Unplanned Joys

Today was a day of unplanned joys. You can’t plan such a day. Well, you can I suppose, but too many things have to come together, and some of those things — such as the weather — can’t be counted on. But today, the weather was perfect. Truly a joy.

Despite the lovely weather, I wanted a change from my typical morning of weeding. Not that the weeds were all gone — they’re not, and may never be gone, though come winter, they should go dormant along with almost everything else. But I needed to do something different, so I decided to clean my house. There was only a thin veneer of dust, but once that veneer was gone, it became apparent just how dingy the floors and furniture had become. But now, what a joy! Everything sparkles like new, or as new as a 94-year-old house can be.

Still charged with energy, I took a brief walk — also unplanned until the very minute I put on my walking shoes and headed out the door. When I came back, a friend came to visit. Admittedly, the visit had been planned. Because of her health issues, I hadn’t seen her for a long time, and we needed to catch up. We sat out in my gazebo, enjoying each other’s company, the lovely day, and the cool breeze. It was great seeing her, and even greater seeing how well she’s doing. (That part was one of the unplanned joys since I had no idea what to expect.)

After she left, I took a brief break for lunch, and then I got a text from another friend who wanted to know if this was a good time to visit. She and the woman she looked after had been wanting to come see my yard and try out my gazebo, but the weather has been a problem — too windy or too hot or too rainy. Well, today was none of those things, and so they finally were able to come.

I enjoyed showing off my yard and flowers, trying (but not succeeding) to disregard the areas of dead grass. I know I’ve said I won’t let those brown spots bother me, but it’s hard not to notice the dullness in comparison with the bright emerald green of the healthy areas. Luckily, my friends only looked at what was there, not what wasn’t.

Before they left, I showed them around my house. Which makes me wonder — did cleaning the house today somehow put all these unplanned joys into effect? Or was it merely a happy chance that today of all days, I felt like cleaning? Not that it matters — it just felt good to know the house looked its best.

And now, here I am, visiting with you. That, too, is a joy, though a planned one.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Gazing at My Gazanias

This was a rare day when I didn’t have many gardening chores to do. It was a good thing, too, considering that when I went out at 8:30 this morning, the temperature was already zooming toward 100 degrees Fahrenheit. By now, I’m sure, we’re well into the low hundreds, but I don’t want to check. Somehow, knowing the temperature makes it seem even hotter.

The only thing garden-related that I did today was harvest some larkspur seeds. Within a few days, most of my larkspur will have gone to seed, and I want to make sure I save plenty of the seeds for the areas that won’t be reseeded naturally.

Other than that, all I did was I set out my new patio furniture.

I spent a few pleasant minutes sitting in my gazebo, gazing out at my gazanias (and the rest of my backyard, of course) until the insanely hot and heavy winds blew me back inside the house.

It’s a good thing I did so much work on my yard earlier in the spring and especially earlier this month because for sure I won’t be doing much in the coming days. I have absolutely no interest in sweltering in the heat and being desiccated by the wind.

It’s also a good thing I have air conditioning. As pleasant as the view is outside, on a day like today, it’s even more pleasant to be pleasantly cool.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Garden Party

Today was the “maiden voyage” of my new gazebo. The Art Guild held their meeting here in the gazebo, and oh, it was so lovely! We were cool and comfortable in what is essentially an outdoor room. It took a little while to set up because I don’t have patio furniture, so I had to scrounge for a table and enough chairs for all of us.

It was fun being able to show off my house, garage, yard. Especially the yard. It looked so very nice, though admittedly, before they came, I had to spend time clearing away all the detritus that blew in from last night’s storm. (Odd how so many things blow into the yard — trash, leaves, twigs — but nothing blows out again.) Still, it was worth taking the time to make everything nice. One of the members used to live here (I bought the house from her and her husband), and she was thrilled to see what I’ve done with the place.

After the business meeting and refreshments (ice tea and made-from-scratch brownie bites), we started in on a surprise project. A surprise to them but not to me, obviously, since I’d planned it.

