More Planting

I’d planned to go to a plant nursery in the big city (a joke — it’s actually a small town, but since it’s about four times the size of this town, it seems like a city), but my car is still out of commission. Bizarrely, I can go for years with no car problems, and then I hit a period where one thing after another goes wrong. I started out in February with spark plugs that had burned out even though they were only a few months old. The culprit was the carburetor. So the mechanic ordered a carburetor, and a couple of weeks later, when he received the order, I made an appointment to have him replace it.

As with everything else to do with a vintage vehicle, it wasn’t as easy to install as it would seem. My pervious mechanic had replaced the vacuum ignition with an electronic one. Apparently, the electronic ignition doesn’t “speak” to the carburetor that belongs in my car, so the previous mechanic put in an old, rebuilt carburetor. Not surprising, once the ew carburetor was installed, there were problems with the electronic ignition, necessitating the ordering of another part — a vacuum advance distributor. The part finally came it. I picked up the car a week ago Friday, and it worked perfectly. Except for one little thing. The brake warning light kept coming on.

So yesterday, I had another appointment with the mechanic. We thought it would be a simple matter of perhaps bleeding the brake lines and topping up the brake fluid, but it was more than that — some part on the rear brakes was broken, or at least that’s what I thought he said. On the way home, the part completely broke. Or maybe another part broke because if it was only a part on the rear brakes that was broken, I would have thought the front brakes would still work. Either way, I now have no brakes. I wouldn’t be surprised if the part that broke was very old. I don’t remember ever being without at least some braking power. It’s truly scary driving without brakes, even just inching along. Luckily, I only have to drive a quarter of a mile on side streets to take my car back in when the part is delivered.

Suffice to say, I haven’t been able to get to the nursery, so each of the past couple of days I walked to the local hardware store to pick up a few seedlings to plant. I did the same today, but when they agreed to deliver the plants to me, I bought several — way more than I could carry on foot. Which is good, because now I have several things to plant tomorrow. Which is bad because now I have several things to plant. I’m just being silly. There’s no bad at all, and I am actually looking forward to doing the work.

Last year, I bought a bag of potting soil, and because supposedly it deteriorates, I thought I should use it for sure this year, hence the petunias. To be honest, I’ve never like petunias, but a couple of years ago I saw black petunias (that’s what they’re called, but they are really just a very dark purple), and I became enamored of them. So now I have a few black petunias to call my own.

I also got a few cream-colored petunias to plant with the black for contrast. It’s funny to think I spent all that money to keep from wasting a few dollars-worth of soil, but having to use the soil did give me a reason to buy more plants.

The easiest part of the planting was the hanging plant. All I had to do was hang it on a hook. The pole for the hook was a fence post that got cemented into the foundation of the house. When the old fence was taken out and the new fence around the whole property put in, the post remained. A hook, a bit of cement, and the fencepost became something completely different!

I also have a post on the opposite corner of the house, but the store didn’t have a matching pair of hanging plants, and besides, I ran out of money, so that might be a project for another day.

What was so great about all of this is that I got some plants and I didn’t even need a car to go get them.


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.

Everyday Magic

After the past four days of enumerating and celebrating my blog accomplishments, I woke this morning feeling uneasy. I have spent the past ten and a half years talking about my life, my grief, my feelings, my traumas, and the dramas that seem to follow me. (Before that, I mostly talked about reading and writing, but Jeff’s death blew me wide open, and that was reflected here on this blog.) Suddenly, after all this time, I’m uneasy, unsure that I like people knowing so much about me. It makes me vulnerable, and seems to put me at a disadvantage with people I see in real life. Do I really want them to know my innermost thoughts? Do I really want them to see my soul bared? It doesn’t seem a smart thing to do.

For example, too many people here have guessed the identity of the one person in town I try to avoid (this person’s insulting remarks were the last straw for me and Facebook), and that’s more than I want anyone to know. I’m also not sure how comfortable I am discussing things that bother me when I know the people involved will be reading what I write. I’ve been censoring myself to an extent because of this, but even so, I tend to think I say too much. Still, whatever a person says to an author and blogger is fair game for a writing topic. That’s what I do — I write about what happens in my life and try to find a lesson or gratitude or some sort of accommodation with the occurrence.

But it does make me vulnerable, and I wonder how wise I am to continue with my way of blogging.

One thing in particular happened, a minor occurrence for sure, but I took it to heart. This added to my confusion about continuing the blog path I’m on, mostly because I wanted to write about it and wasn’t sure if I should. And yet, it is a bloggable situation.

The other day, I was driving back from a nearby town when I happened to see a vehicle ready to pull onto the highway. After I passed, it pulled in behind me, and it stayed behind me as we headed into town. This tickled me because it was only the day before that I had seen the vehicle for the first time, and I knew who was driving. It seemed a bit of serendipity, even solidarity, on what is normally a faceless and friendless highway. One of life’s small miracles. Everyday magic.

