A common “exchange” at Christmas is a cookie exchange, where everyone involved makes a big batch of cookies. The exchangers then get together to trade cookies, so at the end, each person comes away with an assortment of cookies they didn’t have to take the time to bake.

There are two problems with this — too often the various bakers have different skill levels, so the person who spends a lot of time and effort on their cookies can come home with cookies they couldn’t eat themselves and certainly wouldn’t serve to guests. The second problem is that many people are on prescribed diets to limit sugar intake, which takes away the fun of such an exchange.

A different sort exchange I recently heard of is a book exchange, where each person buys their favorite book and includes a note as to why they liked it so much. This would actually work better as a group gift idea for one person, so that person would end up with a whole slew of books as well as a great insight into each of her friends, but it still works nicely for an exchange with a group of book lovers, where each person gets one new book. As nice as that sounds, though, it’s not all that special. I frequently do book exhanges — it’s called “going to the library.”

Another idea is a plant exchange. The woman I work with and her daughters exchanged plants for Christmas — each of the women set up plants for all the others. After the exchange, each ended up with four new house plants. So very clever!

In an oblique way, I am a participant in this exchange. I didn’t end up with any plants (whew!) but I get to enjoy seeing the plants grow up.

I’ve never had any luck with house plants so I shied away from them. Oddly, I have done well with a couple of plants I’ve been gifted with since I moved to this house, and as long as the plants stay small enough to sit in front of my south-facing kitchen window, they do fine. Elsewhere in my house, it’s too dark or too cold or no space for them. But at that window? Perfect! In fact, one plant grew so large I had my own private plant exchange, the big plant for a little one.

But that’s just to explain the “whew” a couple of paragraphs ago and is not really part of today’s story.

One of the plants that was gifted in the group plant exchange was an amaryllis. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in real life, so I have enjoyed seeing the flowers bloom. Not only are they spectacularly pretty, but they brightened the dreary winter days we’d been having. Too bad they don’t grow outside in Colorado. I’d certainly love to see a whole garden filled with such gems! Still, being able to see even one amaryllis plant in bloom is a joy.


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

Odd Thoughts

Today is following the pattern of my previous two or three Mondays. I got up, did my knee exercises, made my bed, folded my quota of origami cranes, dealt two cards for a simple tarot reading, checked a few things on the computer, then drove to the mechanic’s shop.

As on the previous Mondays, I talked to the mechanic for a few minutes, then drove away. He’s dealing with some post-Bob issues, and even all these months later, isn’t back to his normal healthy self. He’s been closed the past week, and even though he’s way behind in his work, he planned to work on my car today. I didn’t want to put more pressure on him, so I made an appointment for next Monday instead.

The problem is one of the brake cylinders. Three were replaced, but the VW parts place sent the wrong part in the right box, so that fourth cylinder has to be replaced as well as — perhaps — the master cylinder. Because my brakes seem to work for the light driving I do — a few miles out and back on the four-lane highway outside of town — I can wait a while longer.

I did have an odd thought as I was driving that road — it was once part of the Santa Fe Trail, and it occurred to me that the brief journey I took today would have been an arduous, all-day trek for those folks. (Well, I did say it was an odd thought, not a deep thought.)

Once back in town, I went to the library and got a few extra books than I normally do because I wasn’t on foot. (Luckily, being a loyal and constant patron has its privileges, so they don’t hold me to the normal limit.)

And then, as I have done after coming home from a library visit ever since I was a child, I immediately grabbed a book and plopped down to read.

In the book I chose, the crime scene investigators used a CrimeScope — some sort of blue light — to check for fibers and stains, of which there were a lot. Afterward, they used Luminol to check for blood.

That’s when another odd thought popped up. I wondered what we would see if someone checked for those things in my house. After all, it’s almost one-hundred years old, and has probably seen a lot of living and maybe even some dying.

Except for purposes of this blog, I put the thought out of my mind. I don’t want to know where the invisible stains are, and I definitely don’t want to know what they are, especially since one over-night visitor claimed to have seen a ghost in my guest bedroom/office.

Which leads me to another odd thought. Why do people who think they see a ghost think they are seeing ghosts rather than that they are hallucinating? I mean, if I saw a ghost in my house, I wouldn’t get scared and think to myself, “Oh, no. A ghost.” I’d get scared and think, “What the heck is wrong with me?”

That’s enough odd thoughts for the day, though who knows. The day isn’t even half over, so there is plenty of room for more odd thoughts.


