Are We Responsible for Responsiblity?

I’ve been thinking a lot about responsibility lately. Well, no wonder — I’m looking after my 97-year-old father and doing the best I can for my dysfunctional brother. I’ve always had an enormous sense of responsibility but now I’m wondering if perhaps that isn’t a good thing.

I was the oldest girl in a large family, and as such, I had responsibility thrust on me at an early age. (I never used to admit I was from a large family. I felt ashamed, as if I had been the one to choose to have a large family in overpopulated times. It took me half a lifetime to realize I had no blame in the matter. No responsibility.)

Responsibility means: 1) the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone. 2) the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something. 3) the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization. 4) a thing that one is required to do as part of a job, role, or legal obligation. 5) a moral obligation to behave correctly toward or in respect of.

It’s unusual for all the definitions of a word to apply in one of my ramheavenbling discussions with myself, but in this case, all of them do. Well, except for perhaps #3. I often have a hard time making decisions when all things are equal and it doesn’t make any difference to me what I decide. For example, I can never decide where to go to lunch if I’m out with friends. It’s being with the friends that matters to me, not the food that accompanies the conversation.

I’ve never liked having control over anyone, another leftover from childhood when I would be left in charge, yet I do often feel as if I have a duty to certain people, or perhaps a moral obligation to them. I also sometimes feel responsible for situations that have nothing to do with me, other than that I am there and I care. For example, if I express an opinion or preference, no matter how casual, and another person acts on that opinion with bad results, I blame myself, though I’m learning not to.

Some of my youthful research into spirituality added to this sense of responsibility. If life is created by thoughts, including ours, then everything we do affects the whole. I don’t believe, as many people do, that we create our own illnesses, or that we remain sick because our belief isn’t strong enough to make us well. Nor do I believe we create our problematic situations. I do know that sometimes (maybe most times) things simply happen, and all we can do is deal with them, and yet, the idea still lingers that somehow, somewhere, we are the authors of our lives, the ones responsible for putting ourselves in crises.

I once liked the saying: “No snowflake in an avalanche ever thinks it’s responsible.” It wasn’t until just now that it dawned on me that no snowflake is responsible. The snowflake didn’t create the weather, didn’t create the snowfall, didn’t create the conditions for an avalanche. It didn’t even choose where it was to land.

I’m not much of a snowflake in our society. I’ve only owned one car, and that still-running 42-year-old vehicle has but 153,000 miles on it. I recycle the old-fashioned way — wear out, use up, make do. I trod as lightly as I can, and yet, I am still a snowflake, however unwittingly, causing the avalanche of human destruction on this earth.

So, where does responsibility begin and end? Am I responsible for the earth, for our society’s problems, for my family, my father, my brother?

Am I responsible for the death of my life mate/soul mate? Now that I know the answer to. Of course I am not responsible, and yet there is something deep in me, something beyond consciousness, that believes perhaps I didn’t do enough, didn’t hold on to him tightly enough, didn’t love enough.

See? An enormous sense of misplaced responsibility.

So, are we responsible for responsibility? If things go wrong in the world (or in a family or community), how much of the accountability or the blame belongs to us? Do we in fact have control over anything, or do things just happen — will we, nill we?

Research into the mind shows that often a decision is made before we become aware we made the decision. One test had people choose which light to light up, but often the light lit up before it was chosen, which led researchers to wonder if the people chose the light in the millisecond after it lit up. Perhaps, as this research might indicate, we have no real choice in what happens. In which case, how can there be responsibility?

I suppose it’s also possible that no matter what we do, we’d get the same results. Although that idea wasn’t formulated when I wrote the first chapter of Break Time, the soon-to-be-published steampunk anthology, it’s how the story progressed. Every time Al went back to the past to save his wife and child from death, they ended up dying in another accident. If the end is the same no matter what we do, how can there be responsibility?

And is it possible (or even acceptable) to unshoulder a lifetime of responsibility?

Just wondering.

***

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.

The Reality of Water

Whenever I think of taking off on foot and seeing where the trail leads me, I always come up against one truth that pops the dream and brings me back to reality.

Water.

There is a drought in the west this year. Water is being drained from Lake Mead as if it were a bathtub with the stopper removed. Some communities are warning residents to conserve, while the developers continue to build houses by the hundreds in this area alone, which will cause further problems in the future. Certain watering spots along the southern SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAportion of the Pacific Crest Trail have dried up, forcing thru hikers to carry more water, drink less, or arrange for water deliveries.

