do: blog!

***

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.

100 Days

There are ninety-eight days until the end of the year. What are you going to do with those days? Will you finally get around to the New Year’s resolutions you made and promptly forgot? Are you going to slack off, giving yourself permission to take a break from the breakneck speed of your life? Are you going to get going on that novel you wanted to start, continue, finish, or edit? Are you going to make inroads in the pile of books on your nightstand, or finally read some of those ebooks you downloaded? Are you going attempt the photography project you always wanted to do?

In yesterday’s blog about my twelve-year blog anniversary, I mentioned that several years ago I had made a commitment to post every day for the last 100 days of the year, and I suddenly felt as if I’d like to take up the challenge again. After all, I had already completed the first day! (Since I am getting a late start — the 100 last days began with September 23 — I will have to add the first day of the new year to make an even 100 days. Assuming I get that far. Assuming that decimal numbers are important.)

The first challenge helped me get back into writing, helped me get back into myself. Too often I am pulled in many directions, with no clear direction of what I want to do or be, so a challenge like this might be what I need to give me a bit of focus.

And challenge it will be. I have a hard time focusing my mind on any sort of writing right now. I am trying to put together a press release about my latest (and possibly my most important) book Grief: The Inside Story, but the words don’t seem to connect with me.

It’s possible this disconnect with words is due not so much to letting myself drift but falling once again into my old book-a-day reading habit. (After Jeff died, I couldn’t read because books either had a couple getting together, which made me cry, or had the couple not getting together, which made me cry, or had too many deaths, which made me cry. It was easier simply to stop reading. Compared to losing Jeff, giving up reading was easy, though it had always been a major part of my life.)

I recently read that reading and writing go hand in hand because reading is inhaling and writing is exhaling. (That’s how I always felt about reading, as if it were a type of breathing.) But now I suppose I need to try to exhale, though I’m not sure what I would be exhaling. I have little to say, no real inclination to say what I do have to say, and making a commitment goes against my current desire to drift, but what the heck. I never let a lack of wisdom stop me from blogging before.

All this is by way of warning for those of you who follow this blog. Yesterday, today, and the coming ninety-eight days are more for me, just for the discipline of writing. I don’t expect you to read or comment on my meanderings, (especially not this blog post), but if you desire to do so anyway, I will be glad of the company.

And maybe I will even be glad of a chance to stop the drift. Just drifting has been good for me, especially the past few months where I’ve been getting used to a new house, a new town, a new life, but it doesn’t really seem to accomplish much.

So, this is a start.

Perhaps.

***

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.

Happy Twelfth Bloggiversary to Me!

I created this blog exactly twelve years ago today, back when I hadn’t yet become a published author, back when I had just acquired my first computer and didn’t even know what a blog was. I had read how important blogging was for authors, both as a way of getting known and as a way of connecting with readers, so I decided to “act as if” I were going to be published in the hopes of making it happen. I had nothing to say, no one to say it to, no reason to say anything, but I didn’t let that stop me. I started blogging on September 24, 2007, and haven’t stopped since, though admittedly, I don’t post as much as I once did.

Did acting as if I were going to get published work? Perhaps, though there is no direct connection that I know of. Still, one and a half years after starting this blog, my first two books were published. I now have eight books available: five suspense novels, one mystery, and two non-fiction books about grief.

Nine and a half years ago, my life mate/soul mate died, and his death catapulted me into a world of such pain that it bled over into my posts. This blog became a place where I could try to make sense of what I was going through, to offer comfort and be comforted, to find my way to renewed life. This blog sustained me during the years I cared for my father, and it gave me a place to rest after my father died, when I was thrown out into the world, alone and orphaned. And this blog offered me a place to call home when I set out alone on a five-month, 12,000 mile cross-country road trip, gave me a place where I could talk about all the wonders I was seeing. Often on that trip, when I was between visits with online friends, I thought of William Cowper’s words: How sweet, how passing sweet, is solitude! But grant me still a friend in my retreat, whom I may whisper, solitude is sweet. And this blog became a place where I could whisper, “Solitude is sweet.”

