I Do Not Want to Blog About . . .

There are so many things I do not want to blog about today.

I don’t want to write about my father and his continued decline. Anyway, there’s not much to say. He’s doing exceptionally well for 97, but still, he is 97 and has congestive heart failure, hearing problems, and isn’t thinking as clearly as he did just a few months ago.

I don’t want to write about my future plans. (Yeah, I know — “future plans” is redundant since “plans” connotes the future, but in this case I’m talking way in the future, not what I plan to do tomorrow or next week.) The truth is, I have no plans, just dreams. Although I like the idea of roaming the country on foot, the realities are bleak (lack of water sources, possible health issues, inexperience). I also am getting uncomfortable talking about what I’m going to do after my father’s death, as if I’m trying to hurry him out of this life, though the truth is that he could be gone in an instant, and just like that (a snap of my fingers), I’d be homeless. I’d be foolish not to consider my options. But not today.

I don’t want to write about my homeless brother who is camping out in my father’s garage. (It sounds mean, but it’s the best my father can do for him. He is too dysfunctional to live in the house — he creates havoc, and my father wants/needs peace. Besides, if my brother were to live in the house where I had no protection from him, I would leave here.) Said brother is going through one of his manic phases, which means he is intolerable, demanding, insanely vocal, and very needy. I can’t fulfill any of his needs at such times, especially not the one he most wants — awed respect.

I certainly don’t want to write about his legal problems. He was arrested for being intoxicated in public a few months ago, didn’t show up for the court date, and now there is a warrant out for his arrest. When they catch him (because of course he won’t call the courts to get the matter straightened out as the deputy who made the courtesy call suggested), he will expect me or our father to pay his $5,000 bail. I won’t do it, and I sincerely doubt our father will. Besides, as much as I hate the thought of him in jail, I hate even more the thought of him here bedeviling me. I could use the rest. (As I was writing this, I got a phone call from him. He’s been arrested again for being intoxicated in public, but for some reason they waived bail, just gave him anther court date for both charges. I so could not handle being an alcoholic! Way too much work.)

I don’t want to write about grief and the death of my life mate/soul mate that precipitated my move here to look after my father and more recently (and very unwillingly) to do what I can for my brother. I’ve said about all there is to say about grief. It comes. It stays. What else is there to say? Well, I could say I’m mostly happy now which is true, but he’s still gone. I will never be happy about that until I’m gone too.

I don’t want to write about writing, my fallback topic. With self-publishing and we’ll-publish-anything-presses so prevalent, making authors believe they can write however they wish, there’s no reason to discuss right ways to do things. (Despite what most authors seem to believe nowadays, there are right ways. I just don’t feel like fighting about it anymore.)

Nor do I want to write about my aches and pains. I especially don’t want to talk about the gum infection that has me on high doses of antibiotics. (And probably why I’m not exactly overflowing with joy today.) The good news is that if I have any other infections, susunflowerch as strep or pneumonia, those microbes will be killed along with whatever caused my gum infection. The bad news is side effects. At least so far, all I’ve had to deal with is nausea. I haven’t developed a black furry tongue. (Fingers crossed here.)

While trying to think of a suitable ending for this blog post about what I don’t want to write about, I stopped by Facebook and clicked on a link for a test to see what flower I am. The results said: “You are a sunflower. You are the eternal optimist, always looking up. Nothing can shake your sweet, happy spirit. Friends enjoy your company because they find your joy contagious.”

Yep. That’s me today. Sweet, happy spirit. Contagious joy.

Gotta love the irony!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram 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.

A Rant About the Idiocies of Corporate Monopolies

I am not one to waste my blog time ranting about the idiocies of corporate monopolies, but at the moment I feel like ranting. (Feel free to head out and do something more interesting than listening to me. Like watching a pot boil or eating a liverwurst sandwich.)

The other day my father got a bill from Charter Communication that reflected a $50 increase in his monthly bundled rate. When I called them to find out what was going on, they said that his contract had expired, so the rates defaulted to the normal rates. I asked if they needed him to sign a new contract so he could get a lower rate, and phonethey said no, that their new rates were lower than his old rates, and they would just switch him over to the new normal rates.

By this time, I was thoroughly confused, so I asked why they hadn’t just automatically given him the lower normal rate. Their oh so logical response: “Because we couldn’t get into the account to change it.” But they could change it to the higher normal rate? Yep. That makes sense. (Apparently, their normal rates are whatever the representative decides. A friend tried to find out what her new rate would be, and she and her husband were each given three different figures.)