Until I became a gardener for real, using live plants, I made miniature gardens and miniature plants, using all sorts of materials such as paper, clay, beads, florist tape, whatever I could find. I only have room in my house for a couple of those miniature gardens, so I thought I’d share my extra flowers and plants with the Art Guild. The guild members picked out the tile they wanted for their garden base, and then they filled them with various miniature pretties.

(I thought that was a clever idea, to make gardens at a garden party.)

It was amazing to me (and to them!) seeing all the work that had gone into making those small plants, but that was a different time and place, as well as a different version of me. It’s amazing, too, to think I had so much free time to spend on such projects because now I seem to have barely enough time to do the basic things of daily life. Well, those and working in my yard.

Luckily, there is a joint Art Guild and Historical Museum tea this weekend, so I was able to donate the rest of the brownie bites to a good cause.

It was a good day, and I was thrilled that my gazebo was as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Growing Smiles

I wore myself out today, not just watering and weeding, but sweeping the sidewalks and putting everything back the way it was before the construction crew did their work. (They’re still not completely finished with the gazebo/hut, but all that’s left to do is paint the ceiling and do some touchups on the roof.) I wasn’t sure I liked my hut — it’s a lot darker and the roof is a lot steeper than I thought it would be — but it’s growing on me. It’s going to be a great addition to my mini estate!

I also got a few more plant starters at the hardware store. The owner kind of laughed at me when she noticed me, or rather I should say, she laughed with me. She finds it as amusing as I do that I stop by so often to indulge my plant addiction.

It was kind of silly, I suppose, to have spent so much time today grooming my yard in preparation for the Art Guild meeting tomorrow, partly because the wind came up and blew more detritus on the newly swept walks, partly because it ended up raining, and partly because I’m sure the members would never notice the holes in the landscaping, especially since the yard is a work in progress.

But I notice.

The biggest hole was where the pole for a hanging plant was recently set at the junction of my two sidewalks/ramps. Ramps will go up eventually, but I need something now at that junction so people who are unfamiliar with my house don’t step back and tumble off the stoop. Unfortunately, while planting the pole, a lot of larkspurs got demolished. So I filled in the area with golden-yellow zinnias.

It’s funny to me that despite my wearing myself out with yardwork, the very sight of the yard makes me smile. It’s just so pretty! Even better, are the surprises, such as my “ugly duckling.” It’s not at all ugly, of course. In fact, it’s beautiful. It’s just a different sort of poppy than the rest. The yellow ones are California poppies, and the pink is an Icelandic poppy.

It’s also funny that I never wanted a yard that took a lot of work. But, oh, the smiles that I grow— mine and everyone else’s — are so worth it!


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.

Twenty Wishes

I just finished a book where a group of widows, in an effort to find joy in life again, decided to each make a list of twenty wishes. It was a project they put a lot of time into, trying to come up with so many wishes. The wishes weren’t supposed to be a to-do list, but in the end, some of their wishes were things they were able to do for themselves rather than leave it up to the fates. (Buying a pair of red cowboy boots, for example, vs. falling in love again.)

It was a clever idea, but something like that would never work for me. Though come to think of it, I did attempt to start wishing about three years after Jeff died. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very successful at it. I just couldn’t think of many things I wanted, except truly impossible things like hiking one of the long trails.

As it turns out, so many of the good things that have happened to me — or that I made happen — after Jeff died, were things I would never have wished for because I didn’t know I wanted them. Dance classes, for example. They were an important part of my life for many years, but dancing was not something I’d ever wanted to do, and performance? Totally out of my realm. And yet I did go on stage.

Then there was my cross-country trip, my backpacking trip, my house, my garden. None of these things would ever have ended up on a wish list (except perhaps for wishes that included hiking) because they just didn’t seem feasible. And more importantly, weren’t things I wanted.

And yet all of those things have made my life what it is today. A special life, for sure.

One thing that I might have put on a wish list is a gazebo because I’ve always loved the idea of a gazebo. Weirdly, I still don’t have a gazebo — what I have (or almost have) is a hut.