A gallon of water weighs almost nine pounds, and hikers generally consume a gallon a day so carrying just a couple of days worth of water makes for a very heavy pack. Some cross-country walkers fashion pushcarts to carry the necessary water through the long desolate waterless areas, but wheels of any kind are usually not allowed on trails in national parks, so that is not a solution for PCT thru walkers.

More than anything else we take water for granted, and yet it is the one thing we cannot live without. Supposedly we can live without food for three weeks, but a mere three days without water puts us in serious trouble. Actually, we’d be in trouble long before the three days were up, with skin rashes, thick tongue, and hallucinations leading the list of dehydration horrors. Add heat and wind to the trauma, conditions that often prevail in the desert west, and we’d have a serious problem within just a couple of days.

Considering that 75% of us are chronically dehydrated, there is a chance that we wouldn’t even last two or three days. And considering that in 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger, we could be dying of thirst and not even know it.

Even mild dehydration will slow down our metabolism as much as 3%. And a mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page. And perhaps even lead us to make critical errors of judgment on the trail. To make matters worse, our thirst mechanism often doesn’t kick in until we’ve already lost 2% of our body’s water volume, which means we need to drink before we even get thirsty.

Water is vastly important, more than simply a means of survival.

One glass of water shut down midnight hunger pangs for 100% of the dieters in a University of Washington study.

Lack of water is the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue.

Research has indicated that 8-10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.

Drinking eight glasses of water daily will decrease the risk of colon cancer by 45%, plus it can slash the risk of breast cancer by 79%, and one is 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer.

In addition, extra water can help alleviate pain from heartburn, arthritis, colitis, angina, migraines. It can help lower cholesterol, help cure asthma, hypertension, excess body weight, and ulcers.

And, if that’s not enough to make you want to drink more water, water can also help plump up the skin and make you look younger, especially if you are aging prematurely.

Drinking eight glasses of water a day is considered old-fashioned now, and unnecessary, but who are the ones telling us this? Doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and the soft drink industry, that’s who, the very people who will benefit by our dehydration.

Even though I do drink plenty of water, I tend to get dehydrated easily, which leads to chest congestion (probably to protect those delicate tissues), coughs, and fatigue. I always carry a bottle of water with me, sometimes two. I can’t even imagine going without water for a single hour out in the desert winds and heat, let alone two or three days. (I’m going to have to rethink my water source. I can’t stand the taste of this tap water, though the unpalatable truth is that it takes three times the amount of water to make a water bottle than it does to fill it. Yikes. I always used to attach a filter to my water faucet, but since this isn’t my house, I can’t do that.)

I suppose I could pick a trail with plenty of watering spots and just carry a load of water purifying tablets, though considering all the hikers who have warned me I would need to pack antibiotics and drugs that would cure Giardia if I should get infected, I’m not sure I’d trust those purifiers.

There has to be an answer to my dilemma — going on an epic adventure without having to deal with water issues — but so far, I haven’t found it.

Meantime, I’m going to take a break and drink a glass of water. I hope you will too.

***

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.

Gyro Thinking

A gyro ball is a piece of exercise equipment used for strengthening the wrist, fingers, and forearm. It’s about the size of a tennis ball, and is composed of an outer covering and a free-spinning inner gyroscope. The faster the inner ball spins, the more strength you need to hold on to the device, and yet, all you need to keep the gyro going is a gentle circular motion of the wrist.

It seems to me that sometimes we can get caught up in gryo thinking where our thoughts spin and spin, and all it takes to keep those thoughts accelerating with ever increasing strength is to nudge ourselves with reminders of those thoughts. Sometimes the gryo gains such strength that it seems impossible to ever break the cycle.

In my case, what winds up my gyro are affronts. Pure hurts I can deal with face on. Pure anger generally burns itself out Ferris wheelwithin a few hours or maybe a couple of days at most. But affronts — being disregarded or deliberately disrespected — go deep, probably because they touch on ancient hurts and ancient angers.

This is a game two can play. If another person also experiences a similar slight or an offense from the same source, you can really rev each other up. You start out by talking things out, but so often what you are really doing is keeping each other’s wheels spinning.

I’ve never heard of gyro thinking, though I’m sure there is another, more technical name for it. It’s just something I have recently become aware of. (Which makes me wonder — did my having a name for such thinking make way for the concept itself? I only made the correlation after hearing about a gyro ball exerciser and learning how it works.)

