My Own Days

This was one of those oddly busy days though not a lot seemed to get accomplished. Come to think of it, I did get several chores done — a load of laundry, a quick trip to the library, an even quicker trip to store. And when I was coming home from a walk to the library, I met up with a friend who was also out walking. Apparently, we both decided to take advantage of the windless, sunny day before cold descends once again. We wandered a bit and visited, which was nice. You’d think we’d see each other more frequently since we live only a couple of blocks apart, but somehow the days pass without our making an effort to connect, so it’s especially gratifying when we just happen to meet.

We have made plans for teatime in a couple of days, so that’s good. It’s one of the best things about small town living — having friends close by.

Still, all that wasn’t enough to fill up the day, and yet here it is, dark already, and I have no idea where all today’s hours went. I haven’t even been spending much time on the computer, though I did check my email and discovered a refund was being sent to me from part of an order that got lost somewhere along the way. They’d sent my order of four items in three packages. Not terribly efficient, but I suppose I should be glad I got the two items I really needed rather than none of them.

Tracking numbers are such a great thing. I like knowing where my packages are and when they will get here. Even better, if they do get lost, especially if it was a purchase from one of the giants like Walmart or Amazon, they contact me to let me know and advise me they are sending a refund. I remember times when I didn’t get something I ordered, and a dozen calls and much paperwork later, I finally received either a replacement or a refund. This way is so much easier!

Of course, the refund means I now have to find a way to get those missing items, though that’s not a problem. I mostly added them to the order to get free shipping, since the items I needed didn’t meet the minimum, but I can pick up the items the next time I go to the “big city.”

As it stands, tomorrow shouldn’t be busy, oddly or otherwise, since I did all my chores and errands today. I’ll probably take the opportunity to go out walking again since the temperatures won’t drop until Tuesday, and I have a due library book I should finish reading, but other than that, my day is my own.

Actually, all my days are my own. I just choose to use some of those days working. Or whatever.

***

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

Small Town Traffic Jam

There was a real traffic jam in front of my house today, not a big city sort of jam with cars piled one behind the other, but still way more activity than I generally see in a week or even a month.

A friend and I had gone to what we laughingly call the big city (which is basically another small town but with a few more major stores than we have here). She pulled in front of my house, and as we were hauling my groceries out of her car, UPS pulled in behind her with a package for me. “Only one?” I asked, because the order was supposed to come in two packages. “Only one,” he replied.

As we were having this conversation, the water meter reader pulled up and took the cover off my meter. The UPS guy left, so I went over to the meter reader, smiled and said, “I thought you didn’t have to manually read the meters on this side of the street.” He agreed that normally he didn’t have to, but since my water usage has been trending higher, he needed to make sure there were no leaks. (He said he could tell there were no leaks because no water was running through the meter since everything was turned off.) He ran off to get a different wrench because the one he was using didn’t work, for some reason.

Before I could make it into the house with my groceries, the postal carrier drove up and placed a few pieces of mail in the box. The UPS driver came back with my other package. Then the meter reader came back with a different wrench. Finally, we got the groceries in the house, and my friend left.

Whew! The odds of all that happening at the same time are astronomical. Not that I have an equation to figure out such a thing, but in all the time I have been here, no two deliverers or workers have been here at the same time, and especially not when I had just returned home from a shopping trip. And for all of that to happen at the same time? Amazing.

That wasn’t the only interesting coincidence. Shortly after this traffic jam, I was at the house of the woman I care for, and my next-door neighbor, who apparently just got a job at the tax assessors office, showed up with property assessment forms to make sure they were current for that address and that no major work had been done on the house in the previous year. In itself, it’s not much of a coincidence, I suppose, since this is a such a small town, but I found it interesting that the city employee would stop by shortly after I arrived at the house. And that I knew who he was.

Even more interesting was all that activity in such a short span of time. I know my reaction seems laughable to big city folk because you’re used to real traffic jams (as I once was), but to me, now, it was . . . exhausting.

***

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.

Collecting Local Stories

I’ve been collecting local stories in case I need colorful fillers in my new haven’t-yet-written-a-single-word novel, though to be honest, I have my doubts about some of the stories.

For example, right before I got here, a fellow was killed in a cottage across the alley. (Around here, a cottage is a house built onto the back of a garage.) Supposedly, they were drug users who got in an argument. Or maybe they were drug dealers. Or maybe they were narcs scoping out the drug situation in this neighborhood. In support of the third possibility, one neighbor told me that the dead guy was seen around the courthouse in a nearby city. In opposition, if they were DEA agents, they weren’t very good ones because another neighbor (who has since moved away. Yay!) was the local purveyor of illegal substances, and they never caught him. Though I suppose it’s possible they were looking for his supplier. The general belief, however, is that they were drug users who had a falling out.

