Small Town Encounters

When I was at the post office yesterday, I noticed my mail deliverer working the window. “So this is why my mail is always late,” I quipped. She explained they were shorthanded, so she was basically working two jobs, but that she’d be by later with my mail. We chatted a few minutes, then, as I headed out the door, a woman I didn’t recognize walked in and said,  “Hi, Pat.” I stopped and studied her for a second. Before I could come across as rude, I said hastily, “I’m sorry. I don’t remember your name.”

She smiled. “I only remember your name because of the hat.” She then told me her name, which didn’t ring a bell, but when she mentioned her affiliation with a local church, I finally remembered meeting her. At a pie auction at a local church, she’d stopped me and asked, “Why do they call you Pat in the Hat?”

“Because I always wear a hat,” was my answer. So apparently, not only am I easy to remember because of my hats, so is my name easy to remember.

Although I make is seem as if this is an ideal small town, it isn’t, though some things truly are ideal. A library within walking distance? Priceless!

Other things, not so much. Although I still have no problem with walking to do errands, I’ve developed an inexplicable aversion to walking just to be walking, Well, today I had a few graphic examples that helped explain why I don’t enjoy walking as much as I once did. For one, dogs run loose — not all of them, and not all the time, but enough to be a problem, and I definitely do not like encountering strange and hostile dogs. There is a leash law here, but apparently, the sheriff’s department doesn’t care, and neither do the owners. As one woman told me, “If I were a dog, I would prefer to run loose, even if I end up getting run over.” And, since the dog disappeared shortly after she told me that, I’m sure she, if not her dog, got her preference.

Another issue is the cars. I don’t think people here are used to pedestrians. Too often, if I’m crossing a street or cutting through a parking lot to a store, drivers will simply ignore me or mow me down as if I weren’t even there. I have to be extra vigilant because of those who aren’t at all vigilant.

And then there are all the young men of working age who apparently don’t work. I detoured to avoid encountering a couple of small groups of men and several single wanderers. Good thing I haven’t lost my big city wariness.

I sure do miss having a wilderness area to wander around without all the unpleasant encounters. (Well, there were a coyote or two, and an occasional snake, but I could handle those.) I suppose I could drive somewhere to walk, but really, where’s the sense in that?

Once the garage is finished and I can get my storage items out of my exercise room, I’ll be able to use my elliptical again, but that’s only for a few minutes at a time and doesn’t at all take the place of walking. I have been adding more time to my dance workouts, but even that doesn’t take the place of walking.

I often encounter neighbors walking around the block across the street, and I might have to do that, too. And there is a fairly safe, though rather short street I sometimes walk. Meantime, I try to do a lot of errands!

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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

Ornaments!

Next week I am supposed to bring a Christmas ornament to a party and tell the story of the ornament and why it’s special to me. It’s not really my thing, maybe because my grade school never had show and tell, so I hadn’t planned on doing it. Now I can’t. Too many to choose from!

Today I got a gift from my sister (who definitely sends the best presents ever) with instructions to open it right away. Inside the box were five small prettily wrapped gifts — Christmas ornaments for my first tree and my first Christmas in my first house.

Each ornament illustrated a facet of my life.

A nod to my new house, of course.

Books, definitely.

My car, naturally.

A dragon because we all need a dragon to guard and protect.

And . . . Pat in the Hat. (Front and back)

I’m not sure I ever mentioned how I became Pat in the Hat. I’ve always been a big walker, but it wasn’t until my middle years that I wised up and started to wear a hat to protect me from the sun. Back then, the hats I wore weren’t anything special — ball caps or straw hats, anything cheap and accessible.

Later, when I lived with my father, my sister would send the two of us ornately wrapped gifts with gorgeous bows. My father tore off the wrappings, and tossed them away, but I rescued the bows. They were simply too nice to throw away. I didn’t really have any use for those ribbons, but one day, when I came in from a walk, I tossed my hat on table where I’d put the most recent offering, and something clicked. I wrapped the ribbon around the hat, and was thrilled with the festivity of it all.