I’m not subject to such spinning thoughts very often any more, but when I do feel affronted, I am learning not to feed the gyro. Learning to let the thoughts pass through my mind without holding on to them. Learning to let the spinning wheel turn on its own until it comes to a peaceful stop.

***

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.

Hunting the Wild Poppy

I took myself on a trip to go hunting for wild poppies. To be honest, it wasn’t much of a hunt. I had a location, maps to show me the way, and a whole day to follow wherever the road might lead me. I generally get lost when I’m by myself — a map doesn’t do much good if you’re driving and can’t look at it, and non-existent road signs only exacerbate the problem. (A gps in my phone doesn’t help if the battery goes dead.)  Still, I took only a couple of easily corrected wrong turns. I drove on long stretches of desert highway, and then I saw it . . . a poppy nodding in the wind by the side of the road, and I knew I was on the right track.

Gradually, the poppy blooms increased — lining the roads with streams of color.

Off in the distance, the hills glowed orange, and my heart quickened at the realization I was in for a special treat.

Many people just stopped by the side of the road to take photos of the poppies, but I paid to enter the reserve and walk along the miles of paths. I heeded the rules and did not feed, pet, pick, or trample the wild poppies. The reserve is a natural habitat, with no artificial stimulation, not even any watering. The land is left alone to do with as it wishes. And this year it wished to shower me with color.

Oh, my. I’ve never seen anything like those swaths of poppies — it was as if a sunset had fallen from the sky and lay at my feet.

It truly is good to know that in all the turmoil of the world, in all the fights between industrialists and conservationists, in all the swirl of population growth, in all the land-grabbing and land-grubbing, there exists these pristine spots where we can refresh our souls.

***

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.

Scheduled Obsolescence

I’ve grown up with planned obsolescence, so that idea is nothing new to me, but scheduled obsolescence took me by surprise.

There are various types of planned obsolescence. Psychological obsolescence is common in the fashion and automotive industries. Each year, the companies create new designs to make last year’s designs psychologically less appealing, though the product itself is still usable. Physical obsolescence is prevalent in other manufacturing fields, where the designers decide how long a product should last and then only use materials geared to last that long. (In a way this makes sense — if a vegetable grater, for example, goes dull after a year or two, there’s no real reason to make the thing out of expensive materials that will last long after the product has outlived any usefulness.) Often, manufacturers even go so far as to use inferior materials that will make the product wear out faster and speed up replacement time.

Some people argue that planned obsolescence encourages competition and improvement while others claim it increases waste. I don’t believe in waste, though I do understand the need to keep the economy going — if everyone was like me, the economy would have ground to a halt years ago. I mean, how many people out there bought a car forty-two years ago and are still driving it as their one and only source of vehicular transportation? (If you guessed the car is a Volkswagen you’re correct. Back then, Volkswagen bragged about not believing in planned obsolescence, which has worked in my favor.) And then there’s my poor hair dryer that died just this morning — it was only twenty-five years old! If you’re smart (or thrifty) you can often bypass planned obsolescence by doing such things as unplugging lamps and other electrical equipment rather than using the cheaply-made and soon-to-break on/off switches. As for fashion — well, I couldn’t even begin to tell you what was in fashion, either today or twenty years ago.

In some cases, planned obsolescence worked in my favor. Planned obsolescence (thank heavens for spell check! I have mistyped the word obsolescence every single time I’ve used it!) helps keep products cheap. When my camera died after only a couple of years (oddly, the screen burned out right after I took what turned out to be the last photo of my now deceased life mate/soul mate), it would have cost more to repair the camera than to replace it. And when that second camera died in a tragic fall shortly after purchase, I was able to get a replacement that works better than either of the others.

But I’m getting off track. As I said, I’m used to planned obsolescence, but last night I came up against scheduled obsolescence. The end of support for Windows XP made me interested in when support for Vista, my current operating system, will end. I discovered that the end had been scheduled for April 10, 2012, but that they extended it to April 10, 2017. Whew! I still have three years! By then, of course, my computer will be so outdated and so slow I will probably be glad to update my whole system. Or maybe technology will have changed out of all recognition making me want to hang on to this poor machine until its last byte. If nothing else, I could use it as a word processor, unconnected to the internet. That way any vulnerabilities won’t be a problem.

Still, it does seem strange to have the exact date when my operating system is scheduled to become obsolete.