They also said my father was eligible for an equipment upgrade — a faster router and modem. I’m all for that. Some sites, including one of my email sites, have so many ads and videos going at once, that it takes forever to load the page. They ended the call by telling me I’d have the package in a week, which means it will come on Thursday.

Just now I received an automated phone call from Charter. They said there was a problem with my recent upgrade and they had an important message for me. I waited for a couple of minutes for a live representative to come on the line, and the first thing she asked me for was the phone number. Huh? They called me and didn’t know what phone number they called? (Her explanation, “It’s an automated system,” wasn’t much of an explanation, but it’s the only one she offered.)

I don’t know the phone number here — I never call it. And I have no need to know it since I never give it out. My father is 97-years-old, and he likes answering the phone when he is awake, so I don’t want to bother him with answering calls for me. (Since he was napping when Charter called, I got the all the fun, though I would have had to deal with them anyway. He can’t hear very well, and he gets easily confused, so he would have turned the phone over to me so I could get confused instead.) I went searching for his phone number, finally found it, and gave it to the woman. At her request, I gave her the address, which I do know. And then she asked for the security code. Yeah, right. That’s something I waste precious brain cells for, carrying that number around in my head. (When I called them, of course, I’d gathered all the information and had it ready. Since they called me, it was their responsibility to have the information ready. She didn’t see it that way, of course.)

The representative wasn’t very patient with my frustration and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t thrilled to be talking to her. She kept saying she needed the information to get into the account so she could tell me why Charter called. The thing is, Charter had called me — yeah, I know, I keep repeating that, but it’s an important point. When I call someone, I feel safe (safer, anyway) giving out information on the phone, but for all I knew, it might not have been Charter who called. It could have been a scam and someone wanted the information to . . . well, to do whatever scammers do with personal information.

At long last, the representative accessed the account. The important message? That the equipment will arrive on Thursday.

Sheesh.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram 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.

To Blog or Not to Blog

Every day we are faced with large decisions and small — decisions that make the difference between life and death, decisions that only make the difference between being lazy or productive. (Though who is to say that being lazy is unproductive. We often get our best ideas when we are lolling around, thinking of nothing.)

My decision each day is to write this blog. Most days, the choice is easy. I generally have no lack of things to say. But some days, like today, I have to coerce myself to write something. I have nothing to say, no new insights, no plans or hopes — just a blank “paper” on my computer, and yet, here I am, filling the blankness.

I could, of course, simply not write anything, but I’m one of those people who by default does what takes the least effort. Once I stop making the effortasking to write, once I break the infallibility of a daily blog, then it’s all over.

You dieters know what I’m talking about. When you go on a diet and then “accidentally” nibble on a cookie, you figure the whole day is a waste since you broke your diet, and so one by one those cookies disappear. If you’d never sampled the cookie, you’d still be on that diet. Or if you’d done the logical thing you’d still be on the diet — you’d have enjoyed the nibble and continued on as if you’re still on your diet, because you are. One nibble does not break a diet. It’s all those subsequent cookies that do the dirty deed. Even worse, once the diet is broken, it’s almost impossible to get back on it.

It’s the same thing with blogging. As long as I make an effort to write every day, I will continue to write every day. But if once I slack off, then it’s all over. First one day will pass, then another, because why not? The world wouldn’t end if I neglected to post my words. In fact, the world might even be a better place. But after not writing one day, then the next, I’d begin to think about it, wondering if I wanted to write. As the days passed, I’d even forget to ask if I want to blog, and gradually I’ll sink into wordlessness.

I’m sure that will happen someday. Just not today.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram 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.

Life Is An Epic Adventure

Recently I’ve been thinking and blogging about my need for an adventure, such as walking up the Pacific coast, thru-hiking a national trail, or visiting all the national parks. Something life changing. Something truly epic.

I’ve never been a particularly adventuresome sort, but the waning of grief over the death of mate/soul mate has left me with a vast restlessness and a desire for expanding my boundaries, both personally and geographically. From the beginning (the beginning of my grief, that is), I’ve been determined not to waste his death, and somehow settling down somewhere and living a tame life seems a waste. I want to explore the wild woman within, find out what she is capable of, live a bolder life than I’ve always lived. (Well, bolder within certain parameters. I certainly have no interest in bold pursuits such as skydiving or jet skiing. Walking, one foot always solidly on the ground, is more my style.)

