Putting the Pieces Together

Today is my twentieth straight day of blogging. So far, I am honoring my commitment to blog for 100 days straight, though I almost didn’t make it today. The note by my computer reminding me to blog got knocked over (during a wild game of solitaire) and without the reminder, it was too easy to let the day go by.

Not that the day was easy. It wasn’t particularly hard, either, just . . . well, let’s call it a rerun. When I first moved here, much of my stuff was stored in the enclosed porch, but when the workers came to redo the foundation of the porch (there were only two small columns of concrete on either end of the 20-foot room, and since that wasn’t enough to hold up the weight of the house, the porch was rapidly sinking), I had to move all the stuff into the garage. At the time, I thought it was the final move for the camping equipment, tools, and things I wasn’t ready to throw away — there’d been a huge crack down the center of the garage, and the patch seemed to hold. But then came a freeze/thaw cycle, and that was the end of my pretty floor. Now the crack is bigger than ever.

The workers are planning on coming later this week to redo the garage foundation as well as the concrete floor, and so all the stuff had to be moved. I’m hoping by the time I get it all back in the garage, it can stay there.

There are so many bits and pieces to putting together a home, it seems like I am forever moving the pieces around, trying to get it right — and to get my life right. I seem to manage not to do things I should, like exercise, and I seem to manage to do things I shouldn’t — like eat unhealthy things.

I’m sure there are also extraneous pieces that will need to be set aside one day, but that’s not a problem for today.

(I found this quite disturbing piece in a puzzle of featuring a cardinal in a cottonwood. It took me awhile to realize I had it upside down and that it was not part of the bird but a face. It took me even longer to discover that it is part of Chaz Palminteri’s face from a movie puzzle.)

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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.

100 Days

There are ninety-eight days until the end of the year. What are you going to do with those days? Will you finally get around to the New Year’s resolutions you made and promptly forgot? Are you going to slack off, giving yourself permission to take a break from the breakneck speed of your life? Are you going to get going on that novel you wanted to start, continue, finish, or edit? Are you going to make inroads in the pile of books on your nightstand, or finally read some of those ebooks you downloaded? Are you going attempt the photography project you always wanted to do?

In yesterday’s blog about my twelve-year blog anniversary, I mentioned that several years ago I had made a commitment to post every day for the last 100 days of the year, and I suddenly felt as if I’d like to take up the challenge again. After all, I had already completed the first day! (Since I am getting a late start — the 100 last days began with September 23 — I will have to add the first day of the new year to make an even 100 days. Assuming I get that far. Assuming that decimal numbers are important.)

The first challenge helped me get back into writing, helped me get back into myself. Too often I am pulled in many directions, with no clear direction of what I want to do or be, so a challenge like this might be what I need to give me a bit of focus.

And challenge it will be. I have a hard time focusing my mind on any sort of writing right now. I am trying to put together a press release about my latest (and possibly my most important) book Grief: The Inside Story, but the words don’t seem to connect with me.

It’s possible this disconnect with words is due not so much to letting myself drift but falling once again into my old book-a-day reading habit. (After Jeff died, I couldn’t read because books either had a couple getting together, which made me cry, or had the couple not getting together, which made me cry, or had too many deaths, which made me cry. It was easier simply to stop reading. Compared to losing Jeff, giving up reading was easy, though it had always been a major part of my life.)

I recently read that reading and writing go hand in hand because reading is inhaling and writing is exhaling. (That’s how I always felt about reading, as if it were a type of breathing.) But now I suppose I need to try to exhale, though I’m not sure what I would be exhaling. I have little to say, no real inclination to say what I do have to say, and making a commitment goes against my current desire to drift, but what the heck. I never let a lack of wisdom stop me from blogging before.

All this is by way of warning for those of you who follow this blog. Yesterday, today, and the coming ninety-eight days are more for me, just for the discipline of writing. I don’t expect you to read or comment on my meanderings, (especially not this blog post), but if you desire to do so anyway, I will be glad of the company.

And maybe I will even be glad of a chance to stop the drift. Just drifting has been good for me, especially the past few months where I’ve been getting used to a new house, a new town, a new life, but it doesn’t really seem to accomplish much.

So, this is a start.

Perhaps.

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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.

Blogging, Writing, Planning

This doesn’t seem to be a night for writing a blog — I’ve been sitting here playing games for the last hour with a totally blank mind — and yet, I hate to break the habit of daily blogging. It’s one of my few creative disciplines, and generally, if I let myself take a night off, the next thing I know, weeks have gone by without a single post.

To be honest, I already broke the string of daily blogs at about day 101, but since it was a mistake — I thought I posted something but didn’t — it didn’t affect the habit. But I suppose that raises the question — is it better to blog with nothing to say, or is it better to keep my computer closed?