***

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.

Ah, the Small Joys of Life!

A few days ago I ranted about my experience with this area’s designated communications company, and the hassle the representative gave me when they called to tell me some upgraded equipment would be here on Thursday. It seemed important to them that I know the exact date, yet after all that frustration on both our parts, they got the day wrong. The equipment came today. Wednesday. Not a problem, of course, just ironic considering their unpleasantness.

Installation was supposed to take only a few minutes, but wise in the ways of technology updates, I waited until the afternoon when I had many free hours. And I needed them all. Setting up the equipment was easy. I just followed the directions. The hardest part was in moving the couch to access the cable connection. The next hardest part was figuring out which power cord went to the router and which to the modem since neither cord they sent matched the image on the instructions. (I don’t know why I need a router when I didn’t have one bcomputerefore, unless the router was somehow part of the old modem.) Still, my guess seemed to work because all the appropriate lights came on. I even connected my computer to the wireless network despite their having given me two different sets of passwords and network IDs. And then all my efforts came screeching to a halt. My computer didn’t recognize the connection, or maybe the connection didn’t recognize my computer. Every time I tried to open a browser, I got an error message saying they hadn’t sent a package and to call the communication company.

Of course, the representative didn’t know what was wrong, either. She made me reinstall everything. (Luckily, it was just hardware I had to deal with, and hardware is easy —simply a matter of unplugging cords and plugging them in again.) In the end, after many different suggestions and attempts to connect to the internet, she told me to try restarting the computer, and that did the trick.

Although this updated equipment is supposed to make my computer run faster when on the internet, it seems the same to me. Of course, my computer is aged as computers go — more than 7-years-old — but still, there should have been some difference, especially since I added extra memory not too long ago. I’m just glad it doesn’t run slower, which is what happened after the last upgrade.

Despite the nuisance of the experience, I’m smiling as I write this blog. I learned something fun from it. Because of getting two different sets of login information, I could see a pattern in how they came up with passwords. joyfultuba265 was one. jaggedtomato193 was another. (Well, no it wasn’t. I’m not about to plaster my password all over the internet, though I don’t suppose it would matter. It only would work if you were camped outside my father’s house, and if you’re so desperate for free wifi that you would do such a thing, then be my guest.)

It used to be that people were cautioned not to use whole words for passwords, but recently I read that you should. That new decryption programs seemed geared more for nonsense. (Like those riddles where you rack your brain for a solution to no avail, and when someone tells you the answer, it’s so simple you feel like an idiot for not catching on, especially since your five-year-old came up with the answer hours ago.) Either way, from now on when I need a password, I’ll have fun with it. brokenapple964. crookedcucumber157. sillysink414. bananaunt762.

Ah, the small joys of life!

***

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.

Are You Lazy? Am I?

There are hundreds of laziness tests on the internet that will tell you how lazy you are, that is if you’re not too lazy to take the tests. A Facebook friend recently took one such test and posted it on his profile. He commented, “Some of the choices are disgusting!” And he is right. Some of the choices are disgusting — it’s amazing to me that anyone thought of putting them on a list, let alone considered doing such things. The test seemed more an indication of how much of a slob you are than how slothful you are.

But . . . (you knew there would be a “but”, didn’t you?)

The test made me think about what laziness really means. According to my dictionary, “lazy” means “disliking activity or exertion; not energetic or vigorous.” It comes from the Middle Low German word lasich meaning “feeble.”

To us, laziness has negative connotations. When we say someone is lazy, we are generally referring to an able-bodied person who has the ability do a task but doesn’t. The word itself, however, has no such pejorative meaning. Just because people dislike exerting themselves, it doesn’t mean that they won’t. And just because people like to be involved in activities, it doesn’t mean that they will. And anyway, who is to say that disliking exertion is wrong? You don’t always have a choice in what you like or dislike. Besides, the whole thrust of human invention has always been about making things easier for us rather than harder.

napIf you are in a communal situation, such as a marriage, a family, a job, it is necessary to keep up your end of the work, but failure to do so isn’t necessarily because of laziness — it could be a sense of entitlement, insensitivity, or thoughtlessness. But if no one is depending on you, who is to say what is laziness? If you’re not engaged in any activity, but don’t need to be, what is wrong with lolling around doing nothing? Who says we have to fill our days with activity? I consider myself lazy because I am not currently working on a novel, but why should I write? Just because I can? At the moment, writing won’t improve my life, won’t gain me recognition or riches. It will simply use up time, and for now, I am using my time for more physical pursuits. (Oddly, the idea of my laziness — my lack of energy — is so ingrained, I don’t consider myself unlazy while doing these various physical activities.)