Another interesting story is that a while back, many years before I got here, someone a few blocks away decided to put in a frog pond. He created the pond, then ordered a thousand frogs. Those frogs turned out to be toads who prefer a damp shady environment rather than a wet one, so they disappeared during the night. The toads I see are supposedly descendants of the mail order toads. It’s a cute story, but such a tale is not necessary to account for all the toads around here. After all, there are rivers and irrigation ditches, which could also be a source for the toads. When I lived on the western slope of Colorado, in a rural plains area similar to this (though surrounded by hills and mountains rather than the flatlands we have here), there were also toads. There seem to be seasons for toads because I remember one year when the baby toads were as plentiful and as fidgety as the grasshoppers.

There are other stories, such as the family who had fourteen kids, the fellow who won’t let anyone in his house because he doesn’t want anyone to see that he is a hoarder, the lady who lets all her dogs get killed, the dispatcher at the sheriff’s department who was married to the local drug dealer, the ex-soldier who was so “ex” there is no record of his being in the service. (His story is spooky, reminiscent of my novel More Deaths Than One). As everywhere, there are gossips and godly people (sometimes one and the same), courteous folk and curmudgeons, those who have lived here for generations and those who are elbowing their way into the power structure (such as it is).

I don’t know what I will do with all the stories I am collecting. I don’t even know if I can use any of them because I wouldn’t want people to think I was writing about them, even if I were. And even if I weren’t. (People often see themselves in a character even though I didn’t put them there.)

Some people would like to be in my book. In fact, the wife of the ex-soldier would like me to tell her husband’s story, but I don’t want to do another mind control novel. Though come to think of it, much of the latter part of that story is similar to stories of people who have been alien-abducted, which could be a way of introducing the story, and then only later letting it be known that our own government was the abductor. Still, it’s too tragic a story for me to want to tackle. I’d prefer a more lighthearted story I wouldn’t mind living since an author does live his or her story for however long it takes to write it.

But none of this matters at the moment since I’m just in the collecting phase of my new haven’t-yet-written-a-single-word novel. Once I’ve collected a critical mass of information, then perhaps the story will explode out of me, and I’ll finally rack up another novel.

***

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.

Zero Degrees of Separation

During a meeting I attended yesterday in the early afternoon, one of the women talked about relatives who’d come to visit. She mentioned how busy she was but managed to attend the meeting because her company had gone to a nearby town to visit other relatives.

Just chit chat. You know how it goes.

A couple hours later, when I was at my caregiving job, a couple knocked on the door. The woman explained they were in town visiting their cousin and wanted to see my client, who was the mother of the woman’s lifelong friend. They were a bit hesitant because they didn’t know me or why I was there, and since I didn’t know them, I too was a bit hesitant for a brief moment until I realized who they were.

I exclaimed in amazement, “I know you. You’re L’s company. She was just talking about you.”

Writing it out like that, it doesn’t sound all that amazing, and perhaps it isn’t, especially for a small town, and especially for a small town where half the people have lived here their whole lives and whose families have lived here for generations.

Still, I do find it amazing. I barely knew any of my relatives. My father was a bit of a slow rolling stone. He moved away from his family to start his own, and when we grew up, he moved away from us. And I have no friends I’ve known my whole life, though in recent years I did reconnect with some high school classmates.

Generally, in my life, there were many degrees of separation between the people I know and the people I meet. And yet around here, there’s barely a degree of separation.

I don’t suppose it will take long for me to become part of that lifestyle. Because of the woman I take care of, I know how many of the people here fit together, and in turn, the people I meet are figuring out who I am and how I fit in.

Of course, I’ll never really be part of that zero-degrees-of-separation life, because even if I live here until my expiration date, I’ll still be a newcomer. Luckily, people here like newcomers.

***

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.

Satisfying

There is something so very satisfying about living — and shopping — in a small town. A friend and I had an errand we needed to run, and on the way back, we stopped at the grocery store. After we walked out carrying our purchases, I noticed the truck of a dear friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, so I ran back inside to find her. We said a few words, exchanged a couple of hugs, then I had to get back to where the other woman was waiting.

I was almost to her car when I saw a neighbor drive up. I’d talked to him a couple of hours before that, and he had lamented that his hens were laying, four new eggs today, and he didn’t know what to do with them. He said he wished he knew someone who wanted them. I raised my hand, of course, and said, “Me!” Since he was busy and couldn’t get the eggs for me right then, we decided he’d come by later and leave them on the back porch. Which he did. So I made the detour in the parking lot to see him and thank him for the gift, then hurried back to my friend’s car before I saw anyone else I knew.