Not too long afterward, I noticed that the ribbon was gone, and it devastated me that I couldn’t find it. This was shortly after Jeff had died, when any loss, no matter how insignificant, set me on a downward spiral of grief. Although I retraced my steps several times, I never found that bow. Luckily, I had another one packed away. This time, I made sure to tack my makeshift hatband to the hat to keep from losing another ribbon. I still have a stash of ribbons from my sister, as well as a few things I bought to decorate whatever hat I happened to have.

Now, delightfully, not only is she providing decorations for my hat, but also my tree — my dad’s tree, actually, and come to think of it, my sister bought it for him.

For a person who isn’t that fond of show and tell, I sure do a lot of here! Maybe that’s why I don’t need to do it in person.

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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.

Fun Raiser

Yesterday the art guild had a wreath-making day just for fun. (Not a fundraiser as we usually do, but a fun raiser.)

The art guild president (who happens to be half of the couple I bought my house from) set out tools and supplies along with tubs of ribbons and ornaments all sorted by color, and let us rummage for whatever we fancied. Apparently, I was in a blue mood — or mode — because the tub of blue sure caught my attention.

Although I’ve done many different crafts, I’d never made a wreath before, so I followed her instructions as best as I could and ended up with a froth of blue.

The color doesn’t match anything inside or outside my house — the outside trim is a completely different shade of blue — but I kept the wreath anyway. One day, if the foundation and floor of my garage are ever finished being fixed, I’ll be turning one wall into an art gallery for all the pictures and projects I’ve been collecting. Unlike most people, I prefer plain walls in my living quarters, and yet, the pictures and decorations deserve to be hung.

As if the wreath weren’t enough to satisfy my taste for blue yesterday, and since there was still time while the others finished their projects, I had to decorate a hat. (The folks around here call me Pat in the Hat for a reason!)

So, the day was a success. We not only ended up with several wreaths (and one hat) but we did what we intended, and raised some fun.

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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.

Fun and Clever and Unique

I love talking about my books, though I seldom get a chance. Luckily for me, the following conversation with my sister was caught on text!

SISTER: I’m into chapter 6 of Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare and I have so many questions and comments!!!!!!

ME: You like it, though?

SISTER: Love it! It’s fun and clever and unique. Is the cover photo actually one of your dance mates?? Is there a Deb character in your class? How fun that you condensed your family into one representative sister and brother.

ME: Almost all the people are real. Yes there is a Deb, though she is a composite character and caricatured a bit. The first few chapters tell the true story of the story so the cover is exactly as described in the book. The woman on the floor is Grace, the one who suggested the project.

SISTER: That is so fun!

ME: Many of the conversations in the book actually took place. Buffy really did say, “I’m not the one who volunteered to be the victim.” Oddly, after the book was written, Grace asked how I picked her. She had forgotten the whole thing was her idea.

ME: Perhaps the only truly fictional character is Pat. I’m not sure she exists. 🙂

SISTER: Pat???? Are you referring to Pat in the Hat? Trust me, she’s very real.

ME: It was fun writing as me. I didn’t have to worry about a character arc. Just show my feelings. It’s amazing how much of those first chapters are as they happened.  The cops kept showing up (going to lunch at a nearby restaurant) and it was a bit freaky to see them when we were talking about killing Grace.

SISTER: And btw, it’s very surreal to be reading a book by Pat featuring a character who is Pat, while texting with Pat (the writer? the person? the character?) hah!

ME: Now you know how it felt writing the book. I kept thinking Grace was dead, and then she’d show up for class. At one point, I really did consider asking one of the lunching cops what the procedure would be if she died, and I remember thinking, “I don’t need to ask. I’ll find out when she’s dead.” The whole thing was totally surreal.

SISTER: I can imagine!

ME: Don’t be surprised if your “surreal” comment shows up on my blog.

SISTER: For the record, I don’t mind being quoted.

ME: Remember that blog I did when I asked you  if it was bizarre reading a sex scene written by your sister? Well, that is one of the highest “hits” on my blog because of the juxtaposition of those two words: s e x and sister. You would not believe how many people in the world google, “how to have s e x with my sister,” or “how to get my sister to have s e x with me,” or the ever popular, “how to f*** my sister.” Truly bizarre.

SISTER: OMG, that is wild. And in the vernacular of today: ew

ME: I know. Totally ew.

Let’s hope this blog doesn’t have the same ew factor.

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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.