Instead of being a light, airy, white wrought iron structure, it’s dark and heavy. But it functions the same, or even better, since it’s cool and shady under there. And it will be comfortable when I decide what furniture (if any) would be appropriate.

I’m not really sure the hut fits with my other buildings — the house and the garage, but I have a hunch that if I had painted the hut to match those buildings, it would be too much of the same thing.

But, gazebo or hut, I have a covered structure in my backyard. I’m looking forward to entertaining the Art Guild in a couple of days, and with any luck, the weather will cooperate. Right now, though, the sky is as dark and heavy as my hut. Eek! I sure hope those construction workers manage to get off the roof if a storm rolls in.

But I’m getting off the topic — perhaps — of twenty wishes. Making such a list worked for the women in the story, but in my life, not so much. I certainly wouldn’t want to limit myself to only things I can imagine. I would have missed out on too many great life experiences.


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.


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


I was out pulling weeds, battling grasshoppers, and feeding mosquitoes (albeit unwillingly), when a when a white pickup pulled up to the house. The driver got out and started questioning me about my garage. He looked familiar, so I wasn’t unduly concerned, then it dawned on me — this was the building inspector.

He’d been checking on the garage occasionally, even after all the structural elements were in, which is where I thought his authority stopped, but apparently not. So I showed him the garage. To be honest, even if he was a stranger, I might have shown him the garage anyway — I do like that little building! In fact, I was talking to a friend the other day and when she asked about the garage, I said, “I love my garage.” She laughed and responded, “I bet twenty-five years ago you’d never have been able to imagine yourself saying that.” I had to admit she was right. Even as little as two years ago — or even one — I couldn’t have imagined saying those words let alone meaning them.

Well, that’s not true. I mean, it is true about my fondness for the garage, but I doubt I’d have let a stranger in to see it. Too many felonious fellows around here.

I was amused by the way the inspector studied my fake window. I’m not sure what he thought — that the builders had changed the plans after his last inspection? I told him it was just a decoration, a bit of artwork. He didn’t seem impressed, but he did say that a fake window was one sure way of keeping out thieves. (So see, I’m not the only one who is aware of the way things — tools especially — go missing around here.) He questioned about the electricity since he hadn’t inspected it before the walls went up, but the state had inspected it, and state supersedes county. I didn’t have a printout of the inspection report, but I offered to send him one, but he said he didn’t need to see it.

He also studied the framework of my gazebo. There was a fairly new concrete pad in front of the old garage, and after the garage was torn down, there the pad sat, screaming out for a roof. So I’m obliging. The lumberyard had overestimated the amount of materials for the lumber pack we’d ordered to build the garage so basically, the gazebo is free. Well, except for the labor.

The inspector questioned me about my plans for the gazebo, so I asked if we needed a permit since my understanding was that we didn’t. “Not really,” he said. Whatever that means. Maybe that if he decided we needed a permit we did? He seemed satisfied when I told him the railings were all the walls there would be, and that it just needs a roof. (Apparently, it’s the enclosing of a space that makes it a building rather than simply something that is built.)

He might be back to inspect the gazebo when it’s done, but I don’t see a problem. I’m sure the contractor will make the roof windproof, using the hurricane connectors as he did with the garage. Because, yes, winds up to 90 miles an hour have been clocked around here, and yes, people do lose their roofs. (Rooves? As in hoof/hooves?)

Oh, I almost forgot — he said he was signing off on the garage and would be sending me the signed report.

There are still a few things that need to be finished, such as the gutters fixed, gravel poured in front of the garage to bridge the gap between the alley and the apron, and hangers need to be hung on inside walls for my tools, but apparently, for all practical and official purposes, the garage is done.

P.S. As I was writing this, one of the workers stopped by to move the counters I rambled on about yesterday. They really are too heavy for one person, even a strong person, otherwise he would have already moved them, but my knees are healed enough that I was able to help get them inside the garage. Yay! One more thing accomplished.


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