It’s very nice being able to see people I know when I’m out and about. I’ve never really lived anywhere, either in a smaller area or a larger city, where just serendipitous meetings happened. It’s these casual encounters, I think, more than anything, that make this such a nice place to live. Well, that and the frequent conversations like, “She’s the daughter of the son of the uncle of his cousin’s husband.”

It still surprises me, that in a town where people have lived for generations, people welcome newcomers. Other towns I’ve been to where the same families have lived and held sway for generations have been so insular, they never bothered to get to know anyone new, though of course, they sure liked the money newcomers brought in!

As soon as I finish writing this blog, I’m going to do another small town thing — walk to work and visit with one of those folks who have spend their whole life here.

Besides all that, the sun is shining, the air is still and warm.

Yes, so satisfying!

***

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.

Going to the Library

I get much enjoyment from going to the library. There are always books, of course, as well as a chance to find one I have been awaiting. (Today I found Louise Penny’s All the Devils Are Here, which they had recently acquired. Yay!)

And I get to say hi to people, even visit for a few minutes while maintaining my distance. The librarians, of course, are always there and always pleasant to talk to, as is a church organist, who looks up from a computer to gift me with a smile. Today I also chatted a couple of minutes with a city council member and her baby (now a toddler) who had campaigned with her. I also visited for a few minutes with one of my game-playing friends and caught up on all the news. Apparently, things are getting back to normal, because today there was a picnic lunch at the senior center (though I think it was “picnic” in name only since people had to go and pick up their meals) and there is a dinner scheduled for the end of the month at one of the churches.

Although she offered me a ride to the church, I gave my ready excuse of having to work, though chances are, even if the dinner works into my oh-so-heavy schedule (this is irony since my job consists of visiting with an older woman several hours a week), I probably still wouldn’t go. I don’t seem to be able to lose the fifteen or so pounds I gained the first year I was here (I attended too many meal events and ate too much of the things I’m not supposed to), and I’m not sure I want to deal with either gaining more weight or going to a dinner and not eating, though I might stop by to say hi.

Or not. I still don’t have my vaccine, and I’m not sure when I will be able to get it. Besides, the way I look at it, I’m fine temporarily, but that will change if I ever get back into socializing. Which, to be honest, is not high on my agenda at the moment. I would enjoy seeing people, of course, but for now, my perennial conflict of indulgence vs. discipline is leaning more toward the disciplined side, with stretching in the morning, knee exercises, a short walk, a few minutes on the elliptical, as well as eschewing the foods I shouldn’t be chewing, and I’d just as soon not upset my current balance.

And, of course, I am back to trekking to the library on a regular basis, though not the one illustrating this post. The photo is the Prague Library, and someone else took the photo and kindly let me use 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.

The Forgotten Americans

Because of the almost universal experience of grief, I’ve met people from all over the world. Well, “met” might not be the proper word since we’ve never met in person, but over the years, you get to know people as well as if you had met in person. In fact, the people I have had occasion to visit, are exactly the same, and our relationship exactly the same as it was online. We simply continued the conversation we’d started via the internet.

People elsewhere sometimes don’t really know what life is like here in the United States. The news media is only interested in sensationalism, and the quiet lives most people lead have no interest to anyone beyond their communities. For example, the governing body of Colorado has no interest in my corner of the state, and in fact, often enacts legislation to our detriment. Admittedly, we are scant in numbers compared to the nearby big cities, so what happens here makes no difference to the rest of the state, and our voice is seldom heard. We are the forgotten.

It’s the big cities that people are familiar with worldwide, but even in big cities, there are large neighborhoods where people quietly go about their business. They don’t start fights, don’t shoot each other, don’t do much of anything except work so they can afford to live in those peaceful neighborhoods.

I might be exaggerating here because I am as ignorant as the rest of the world when it comes to current big cities. I grew up in Denver and spend my early adulthood there, but back then, the once-upon-a-time governor (who came from Texas, not Colorado) had yet to “imagine a great city.” The president’s son had not yet helped destroy the savings and loans business. The Denver International Airport fiasco had yet to be perpetrated on the taxpayers. And the Californication of Colorado had not yet begun. And so Denver was a great city. A great city to grow up in, that is. It was more of a cow town than the major player on the world stage that it has become.