Not everyone has the same level of energy. Some of us are “not energetic or vigorous” by nature. We have to push ourselves through life, one trudge at a time. Others shoot through life like rockets, spewing excess energy to the winds. If the low-energy person is resting from his/her exertions while the high-energy person is still zooming around getting things done, why is the first person considered lazy? Both are doing what their natures dictate.

It seems to me that there isn’t really such a thing as laziness. For example, people who scam the welfare system in the USA are often considered as being too lazy to work, but the system is so laborious that many people who are eligible do not have the energy to deal with the bureaucracy. Those who do know how to work the system in nefarious ways are not lazy — they are awash in a sense of entitlement that borders on fraud.

If we can do something but don’t, if we choose to stay in bed instead, it could be that we aren’t lazy so much as that we need the rest. Despite all the machines that have been invented to make our lives easier, our lives are stressful. If someone repeatedly hits the snooze button in the morning, it might not be a sign of laziness but of exhaustion.

More than that, what we call laziness seems to be lack of motivation rather than a true disinclination to work. We almost always find the time/energy to do the things we love if the rest of life doesn’t get in our way. (To most of us, work is what we don’t want to do. The lucky ones are those who get paid for doing what they want to do. Tests have shown that if people are allowed to work on whatever project they wish when they are at their jobs, they are happier, more productive, and work longer hours. If they have to work on a project that is assigned, that they have no affinity for, then their job suffers.)

We get out of bed on Saturday if the sun is shining and we are going for a run/walk/hike/picnic — anything that’s fun. If only bad weather and detestable chores await us, we have no motivation for getting out of bed, so we stay there. And what is wrong with that? Again, I am not talking about a communal living situation such as a family. In that case, it’s only fair to do your share of the chores. But if no one is depending on you, it makes no difference if you wait a few more days to clean the house or do laundry.

Perhaps I’m wrong in my assessment about laziness, but I’ve decided to strike the word from my vocabulary anyway. No more laziness. If I have no inclination to do a chore, then I’m gathering my strength. If I have no desire to write, then I’m letting my ideas steep. If I have no will to exercise, then I’m giving my muscles a rest.

Works for me.

***

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 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!

***

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.

***

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.

Meaning of Flowers

“Say it with flowers” is an ad slogan dating from 1917. Apparently the slogan strikes a chord with us, otherwise it wouldn’t have lasted almost a hundred years, but what, exactly, are we saying when we say it with flowers?

Roses Yellow Rose with Ladybugsay “I love you,” but each color has a has a secondary meaning:
Red roses — Love, passion, respect, courage
Yellow roses — Joy, friendship, freedom
Pink roses — Happiness, gratitude, appreciation, admiration
Cream roses — Thoughfulness, charm, graciousness
Peach roses — Admiration, fascination, enthusiasm
Orange roses — Desire
White roses — Innocence, purity, secrecy, reverence

Some flower meanings seem obvious, either because of their names, their common usage, or their natures:
Aloe — healing
Forget-me-nots — remember
Monkshood — beware
Narcissus — egotism
Orange blossoms — eternal love or fertility
Poppy — oblivion or eternal sleep
Sage — wisdom
Venus Flytrap — caught at last
Violets —modesty
White lilies — purity
Withered flowers — rejected love.

Other flower meanings seem haphazard, as if the symbolic language was assigned randomly without much thought:
Daffodil — regard
Hollyhock — ambition
Morning glories — affection
Peony — shame
Sweetpea — departure and/or thank you for a lovely time
Sunflower — false riches
Wintergreen — harmony
Wisteria — welcome

Most of us have our own meaning for flowers. For me, lilacs mean remembrance, but in the languange of flowers, lilacs mean first love. (Which works well for me, too, since the man lilacs make me remember is my first love.) And for me, big red poppies mean lack of luck since unluckily we can’t plant them anymore.

In the end, though, sending flowers always means the same thing: “I am thinking of you.”

It’s kind of odd, now that I think about it — the few times someone sent me flowers, I was truly touched, but never in my entire life have I been able to send flowers to anyone. Whenever I considered it, all I could think of were the soon to be dead blooms and the screams of agony of the flowers being so cruelly lopped off the plant.

***

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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