Well, since I’m here, I might as well bring you up to date on the plans for my May trip. So far, I haven’t done much except schedule visits with friends on my way to Seattle. I had planned to camp at the Carrizo Plain National Monument, but the roads to campgrounds and dispersed camping areas are not paved, and I’m not sure I want to risk getting caught on muddy roads, especially since I would be there in the middle of the week when there would be no park personnel.

I’m thinking now I’ll drive in to the plain as far as I can on the paved road to see what if anything I can see — last year there was a super bloom of wildflowers, but this year, because of the lack of precipitation, they are not expecting much color at all. (Same with the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, but one can hope! I sure would like to see those orange fields again.)

I might end up spending that first night in a motel, which doesn’t seem very adventurous, but I’m not sure I’d make it all the way up to The Pinnacles National Park, which was to be my next stop. (My map says it’s a national monument; apparently, somewhere along the way, it got a promotion.)

I still have weeks before I go, so I’m not particularly concerned about not having any plans yet. I wish I could be totally spontaneous, just take off and see what happens, but I know what would happen. I would drive until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, get a motel room, then finish the drive the next day. Admittedly, that sort of trip is its own form of adventure, but not the eye-satisfying, spirit-expanding commune with nature that I crave. And anyway, I might have to do that sort of drive on the return trip to get back before the Memorial Day weekend, and I’d prefer not to do it both ways.

Well, what do you know — I wrote a blog tonight after all. Now let’s see if I can manage to do my novel writing stint, too.

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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.

Making and Breaking Habits

I’ve often come across the idea that it takes twenty-one days to create a habit, but in my experience, it takes way longer than that, fifty days at least, which is why I resolved to blog every day for the last fifty days of 2017. And here I am, sixteen days into 2018, and still posting a blog every day. I’m to the point where, if I don’t feel like writing something, I would have to make a special mental leap not to do it.

Of course, daily blogging takes its own mental leap to continue the habit because often there simply is nothing to say. But here I sit anyway.

(Wait a minute! Back up a bit. What was that? Only sixteen days into the new year? Really? It feels like months.)

I’ve also read that it’s supposed to take twenty-one days to break a habit, though from the struggles people have with trying to give up smoking, it seems as if it could take anywhere from twenty-one days to infinity to stop. But when it comes to breaking a good habit, such as daily blogging (assuming that blogging is a good habit), it would take a single day. If I made that leap to not blog today, then it would be easy to make the same leap tomorrow, eroding the impetus, and so the habit would disappear.

Oddly, when it comes to my not eating wheat and sugar, I am already at the “mental leap” stage where I have to stop and think if I feel like a treat, though it has been but twenty days. Not that the habit is engrained enough to truly be a habit. It will take at least thirty more days for that, and even so, it will take a single day for the habit to disappear. And it will disappear when I take my Pacific coast trip — I already know that. After all, the initial idea for the trip was to make chocolate turtles in honor of my mother. And after the habit is broken, who knows how long before I will be able to cultivate the no-sugar habit again.

But that’s a problem for another day.

Oftentimes it’s impossible for me to cultivate a habit because something interferes before the habit is established. For example, I’d planned to try to lift light weights every day to strengthen my upper body and especially my wonky arm for when I go on that brief backpacking trip this May, but the thing that interferes is . . . me. I simply don’t feel like pushing myself, especially on the days I have hand pain. But we’ll see. Maybe after the fifty days of no sugar and wheat are up and they’ve become an engrained habit, I’ll look to establish the lifting-weights habit.

Or not. Sometimes I think being disciplined is highly overrated.

But for now, I’m sort of enjoying the game.

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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.

2017 Got the Last Laugh

2017 was a year of pain, surgery, healing, doctors, drugs, along with various other maladies and challenges that kept me unwell for more than seven months.

I thought I’d be going into 2018 strong and relatively healthy, but 2017 got the last laugh. Here it is, the final day of the year, and I am sick again, this time with an intestinal bug. So much fun!

And so my prediction in Getting a Head Start on New Years Resolutions came true. Before I even started the year, my resolutions have gone by the wayside. That list has now been downgraded to a “to do list.” (Which, to be honest, was all those resolutions were in the first place.)

Despite that, with this post, as unpleasant as it might be, I have fulfilled my fifty-day blog challenge.

Wishing us all a healthy 2018 and challenges that are as pleasant to fulfill as this challenge was.

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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.

Help Me Plan My Next Big Adventure!

I don’t feel like writing another bah humbuggish post. To be honest, I don’t feel like writing much of anything. Despite a lingering cold, today I went to dance class (classes, actually), and now I want a nap. But this is day thirty-three of my fifty-day blog challenge, so I want — need — to post something.

How about something fun? Something for me to look forward to?

I know! My next big adventure!