Although the USA has a reputation for being a war-loving country, generally only Washington DC and the military-industrial complex are gung-ho for war. (Even people who join the military are often shocked when they find out they actually have to fight. The recruiting officers tend to focus on career and education opportunities.) Traditionally, going way back to the Civil War, Americans have to be coerced to fight. We are peace-lovers. Most of us have no objection to helping others in need, but mostly, we want to stay home and take care of our own. Most of us don’t understand why Washington sends money to countries that hate us.

We are often vilified for spreading American culture, but those so-called American businesses that are supposedly spreading American consumerism around the world are no-longer American businesses and haven’t been for a very long time. They are global corporations. Many of us here have no money invested in those businesses (many of us have no money invested anywhere; it’s all we can do to survive from paycheck to paycheck). Some of us don’t even patronize those businesses.

Most of us are not racist, which is why the media and academics need to keep changing the definition of racism to include more and more of us.

The international policies Washington puts in force are their policies, not necessarily the policies of we the people. And the most annoying thing of all is that these same politicians apologize to the world for us citizens, as if we personally chose to start wars or changed the immigration laws, or whatever, when in fact, they should be apologizing to us not for us.

This ended up being much more of a rant than I intended. Mostly I wanted to show that there is life in the United States beyond the horrors the news media project, that even though we are forgotten, we are still here. But then, if you’ve been reading my blog for anything length of time, you already know that some of us, me especially, lead peaceful, considerate, thinking lives.

***

“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

Another Special Day

It’s exceedingly cold today, but I took this opportunity to give my car a short workout because this is the warmest it will be for a while. Eek!

It really wasn’t that bad out, but of course, I was inside my car, and even without a heating system I wasn’t too cold. Outside, there was a chill wind and a sparse bit of sleeting snow. Despite the weather, it was another example of a perfect small-town day. No matter where I went, I saw people I knew. We stopped to chat a few minutes, which was really nice, and then went on our way.

What interests me is how often I see people I know at the stores or wherever. I’ve lived in smaller places and larger places, and have gone years without ever seeing anyone I know unless I made a point of seeing them.

It wasn’t just the people I visited with that made this day special, but a field full of cranes.

I don’t like to drive just a few blocks. The engine doesn’t even heat up, and it doesn’t give the car much of a workout, so after my errands, I took a short drive down the highway, and I saw what looked like snowdrifts in a field. I didn’t think anyone around here had gotten more than a few flakes of snow, so I gave a second look, and realized the field, as far as I could see, was dotted with what I think are sandhill cranes, stopping to rest on their way to a more beneficial winter habitat.

Because I was on a narrow shoulder of the highway, I wasn’t able to get out of my car to take a photo, so I pulled over, rolled the window down, and took a picture with my phone. (I’d planned to get a birding camera when I moved here, but so far, haven’t done that. Knowing me, if I did see a bird I’d like a photo of, the camera would have been left at home, anyway.)

I sat and watched the birds for a while. Warmed by the sight, it suddenly didn’t feel so fiercely cold after all.

***

My novel of a quarantine predated this real life experience by a decade. You can read the first chapter online here:  http://patbertram.com/A_Spark_of_Heavenly_Fire.html

Buy it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0024FB5H6/

Download the first 30% free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842

A Perfect Small-Town Day

Today was one of those perfect small-town days you see in romantic movies, old television shows, or sentimental paintings. To start off, the weather was perfect — sunny, deep blue skies, the air cool enough to require a light jacket, and best of all, no wind.

Although I’ve been lazy lately, apparently I decided this was the day to package up a couple of gifts to mail. To that end, I took a walk to the post office to pick up a couple of flat-rate boxes, then came home and started wrapping and packing.

This took the better part of the day’s middle because I had to drag out all the paraphernalia — tape, scissors, wrapping paper, package fill, etc. Oddly, for a person who doesn’t really celebrate Christmas except for sending a couple of gifts when finances allow, I have a LOT of Christmas stuff.

To start off, I have two small trees and two tiny trees —- one small tree was a gift when I was laid up with my almost-destroyed arm, another was a gift to my father that I ended up keeping. One tiny tree was supposed to be a gift that somehow didn’t work out, and one was a recent gift from a local craftsy friend. (Craftsy because to use “crafty” connotes something other than I wanted to say.) Then I have wreaths — one that started off as a hat decoration, and another I made at an Art Guild meeting last year. (Yes, I do have a red wall! Not my choice since it was here when I came, but I’ve come to appreciate it.)

I also somehow ended up with a small snowman collection, as well as boxes of ornaments and bowls of lights. So, lots of Christmas stuff strewn around!

I kind of digressed for a minute, but now back to my story. I did get the packages ready in plenty of time to get to the post office in case it was keeping shorter hours. (Because of The Bob, we’re on “red” alert, whatever that means.)