Currently, as I am settling into a home of my own, it’s nice to know that whatever life throws at me, whatever problems I encounter, whatever challenges and adventures — and joys — come my way, this blog will be here for me.

Although I’d planned to post every day when I started blogging, during the first four years I only managed to blog three or four times a week, but exactly eight years ago today, I made a 100-day commitment to post a daily blog, and once that initial commitment was fulfilled, I continued to post every day for four and a half years. I probably would still be blogging every day except I got out of the habit of daily posts while on my great adventure because so often on the road, I had no internet connection, not even with my phone. And now that I am embarking on the new adventure of homeownership, complete with internet, I have few internal (or external) conflicts to give me blog topics.

But still, the blog is here, always welcoming me when I do find something to say, generally once or twice a month, but perhaps, when I get tired of my new offline world, I’ll be back here every day.

During the past twelve years, I have written 2,480 blogs, received 17,489 comments, and garnered 780,711 views. It amazes me that anyone wants to read anything that I write here. This is so much a place for just letting my thoughts roam, for thinking through problems, and (I admit it) for pontificating a bit. It’s been a kick, writing this blog, and I want to thank all of you for indulging my whims and whimsys.

Thank you for reading. Thank you all for your comments, your likes, your support. They have meant more to me (especially this past nine and a half years) than you can ever imagine.

***

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.

Blogging, Writing, Planning

This doesn’t seem to be a night for writing a blog — I’ve been sitting here playing games for the last hour with a totally blank mind — and yet, I hate to break the habit of daily blogging. It’s one of my few creative disciplines, and generally, if I let myself take a night off, the next thing I know, weeks have gone by without a single post.

To be honest, I already broke the string of daily blogs at about day 101, but since it was a mistake — I thought I posted something but didn’t — it didn’t affect the habit. But I suppose that raises the question — is it better to blog with nothing to say, or is it better to keep my computer closed?

Well, since I’m here, I might as well bring you up to date on the plans for my May trip. So far, I haven’t done much except schedule visits with friends on my way to Seattle. I had planned to camp at the Carrizo Plain National Monument, but the roads to campgrounds and dispersed camping areas are not paved, and I’m not sure I want to risk getting caught on muddy roads, especially since I would be there in the middle of the week when there would be no park personnel.

I’m thinking now I’ll drive in to the plain as far as I can on the paved road to see what if anything I can see — last year there was a super bloom of wildflowers, but this year, because of the lack of precipitation, they are not expecting much color at all. (Same with the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, but one can hope! I sure would like to see those orange fields again.)

I might end up spending that first night in a motel, which doesn’t seem very adventurous, but I’m not sure I’d make it all the way up to The Pinnacles National Park, which was to be my next stop. (My map says it’s a national monument; apparently, somewhere along the way, it got a promotion.)

I still have weeks before I go, so I’m not particularly concerned about not having any plans yet. I wish I could be totally spontaneous, just take off and see what happens, but I know what would happen. I would drive until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, get a motel room, then finish the drive the next day. Admittedly, that sort of trip is its own form of adventure, but not the eye-satisfying, spirit-expanding commune with nature that I crave. And anyway, I might have to do that sort of drive on the return trip to get back before the Memorial Day weekend, and I’d prefer not to do it both ways.

Well, what do you know — I wrote a blog tonight after all. Now let’s see if I can manage to do my novel writing stint, too.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is 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 Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Making and Breaking Habits

I’ve often come across the idea that it takes twenty-one days to create a habit, but in my experience, it takes way longer than that, fifty days at least, which is why I resolved to blog every day for the last fifty days of 2017. And here I am, sixteen days into 2018, and still posting a blog every day. I’m to the point where, if I don’t feel like writing something, I would have to make a special mental leap not to do it.

Of course, daily blogging takes its own mental leap to continue the habit because often there simply is nothing to say. But here I sit anyway.

(Wait a minute! Back up a bit. What was that? Only sixteen days into the new year? Really? It feels like months.)