In May, I will be going to Seattle for a weekend with my sisters, and I will be driving through Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, camping and hiking along the way. I’m planning to be out adventuring for approximately a month. (Unless I become subsumed into the camping culture, then who knows how long I will be out wilding in the wilds.)

I’ve been looking at the atlas, and it seems as if it could take years to explore even one of those states (which someday I hope to do). A month will give me only the merest glimpse of the area, and I don’t know much about Oregon or Washington at all.

So . . .

If you have any suggestions of places (or people!) to visit or to stay away from, special campgrounds or dispersed camping spots, great hikes and other delights, please let me know so I can add them to my itinterary.

Thank you!

This photo was taken on my only trip to Oregon, a four or five mile hike along the Oregon Coast outside of Brookings. The impossible dream includes doing the whole coast, but . . .  well, impossible dreams by definition are impossible. Unless you want to come and carry my backpack for me?

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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.

Dreams and Dreaming

I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately. Not night dreams, so much — I really don’t like dreaming except in the rare case of a dream that seems to mean something but doesn’t really, such as my white dream. But the other kind of dream — cherished aspirations, ambitions, or ideas — that’s what I’ve been thinking about too much lately.

I had a bit of an insight today, though considering my cold, it could be more of a fever dream than a true insight: I wondered if maybe it’s time for me to put away the dreams of the past, impossible or otherwise, and create a new dream, something I’ve never dreamt before. But that assumes a dream is important to have.

Do we need dreams? Dreams seem counter to a life in the now, a life that goes with the flow and accepts what comes.

But we are never just one thing or another. Well, you might be, but I’m not. I often seem to be straddling the line of two opposing ideals.

While the ideal me thinks it’s important to live in the now, just flowing as life unfolds, the pragmatic me thinks and plans.

While the ideal me loves the idea of striving toward an impossible dream, the practical me realizes that impossible means impossible, and there is no reason to waste energy reaching for an unreachable star.

While the ideal me loves the idea of living a completely disciplined life, always eating the right way, exercising and stretching and doing weights almost every day, writing every day, being always kind and thoughtful and caring, and oh, yes, making a living, the realistic me realizes that I can only push so much without getting sick. (That’s what happened this time — I was doing too much and in my weakened state, caught a cold.)

While the ideal me loves the idea of a wildly spontaneous life, whether living in place or setting out on a journey, trusting to the universe and fate that everything will work out, the fearful me thinks I would end up on the streets (and not in a good way). On the other hand, if I did the practical thing and settled down somewhere, the fearful me thinks I would stagnate.

What I end up doing, of course, is always struggling to find a balance, which goes against all my natures. (Not the balance part, that I believe in, but the struggling part.) And thinking too much. I always overthink everything, and blogging every day gives me an opportunity to voice those thoughts.

I still have the strange idea that if I don’t do something spectacular with my life, I will be wasting the freedom Jeff’s death has given me, though part of me realizes that life itself is spectacular. It’s just a matter of paying attention to the spectacle.

For that, do we need dreams? I don’t know. I just know I want . . . something.

Even while writing that last sentence, I find myself thinking, maybe even overthinking, wondering if the wanting is part of my grief cycle. If Jeff were here, would I still be wanting something — wanting to be something — that seems just out of sight? I don’t remember ever having dreams while we were together — apparently, just living our shared life was enough.

Maybe eventually just living, even stagnating, if it comes to that, will be enough, but for now, I still cling to the wondering. And the wandering.

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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.

Not a Flowing but a Flowering

If I hadn’t challenged myself to posting a blog every day for fifty days, I wouldn’t be sitting here at the computer trying to write  . . . something. Anything.

Normally, I would have gone to dance class today (ballet and tap, it would have been), which might have given me something to write about, but I woke with a sore throat and didn’t want to push my luck by going anyway — everyone I know caught cold this fall, and some people have had it for months. Not that I want to whine about being under the weather — that gets old. Actually, I don’t want to whine at all. I’ve been feeling good lately — I’ve spent many hours hiking in the desert, and I always feel most myself when I’m walking, especially when I’m walking out in the wild. Perhaps it’s the rhythm of walking that brings me to myself, or maybe it’s the wild inside connecting to the wild outside.

But today is not a day for walking. Or hiking. Or being any kind of wild.

It’s a day for . . . I don’t know. Just being, maybe.

I’ve been scrolling through my archives looking for inspiration for today’s blog post. My challenge was specifically worded so I didn’t have to write something new — I just had to post something. But I couldn’t find anything that spoke to me about me today.

I feel such a slug at times, as if I have always just flowed through my days, accomplishing not much of anything (which, though we seldom admit it, is living just as much as anything else), but I look at those previous posts and see not a flowing but a flowering. Adventures and explorations galore. A multitude of life-changing losses. A few life-changing gains. And yet, oddly, none of those things seem to have anything to do with me.

