A local woman’s snowman collection is being featured at the historical museum. There are hundreds of the creatures, all kinds and sizes (though none made of real snow).

I don’t have anywhere near as many snowmen as she did, but I do have a very small collection of my own. Though I have no particular interest in snowfolk, things do tend to accumulate.

This is an ornament I did in a porcelain painting class. The subject matter was chosen by the teacher, probably because a snowman is a fairly easy subject for beginners:

This is a wooden wall decoration made for me by one of my new friends:

This is a gift card a friend sent to me couple of years ago, that I thought was clever.

And then there are these two five-inch-tall snowfolk who apparently think they are on an island adventure.

I wouldn’t even have those last two except for Jeff. Although they took me forever to make (each hand-sewn body consists of eight pieces, plus another eight for hands and feet), I wasn’t impressed, and intended to get rid of them, but Jeff wouldn’t let me. He liked most of what I made, and if I did throw something away, he always rescued it. These two snowfolk adorned his desk for many years, and at the end of his life, when he told me what he wanted me to do with his “effects,” he requested that I keep them. (In fact, most of the things he asked me to keep were things I had made.)

I realize I am not bound by any promises to the dead, but it’s such a little thing Jeff asked for, and though I still don’t particularly like these little guys, they remind me of him. He was such an appreciator, not just of my things, but of anything of artistic merit.

Jeff was the sort of person movie directors hope would watch their movies, would understand their vision and appreciate all the nuances that went into creating that vision. He’d study the backgrounds and settings, special lighting effects, the subtleties that most people (including me) would miss. It wasn’t just movies — he appreciated music, books, even comic strips. When we got Calvin and Hobbes books, I’d scan through them, reading the words, enjoying the jokes, and was done in a jiffy, but he studied every line of every panel, sometimes taking as long to read/appreciate one strip as it took me to read the whole book.

Most of the things I kept of his are packed away, but I dug out the two island hoppers for this latest installment of my Christmas show and tell.

Now I’m sitting here, staring at the computer screen, tears in my eyes, wishing for . . . I don’t know. Maybe one more of his appreciative smiles. But whatever it is I want, it’s something I can’t have.

What I do have are things. And kept promises.

And a greater appreciation for my small collection of snowmen.


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.


I’ve been taking a once-a-week porcelain painting class. It looks like I’m much better at it than I really am because we used a pattern. Basically, all we did was transfer the design and paint it.

Still, we learned some skills particular to porcelain painting, such as mixing the paint (the paints are mostly minerals and come in tiny little vials of colored powder), preparing the brush, and making simple brush strokes.

Unlike any other sort of painting, porcelain painting uses only one side of the brush, and the strokes are always downward. After each application of paint, the project is fired in a kiln then lightly sanded to remove any roughness, and another layer is added.

It was supposed to be a six-week class, but the teacher is willing to continue. The next project might be a Christmas ornament of some kind. Should be fun!

Without a pattern, I am not much of an artist, as you can see from this silly goose I did at a gourd painting class.

Do you see a pattern here? Once there were dance classes, now painting classes! (And birds. I just realized both art projects are birds. The trumpet vine was by design rather than a coincidence.)

Although the porcelain class is instructional, the gourd painting class wasn’t. We chose a gourd and a pattern if we wanted, and did our own thing. Since this gourd was obviously a goose, that’s what I tried to paint.

Since I don’t like having a lot of things sitting around gathering dust, I thought I might spray the goose with polyurethane to make it waterproof and then find a place for it in my as-yet-unplanted garden.

Now that’s a class I would like — a gardening class! I am a try-it-and-see gardener, and mostly, I don’t see anything in my garden, but I am hoping that at least a few of the 200+ bulbs I ordered will flower next spring. I already received some of the bulbs. They were supposed to be sent at optimal planting time, and this is not optimal — it reaches eighty or beyond. The instructions that came with the bulbs say not to plant until the weather is consistently below 60˚ and that won’t happen for at least another month. By then,  the weather will be cool to do all that digging.

Meantime, there is porcelain painting.


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.

What To Do

I live in a county where over four hundred species of birds have been sighted, but except for a few robins, all I see — and hear — are doves. My days are filled with the incessant sound of these creatures calling “What to-do, what to-do.”

I understand this need to know. For so many years after Jeff died, that call was my frequent lament. What do I do with myself? Where do I go when I have no real reason to be anywhere? What do I do?

Not able to answer the big “what to do”s of my life, I concentrated on the small things. Typical of someone grieving the loss of an intrinsic part of their life, I surrendered to busyness. I walked. Took dance classes. Blogged. Took day trips and road trips.

Now that I have found a home and am building my nest, now that I’ve met people and am falling into a routine of sorts, I find it harder to step into unfamiliar territory by myself. It’s easy to go with others — they can help fuel the trip either literally by driving or figuratively by contributing their energy.

But to set out by myself? Even for a small thing? Harder.

The community center here is offering free porcelain painting classes, a six-week commitment, and although I was interested enough to take a photo of the flyer, I just did not feel up to taking that initial step. For a whole day, I wondered what to do.

Well I did it. I went.

The first class was about learning the basics of the art form, but next week, we will get our piece of porcelain (a plate for me) and will start tracing the design. Should be fun!

Odd how paint seems to figure so much into my life at the moment. I finished caulking the windows and painting the trim, finished painting the four doors on my enclosed porch (one goes outside, one to the basement, one to the kitchen, and one to the back bedroom) and now I’m working on priming the garage. The new foundation still isn’t poured, but we’d powerwashed the outside walls six weeks ago, and I worried that the weather — alternating rain and high heat — would rot the siding.

This has been another example of stepping into unfamiliar territory — I’d never owned a house before, so previously, all such work had been done by the landlord. I never even knew I could do this sort of house work, especially work that needs to be done on a ladder.

But I am careful. I use a step ladder rather than a leaning ladder. I don’t go up more than three steps, and most importantly, I make sure the ladder is solidly on the ground before I take the first step. I so do not need to be falling off ladders!

I can’t say these projects have been fun — it’s too hot and they are way too much work — but it certainly does give me a sense of accomplishment.

Speaking of unfamiliar territory — when I was back behind the garage, I discovered some hideous bug carcasses that made me extremely nervous. It turns out they are cicada exoskeletons. Never in all my life have I seen or heard a cicada. I didn’t even know they lived in Colorado.

I will refrain from posting a photo of the cicada shell. If you know what it is, you don’t need to see it. If you don’t know what it is, you definitely don’t need to see it.

There is, of course, no photo of the porcelain plate since I have yet to work on it.

So here’s a photo of the garage I am working on. The lower right hand side of the photo shows what a mess the building was in until I started painting. Already the primer makes it look better. (Eventually, it will match the house.)

As for the poor blind window — I’m thinking of painting it gray to look more like a window, but I’m not sure.

Oh, what to do. What to do.


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.