I’ve also read that it’s supposed to take twenty-one days to break a habit, though from the struggles people have with trying to give up smoking, it seems as if it could take anywhere from twenty-one days to infinity to stop. But when it comes to breaking a good habit, such as daily blogging (assuming that blogging is a good habit), it would take a single day. If I made that leap to not blog today, then it would be easy to make the same leap tomorrow, eroding the impetus, and so the habit would disappear.

Oddly, when it comes to my not eating wheat and sugar, I am already at the “mental leap” stage where I have to stop and think if I feel like a treat, though it has been but twenty days. Not that the habit is engrained enough to truly be a habit. It will take at least thirty more days for that, and even so, it will take a single day for the habit to disappear. And it will disappear when I take my Pacific coast trip — I already know that. After all, the initial idea for the trip was to make chocolate turtles in honor of my mother. And after the habit is broken, who knows how long before I will be able to cultivate the no-sugar habit again.

But that’s a problem for another day.

Oftentimes it’s impossible for me to cultivate a habit because something interferes before the habit is established. For example, I’d planned to try to lift light weights every day to strengthen my upper body and especially my wonky arm for when I go on that brief backpacking trip this May, but the thing that interferes is . . . me. I simply don’t feel like pushing myself, especially on the days I have hand pain. But we’ll see. Maybe after the fifty days of no sugar and wheat are up and they’ve become an engrained habit, I’ll look to establish the lifting-weights habit.

Or not. Sometimes I think being disciplined is highly overrated.

But for now, I’m sort of enjoying the game.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is 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 Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

2017 Got the Last Laugh

2017 was a year of pain, surgery, healing, doctors, drugs, along with various other maladies and challenges that kept me unwell for more than seven months.

I thought I’d be going into 2018 strong and relatively healthy, but 2017 got the last laugh. Here it is, the final day of the year, and I am sick again, this time with an intestinal bug. So much fun!

And so my prediction in Getting a Head Start on New Years Resolutions came true. Before I even started the year, my resolutions have gone by the wayside. That list has now been downgraded to a “to do list.” (Which, to be honest, was all those resolutions were in the first place.)

Despite that, with this post, as unpleasant as it might be, I have fulfilled my fifty-day blog challenge.

Wishing us all a healthy 2018 and challenges that are as pleasant to fulfill as this challenge was.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is 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 Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Fifty Day Blog Challenge

Ever since I finished my two latest books a year ago (Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare and Unfinshed, I haven’t done much writing. Not much blogging, either (though technically, blogging is writing, so I shouldn’t separate the two.). There’s always been an excuse. A shattered arm/wrist/elbow. A fuzzy mind from opioids. (I used to think I had an addictive personality, but I guess not — I was glad when I finally was able to handle the pain and stop taking pain pills.) And then there was the very hot summer. (The air conditioning in this room I am renting is minimal, and I was too hot to think. But then, I didn’t feel like thinking anyway since I seem to be in a drifting mode.)

Well, enough of the excuses, and more than enough of the parenthetical comments!

When I mentioned my non-writing to a friend, she said, “Well, write something.” Since I always try to do what people request (unless, of course, I am in a rebellious mood), here I am.

In 2011, I participated in a hundred day blog challenge: to post something every day on each of the last 100 days of the year. The time is long past to be able to duplicate that challenge, but coincidentally, I just discovered there are 50 blogging days until the end of 2017, and since I love even numbers, coincidences, and serendipity, I decided to try an abbreviated challenge.

And challenge it will be. I have little to say, no real inclination to say what I do have to say, and making a commitment goes against the drift, but what the heck. I never let a lack of wisdom stop me from blogging before.

All this is by way of warning for those of you who follow this blog. Today and the coming forty-nine days are more for me, just for the discipline of it. I don’t expect you to read or comment on my meanderings, (especially not this blog post), but if you desire to do so anyway, I will be glad of the company.

And maybe I will even be glad of a chance to stop the drift. Just drifting has been good for me, but it doesn’t really accomplish much, and before I leave my current place (the road — and an epic adventure — is calling to me), I would like to finish the book I started a decade ago, clear out some of the stuff in my storage unit that I haven’t been able to get rid of yet, become strong enough physically to go hiking again, and oh, so many things!

So, this is a start.

Perhaps.

***
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is 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 Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.