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

An Emotionally Neutral Day

I’m sitting here with a blank “page” in front of me, doing my daily mental scrounge for a blog topic. A reader wants me to write about Grief and Peace, and I will because it’s a great topic, but I need to put it off for a while. Although I’ve been fine during the day, I felt a bit sad the past couple of nights. I’m feeling emotionally neutral at the moment, and I want to keep it that way, so I’m staying away from blogs and books that might turn what was a tiny dent of sadness into a sinkhole of despondency.

For most of my life, I read a book a day. The only vacation from reading I ever took were six or seven years after Jeff died. I started out reading as always, but every book I read set me off on a crying jag. Either a couple got together, which made me sad because Jeff and I were no longer together. Or the couple didn’t get together, which made me sad since Jeff and I were no longer together. Or people died. Whatever happened in a novel — be it gruesome or horrifying, mysterious or charming — set me off, so I stopped reading fiction and didn’t start again until I was housebound after I destroyed my wrist, arm, and elbow. (Which, incidentally, are doing well. Although there is some pain that could be the beginning of the post traumatic arthritis the surgeon promised me, I have full mobility of the wrist though he said I never would. But that was before he understood I would do the exercises he gave me. It shocked him, I think, because he told me almost no one ever did what he asked them to do.)

I am back to reading a book a day, but occasionally one of those endings — togetherness, apartness, or death — get to me. This time it was the togetherness, and I felt sorry for myself at being alone. Not that I mind. I generally prefer being by myself, but sometimes . . . sometimes it does get to me.

It’s not that I want a relationship. I don’t. And I certainly wouldn’t know what to do with a relationship if one came my way. It’s more that the relationship I did have has become nothing more than me talking to photograph.

I’m over that sad spell, probably because I talked it out. (Jeff was always a good listener, but he seems to be even more so now.) To be on the safe side, I made sure all the books I got from the library yesterday were emotionally neutral mysteries or thrillers. (Emotionally neutral because none of those authors ever make me care about their characters.) I’m also writing an emotionally neutral blog today and will save the Grief and Peace piece for another day.

Speaking of going to the library: a couple of times I left without getting a slip that tells me the due date, and both of those times, something happened so that I had to contact the library to make sure everything was okay. The librarian and I joked about that yesterday, and guess what? I left without getting a due date receipt. I sure hope that doesn’t mean there will be a problem because that would sure put a dent in my emotionally neutral day.

One thing did happen that tipped the neutrality a bit — I harvested a few cherry tomatoes! Delicious.


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

As The World Turns

Yesterday was not a good day. Leaving out the national scene and only dealing with my life for now, things were . . . unsettling. Not only did my house insurance rate skyrocket (and this area already is dealing with rates that are way above average), but my Nook died, along with the myriad books I did not purchase from Barnes and Noble. The e-book reader is out of warranty, so there’s not much I can do about. Allergy headaches, tiredness, and crankiness all added to the frustration of the day. (If folding origami cranes is supposed to be restful and meditative, I am here to tell you that so far it only adds to the frustration, but hopefully, as I get more proficient, serenity will come.) With all that, I certainly didn’t need today’s Tarot card (The Moon) to warn me not to be “deceived by apparent security.” I got plenty of real-life reminders!

But that was yesterday.

The tarot, as well almost every other philosophy, teaches that nothing is static. What goes down must also come up. (Physics says that what goes up must come down, though it doesn’t say anything about things that are already down.) The moon card certainly seems fitting today because (at least from a human perspective), the moon goes down, but inevitably, as the world turns, it will come up again. (That’s not to say that one day the earth will stand still; to the best of my knowledge, that has only happened once or twice — according to legend — and eons before my lifetime.)

Though my personal moon is rising, I can’t say much has changed today — the insurance rate remains the same, though my agent will try to find a better rate for me. We’re just at the beginning of the national changes, so the effects of the new regime haven’t struck here yet. I’m still dealing with allergies and my Nook is still retired from service.

There have been changes, however, including the delivery of a small package that had been swallowed up the black hole of the postal system in Denver (they do not like to deliver anything but letters here; everything else seems to be held until for several weeks until the mass of the mail equals the mass of the black hole.)

Most importantly, I went to the library! I recently heard that the library is open by appointment, so today I made an appointment and headed out to search for books. What a pleasure! I was the only one in the place except the librarians, so no other patrons got in my way, and I had my choice of books. (Take that, Nook!)

The sun is out, which also helps. Winter weather returns this weekend, with a possibility of snow, but I don’t put that on the negative side of the scorecard because the moisture is a plus.

And so the world turns . . .


“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