I don’t know if I will ever be able to follow the call of adventure — responsibilities and physical capabilities could be a deterrent. But the truth is, life itself is an adventure of epic proportions. From the moment we are born, we grow and learn, always trying to expand our reach. We love and hate, laugh and cry, connect with others and disconnect, dance, tell stories, wish upon a star, dream of things that never were. Some people have families and children that bring them sorrow and joy. Some people have wonderful careers that sustain them. Some people have otherworldly experiences that that comfort, challenge, terrify. Some people are lucky enough to fall deeply in love, and sometimes those same people fall deeply into grief. Such epic experiences!

Although I dream of a separate epic adventure within the adventure of life itself, I do try to see the epicness of each day and experience whatever life brings me. Sometimes I find myself in the mountains, in the desert, or by the coast. Sometimes I find myself offering support or accepting comfort. Sometimes I find myself at lunch with friends — and what a privilege that is! It’s amazing how the turns of life often bring people from all over the world to a single place for a while and then with another turn, disperses them.

I suppose even sitting here writing this is an epic adventure. The internet, which burst into life a mere 25 years ago, connects people in a way that even the vicissitudes of life haven’t managed. Break Time, the steampunk the anthology I’m putting together with authors from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USA, could only be the product of the internet with all of us coming together (without ever meeting) for such a fascinating project.

Still, even though writing might satisfy some folks’ idea of adventure, right now the sun beckons me. I think I’ll go out for a walk and experience the epicness of life first hand.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

All Is Calm, All Is Bright

All is calm in my world today, and the sun is shining brightly. There have been no storms in my life in the past few days, neither internal nor environmental. There have been no midnight trips to jail to pick up an errant sibling, no recent trips to the hospital to admit my aged father. Nothing has pushed me past my limits to where I wanted to kick someone. I haven’t had any major grief upsurges for a while, not even any minor ones. I’ve been getting enough exercise to keep my stress levels low, and I’ve been catching up on my sleep.

I don’t know how long peace will last in this King of Hearts world of mine, but for now I am enjoying the calm.

It seems strange, though, not to have much to say, especially since the word I chose for my daily resolution is “largiloquent,” meaning “full of words.” (Not a bad thing for a writer to be!) There always seems to be something — or someone — bedeviling me, giving me plenty of fodder for this blog, but at the moment, there are no jumbled thoughts I need to sort out. I have no words of wisdom, either, other than a reminder to myself that the universe is unfolding as it should, and I am where I am supposed to be — dreaming myself into the person I wish to become.

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“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” William Arthur Ward.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Getting Google Traffic to Grow Your Blog

I’ve been receiving blogging hints via email from some blogging guru for the past couple of weeks. First, he sent an article telling me how to drive traffic to my blog from Facebook. Apparently, that is why most bloggers join FB — to get more traffic for their blogs.

If you wish to get people on FB to check out your blogs, the guru said: 1) use large images since large images get 125% more traffic than posts without images. 2) Use short teasers in your status updates, sort like you do with Twitter. And 3) Ask questions. By engaging people in conversation, you get more likes and shares, and FB analytics then kicks in and gives you more exposure.

That’s great advice, but the very next email I got from these same guy said that ugooglesing social networks to grow your blogs is overrated, so limit your social networking to thirty minutes a day. Instead, grow your blog through Google. You get way more traffic and you don’t even have to spend time socializing or sharing your content. This is true — most of my traffic comes from various search engines, which is why my top posts always include my article Sex With Sister Tips. Um…Yeah because apparently, a huge number of people seem to want to have s e x with their sister. And in December, my highest ranked post is always What Do You Say to Someone Who is Grieving at Christmas? because of all the people Googling that particular topic.

His suggestions on the best way to get Google traffic:

1) Pick a niche for your blog — the narrower the better — and stick to it. Apparently, the more focused your blog, the more Google focuses on it. In other words, don’t do what I do — write about whatever catches my attention. At the beginning, my blog was focused on writing, specifically, what I learned about writing and how my search to get published was progressing. Then, after my life mate/soul mate died, I focused on grief. Now, I’m focusing on getting on with my life (though oddly, people are less interested in how I’m rebuilding my life than they were in its destruction.) So I suppose, if I had to describe my niche, I’d have to say it’s me. You don’t get much more focused than that since there is only one me in the world!

2) Consistently write high quality interesting blog posts. Your posts should be longer than 500 words. 1,000 word posts will ultimately get you more traffic provided you stay focused. Quality matters because Google is measuring time spent on pages and click throughs from social sites. Use fewer tags but make sure they  are “right on target” with the tagged post. Include Youtube or other videos on your posts so that users stay on your pages longer. (My posts average around 500 words, because no matter who Google sends, chances are they aren’t going to read more than that, anyway.)