As I was getting the packages out of the car, the husband of a friend I used to play dominoes with came down the post office stairs. I said hello and asked after his wife. A fellow of few words, he simply opened the passenger door of his vehicle. And there his wife was. It’s a shame this isn’t a hugging time (and it would have been awkward because of her being in the car), but it was truly good to see her.

After they left, I gathered up my packages and climbed the stairs into the post office. (Yes! I was actually able to climb the stairs!) There was only one woman waiting, the person I most wanted to see. One of my first and dearest new friends. Her being there helped keep me from gagging when the clerk added up the postage. (It seems only last year the flat rate price for priority mail was $2.50, but apparently, that “last year” was a few decades ago.)

We chatted until both of us completed our business. (She’s been waiting for a package for a couple of weeks now that seems to be stalled in Denver, and I told her the last package I got from the eastern part of the country was stalled in Denver for three weeks, so not to worry. Then the postmaster came out with her tracking information, and told her the same thing. Denver seems to hate us out here.)

While continuing to talk outside, we happened to notice a mutual friend — another of those dearest friends. So we chatted with her, met her new great-grandbaby (at a suitable distance of course) and then we all went our separate ways.

My way took me to the grocery store where I encountered a neighbor, and even better, I got one of the friendly checkout clerks.

Truly a perfect small-town day.

Even coming home to a mess (the first time I actually left a mess behind when I headed out to run errands) didn’t present a problem. In fact, it helped solidify the perfection as I puttered around putting things away. I still have a mess because all those Christmas decorations are piled up in the living room, but that will be sorted out in the next couple of days.

***

If you haven’t yet read A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel of a quarantine that predated this pandemic by more than ten years, you can read the first chapter online here: http://patbertram.com/A_Spark_of_Heavenly_Fire.html

Buy it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0024FB5H6/

Download the first 30% free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842

Event Adventure

I attended a community event yesterday geared toward addressing opioid addiction in the area.

The woman I went with has to take opioids for her severe pain, and hasn’t become addicted. Neither did I become addicted when taking opioids after I destroyed my arm. In fact, back then, the doctor told me I wouldn’t get addicted even though I was on super-high dosages. One thing no one has ever explained is why some people get addicted, some don’t, and how to tell the difference. Despite all the hype, opioids aren’t a problem for everyone, and if those opposed to the drugs manage to get them banned, a whole lot of people will be in a whole lot of pain.

But that wasn’t what the event was about. It was more for those who need the services of the community to help with their present addiction. One big focus was the use of Narcan. A couple of local youths put on a brief skit about how to use Narcan and to show that there are no effects for someone who doesn’t need it. One sober youth fell to the ground. The other went to the rescue, opened the Narcan, and squirted the Narcan up his nose.

(My murder-mystery brain went into overdrive, and I immediately imagined they had killed the poor fellow. He was fine, even though he’d accidentally been given a double dose, but in a future book, he won’t be. Poor guy doesn’t even know he’s going to be murdered in absentia. Not by Narcan, of course, but by some drug that had been substituted by nefarious folk.)

After that sixty-second training course, we were given boxes of Narcan to use on all our drug-addicted friends. So, if you come to my house and fall down in a drugged stupor, I’ll be able to revive you — unless I murder you first for bringing drugs (and bad karma) into my house.

Although we were told that Narcan is safe, I can’t imagine there is any drug that is perfectly safe for everyone, so if by chance you did come to my place and collapse from your addiction, and if by chance I allow you to live, I won’t give you the Narcan. I wouldn’t want it to interfere with all the legal drugs the doctors have you taking.

To be honest, I was more interested in the coloring book that was being given out at one of the booths. I remember when coloring books were for children — now they are for adults. Apparently, kids have better things to do than color someone else’s artwork.

Oddly, many years before the adult coloring fad hit, Jeff and I thought coloring might be a soothing activity, so we got coloring books and crayons. Despite the intriguing designs in the books, we were both bored out of our skulls. So, if you do come to visit, and if you don’t expire from drugs (or from me), you can color in what is sure to be a still-pristine coloring book.

By far the most interesting thing about the evening is that while we were standing in line to be served dinner (free to all of us who attended), two different people came and talked to me as if they knew me, though I had never seen either of them before.

One of the people, wearing a shirt saying, “Don’t meth with me,” mentioned he always saw me walking by his house, and another asked about my car. Admittedly, I do sort of stand out, what with my hats and my vintage vehicle; nevertheless, it’s discomfiting to find out that I know fewer people than who know me.

And here I thought that by settling down my adventurous days would be over. Who knew community events in small towns are their own adventure!

***

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.