The other driver’s reaction? That I drive slowly.

Huh? When is driving the speed limit slowly? Well, to be honest, it almost always is. Several cars had passed me, crossing a double-yellow line to get ahead of me shortly before I met up with this particular driver. I wonder what all those drivers would have done if I had been driving 55mph the way I’m supposed to. Driving 65mph is not a good idea for a car with such a small, air-cooled engine, and my mechanic cautioned me about burning out the engine. Still, I sailed along at 65 until we hit town, and then I slowed way down to the new speed limit, and then way, way down when it came time to turn.

I tend to forget that people don’t know there are cars without power steering, power brakes, and automatic transmissions. If you’ve ever driven such a car, you know you can’t slow at the last minute and then careen around a corner. You have to brake in plenty of time, and then downshift to make a safe turn.

Still, this wasn’t the point. The point is that I thought the drive into town was something special, a bit of magic, and the other driver thought I drove too slowly.

I just realized I answered my dilemma. This episode is not a reason to back off from telling my truth, the only thing unique I have to write about, but is instead a reason to keep going. Someone needs to point out the minor miracles, the everyday magic, the important lessons, and the serendipitous moments on the road of life that would otherwise pass unnoticed.

I’m sure my uneasiness will eventually dissipate. After all, considering the myriad heartfelt grief posts I’ve written, I’m no stranger to vulnerability.


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.

My Iconic Car

SI am not at all sentimental — I am too practical for that, though sometimes the things I do seem sentimental to others. For example, I keep scrapbooks, not out of sentimentality but for a very strange and practical reason. After Jeff died, I started the books for the old woman I will become. I wanted her to be able to see where her life went. I wanted her to know that even though she lost her soul mate, she didn’t waste the years she lived alone, that she experienced a full life after his death. Other people don’t have to think of such things. My parents, for example, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary a few months before my mother died. She never had to worry about perhaps living decades with no one to share her memories. The old woman I become may not care, but I want to make sure she knows someone was thinking of her and sharing her memories, if only her younger self.

And then there is my Beetle. I have had the thing for 43 years. It’s the only car I have ever owned, and I am the only owner it ever had, which is something very few people can say. I am hesitant about giving it up, though not for sentimental reasons. (Well, except for my not wanting anyone else to have the car. Some people believe our things become steeped with our spirits, and after so many years, there is a lot of my spirit in the bug. But that’s not strictly sentimentality. It’s more mysticism. I wish I could bury this particular thing when I sign its do-not-resuscitate order.)

On the practical side, the yearly upkeep including repairs, is a lot cheaper than the increase in insurance rates and tags would be if I got a more modern car. Not that I’m against a new vehicle — I will happily get one when/if I decide what sort of life the vehicle will need to support. If I decide to live on the road, maybe a nicely outfitted camper would be more apropos than a city car. Or maybe some sort of small commercial van would be more practical than either. A new car would be nice, but if I wanted any other sort of vehicle, I’d have to buy a used one. (New van conversion campers are as expensive as some houses.) Lots of things to think about. Luckily, I don’t have to act on any of them now, because I do have a car that works (most of the time, anyway).

Then there is another practicality — if I got a new vehicle today, while my old car is still running, then five years from now, I will be driving a used vehicle. On the other hand, if I waited to buy until five years from now and continued to use my old bug in the meantime, then five years from now I’d be driving a new vehicle. (Go ahead, laugh. I don’t mind. Everyone else finds my reasoning risible.)

Although I don’t particularly like the car (I truly am surprised it lasted this long — when I first got it, I thought it was a lemon because too many things were wrong with it), I do like that other people like the car. Such an iconic car is a conversation starter. I don’t know how to strike up conversations with strangers, but I don’t have to know — the car does it for me since everyone has a nostalgic VW story they are eager to share. (Oddly, as little as my father understood me, he did understand this. “It’s like your hats,” he told me shortly before he died. “It’s part of your persona.”)

Everyone has an opinion about my bug. Some people worry for my safety and think I should get rid of it. Some people think I’m wasting my money on such an old vehicle. Some people think I should keep it, especially those who once owned a Beetle themselves. A few people have suggested that I keep it but buy a new car, but what’s the point of that? I can only drive one car at a time, and the truth is, I don’t particularly like driving any sort of vehicle. Some car guys think I should donate it to them so they can restore it — for themselves of course.

A friend told me the other day that I will cry when I finally replace this thing that has been with me almost 2/3 of my life. I have cried for many reasons the past five years, but I doubt I will cry when it’s gone. I am not very sentimental, and after all, it is just a beat-up old car.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram 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.