3) Search Engine Optimization. Basically, if you use WordPress as I do, they do the SEO for you, but if you want to get the most use out of your keywords, you can find that information here: On-Page SEO and Keyword Usage.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram 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.

My Midnight Visitor

The title of this post isn’t entirely accurate. It wasn’t a midnight visitor, more like an evening visitor, but “midnight visitor” sounds mysterious, which is fitting for such a mysterious visitation. Besides, it seems apt for this Yule season.

Last night I visited with a friend who wants to start a blog to spread the word about her faith. She hadn’t realized I knew how to blog, and was delighted when I offered to send her a blog tutorial I had written and to help if she had questions. She told me it must have been God’s will for her to come see me, and I agreed. (Although my faith might be so weak as to be almost non-existent at times, I am always respectful of other people’s beliefs.) A minute or two later, I happened to look out the window. The sky was a bright, happy orange. I told her, “See, God likes the idea of your blogging.”

We laughed and hugged, then she went out to take photos and I went to get my camera. I was so excited by the sunset — I had never seen such a vivid sky — that I left the door to the patio wide open. When I went back inside, a bird was caroming all over the living room. I try to shoo it out, but it hid behind a sideboard. Yikes.

Birds in the house scare me. They’re not like bugs that you can capture in a bottle and either throw away or release outside. Birds are big and wild and alien and frightened. Once when a bat crawled through a half-inch space between the screen and the casement of an open window, we waited until it fell asleep clinging to the curtains, then we used a very large container to capture it. But last night’s bird was huge. Poor thing, it was as upset by the episode as I was. Even though the door was open, it didn’t seem to be able to find its way out. My friend suggested opening the door wider, and as I did, the bird must have caught a whiff of freedom, because he flew over my head and was gone.

All in all, a very colorful evening.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+

Dona Nobis Pacem

Thousands of bloggers from all over the globe are Blogging for Peace today.

One subject. One voice. One day.

Words are powerful . . . this matters.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram 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.

I’m going to Blog for Peace. Will You?

Blog 4 PeaceOn Monday, November 4, people all over the planet blog for peace. This year, I’m going to join the the Blog Blast for Peace, and you can join the movement, too. You make your own peace globe/statement or simply choose one pre-made at http://blogblastforpeace.com, and become – a peace blogger.

Peace bloggers believe that words are powerful, and that this event matters.

So, check out the above website or check out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BlogBlastForPeace.

How To Blog For Peace The short version:

1. Choose a graphic from the peace globe gallery http://peaceglobegallery.blogspot.com/p/get-your-own-peace-globe.html or from the photos on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BlogBlastForPeace#!/BlogBlastForPeace/app_153284594738391 Right click and Save. Decorate it and sign it, or leave as is.

2. Send the finished globe to blogblast4peace@yahoo.com

3. Post it anywhere online November 4 and title your post Dona Nobis Pacem (Latin for Grant us Peace)

Sounds cool, doesn’t it? See you on November 4!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram 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.

Life After the Death of a Soul Mate

What I love most about blogging is that sometimes when I start writing a post, new or buried thoughts percolate to the surface, ending up on the page and surprising me with insights. Yesterday, when I wrote Living Offline, I had no idea I was starting to look forward to the rest of my life. I’ve kept my head down, plodding along, trying new things, meeting new people, visiting new places, and apparently, somewhere along the line, I went through a renewal of sorts.

Many people who had gone through a grievous loss have told me that it takes three to five years to find a renewed interest in life, and so it is with me. In just a few days, it will be three years and seven months since the death of my life mate/soul mate, and I find myself involved deeply in life, not just with such difficult matters as looking out for my 96-year-old father and dealing with problematic family members, but also with taking care of myself and my well-being.

Sierra Club conditioning walkI’m physically active, eat right, and have accidentally become part of an intelligent and talented coterie. I say “accidentally” because when I joined a group of walkers, I didn’t expect to end up going to art shows that feature members’ work, hearing one member in a choir of madrigal singers, and seeing others dance. Because of these people, I’ve also learned not to fear old age. Although people of all ages walk with us, some of the most active members could be considered elderly, but I can barely keep up with those in their seventies. I have no idea what life has is in store for me, of course, but I do know that getting older doesn’t necessarily mean getting feeble. It just takes a bit of luck and a lot of physical activity and mental stimulation.

Grief goes in cycles, so chances are I will still be experiencing occasional grief surges (especially on the weekends when I can’t feast on the endorphins and friendship of the group walk), but now I know the truth: there is life after the death of the person who connected you to the world. There is even laughter. Maybe even joy.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram 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.

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