Each day, it seems, I am born anew, a woman with not much of a past, a woman with an unknown future. I was going to write “a woman with not much of a future,” but who’s to say what will happen? I remember times when nothing seemed to happen, such as the long years when Jeff never seemed to get sicker, never seemed to get better. And then suddenly, he did get sicker, and just as suddenly he died. During all those years when we would talk about his being gone, I could never have imagined what my life would become. And that was a mere seven years ago. Three years ago, my father died, and oddly despite my occasional nomadism, I am mostly living the same life as I did with him, though without responsibilities and in a different house, and I could never have imagined that, either.

The days continue to flow, but to what purpose, I don’t know.

Maybe a new flowering.

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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.

Silly Season

In November, many fiction writers participate in a project called National Novel Writing Month (though now it seems to be an international thing). Bloggers tapped into that pool of creativity and used to participate in something called National Blog Posting Month where bloggers post something each day in November. Maybe they still do; I don’t know. I do remember that the year I did it, the month was called The Silly Season because bloggers quickly ran out of ideas and so wrote about anything, no matter how silly.

I am in the midst of my own blog challenge, to post something every day until the end of the year, and today is my silly season because all I can think of to write is something totally unimportant in the grand scheme of things. (Let’s hope my silly season ends here, but with thirty-four days left of the challenge and not much to say, who knows what I’ll end up posting.)

A couple of years ago, when I went on a buying spree for camping and backpacking supplies, I ended up with a $39.00 dividend from REI. I thought I had until March to use it, but I found out a couple of days ago it would expire shortly. Since I didn’t really need anything, I checked the website to see if I could find some hiking pants in my size because the only ones I have are black, which is too attractive to mosquitoef3a389da-0c18-4277-a25f-7290e42da4a3s. No pants, but I did find a lovely blue fleece jacket in my size. (I knew it was my size because I have a couple of others in different colors.) It was on sale for 40% off, and since it was (accidentally on my part) the weekend after Thanksgiving, I got 25% off the 40% off. Even with shipping and tax, the total bill for the $65.00 fleece came to less than my dividend, so it was free to me!!

The jacket came today, and it’s lovely, and so very warm. It also came with a warning: This innovative product will make you want to go outdoors and stay there.

Maybe. Someday.

For now, though, silly post or not, the jacket will be perfect for my trek into the very cold desert tomorrow.

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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.

Blogging for Peace and Other Matters

It’s only the second day since my resolve to blog every day until the end of the year, and I’m already finding excuses why I should bail on idea. Too tired. No ideas. Nothing to say.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I’ve been planning on doing a follow-up to the Blog4Peace project I participated in on November 4th, but the drift of life had me in its grip. I suppose now is as good a time as ever to offer my retrospective, even though that day is long past.

I’ve been a peace blogger since 2012, though I’m not sure why I decided to participate in the first place. I don’t believe in “world peace” as a cause. People always talk about the human race as if we are warmongers, and yes, some people are, most notably those who make money and take power from wars, but think about it. How many wars have you personally started? For the most part, we (you and me, anyway) are peace lovers. We shy away from violence. Most of us don’t even start personal conflicts, though sometimes we do unwillingly get involved in contretemps we don’t quite know how to end.

Nor do I believe that nature itself is peaceful.

Just think about it — there you are, having a nice pleasant walk through the woods, having a picnic in a meadow, or perhaps standing on top of a mountain. All is peaceful. Or is it? If your ears were hypersensitive, as is the hero from my decade-old work-in-progress:

All seemed silent, still.

His ears became attuned to the quiet, and he heard insects cricking and chirring and buzzing.

Then other sounds registered, sounds so faint several seconds passed before he comprehended what he was hearing: the relentless hunger of nature. The larger prairie creatures and the most minute devoured each other in a cacophony of crunching, tearing, ripping, gnashing, grinding.

At the realization he was sharing space with things that must be fed, he took a step backward and bumped into a tree, a gnarled oak that hadn’t been there a moment ago. Leaning against the ancient tree, he heard the roots reaching out, creeping, grasping, wanting, needing. He jerked away from the tree and fell to hands and knees. Blades of grass moaned under his weight, and the screams of wildflowers being murdered by more aggressive vegetation almost deafened him.

He opened his mouth to add his own shrieks to the clamor, but closed it again and cupped his ears when he became aware of a long sonorous undulation deep beneath the ground. The heartbeat of the earth.

Yeah. Peace.

If we expand peace to a microscopic or even a cosmic plane, we see a stasis created by opposite but equal forces in conflict.

And yet . . . and yet . . .

On November 4, hundreds, maybe thousands of people were peacefully blogging about peace, creating peaceful images, sharing peaceful words, contemplating peace, visiting each other’s peace blogs. A lovely day. A peaceful day.

We may not have stopped wars or violence. We may or may not have attained peace within ourselves, may or may not have been at peace with our world.

But we mattered.

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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.