Wednesday, February 26, 2020

February 26, 2020

I don’t remember all that much about my father. For some things, I’m not sure if what I recall is an actual memory, or simply the memory of the few things my mother chose to share with me. It was 1963 when my father died. I was eight and a half years old, and not nearly as sophisticated as the kids of today are at that same age. All kids in those days grew up sheltered. Well, sheltered and maybe something more. I’m not certain if people back in the day considered children as fully sentient human beings.

One of my mother’s favorite sayings was “children should be seen but not heard.” I don’t know if that was a common belief back then, but it’s a very telling one, isn’t it? It almost makes it seem as if children were no more than….the sofa, or an end table. Those are two other objects taking up space that are seen but not heard. I’d have included “a pet” in that analysis, except of course, one hears the dog bark to go out, and in response, one immediately opens the door.

I think that attitude toward children must have been close to being normal for the times, because in the aftermath of my father’s death, there were no psychologists wondering how I was coping with my loss, no teachers who took extra time or care to ask me how I was doing, or listen as I grieved. From what I experienced, there was sympathy for my mother who’d lost her husband—and to be honest, she believed she was due all that sympathy, and so do I. But as much as I loved my mom, she never quite processed that not only had she lost her husband, but her children had lost their father.

I don’t recall there was very much sympathy extended to me, an eight-and-a-half-year-old suddenly fatherless child.

One of the things that I do remember about my dad was that he had a definite nick name for this month we’re nearly done, an adjective that he said in front of the word “February” that was something I was definitely not allowed to say as a child.

February is the month that I recall being the absolute worst of the winter months. It was the coldest, and the snowiest. There’d be the odd glimmer of spring here and there—and then that promise would be snatched away, as old man winter would strike again.

I almost feel as if this particular February in which we’re living is a blast from the past. Only two days ago, on Monday, the sun shone all morning, and the temperature reached a balmy forty-nine degrees. As I drove into the city that’s east of here, I noticed how almost all of the snow was gone. Yes! The groundhogs had gotten it right. Spring was about to arrive!

This morning, the forecast calls for four to six inches of snow, with the temperature headed for 32, but feeling more like 21. Really? Mother Nature, you’re really going to dump all that darned kaka on us this close to spring?

That woman, in my estimation, has a warped sense of humor.

So as I sit here, writing this, I peer around the edges of my new, very large monitor, and can take just a moment to appreciate the beauty of clean, white snow drifting earthward from heaven. I can appreciate the beauty of the flakes, and can even imagine soft, soothing music to accompany the display. For about two minutes.

Then I just want the kaka and the cold to go away. It’s going to be March in just a few days. And although, yes, I’ve always said winter here is October to March inclusive, the truth is that March is when, in my heart and on the calendar, spring begins.

It really can’t happen fast enough.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

February 19, 2019

Where we live, here in a small town in Southern Ontario, Canada, I can’t say that it’s been a particularly bad winter. Though we’d been warned that it would be, that there would be a lot of snow and a lot of very cold days, we seem to have dodged that double-headed bullet. For the most part. There has been some snow, and a few days where we were at below zero, Fahrenheit, temperature-wise. But those cold and snow-laden days have been interspersed with a handful of milder days, resulting in what snow we’ve had, melting.

My daughter and I did take advantage of one exceptionally cold Saturday by tackling a task that had needed doing for some time: cleaning out the freezer.

The ice build-up in my freezer made interior of the appliance resemble an iceberg. Believe me when I say I actually hung my head in shame. It’s not a big freezer, either, but it’s big enough for us. It had been a few years since I’d tended to it properly. While the iceberg didn’t threaten our ability to open and shut the thing, it had assimilated the small basket, rendering it stationary.

We needed that cold day in order to put the contents of the freezer outside (we used our blue boxes to hold it all) where they could maintain their frozen state. Then it was simply matter of slowly pouring hot water (from the tap) on the worst of the ice, then bailing out the water and ice chunks and then using the spin mop for what couldn’t be scooped.

I had envisioned hours spent doing this job, but it didn’t even take a full hour. Now the basket is free and can move again, and we have more space than we had, space to be used to take advantage of bargains.

I had reorganized the contents of this freezer a couple of years ago, just before David retired. At that time, we didn’t know how long it would be before he began to receive payments from the his company pension plan. So I spent the couple months ahead buying meat, and I instituted a very anal storage program.

To this day, in my freezer, are five reusable shopping totes: one each for beef, pork, chicken, and hamburger as well as one for things like bacon, seafood, and frozen entrees. I find this is an excellent system because I know where things are, specifically. This means that when I want to pull out a roast of beef, or some stewing beef, or a pork roast, I know exactly where to find it.

That’s not excessively anal for a woman who prints out her grocery list from an excel spread sheet every week. The items are listed in the order I expect to find them in the grocery store, and I even have the estimated price I expect to pay beside each item. And yes, I stick that sucker on a clip and zoom down the aisles in my mobility cart to fetch them.

I considered cleaning out that freezer a major job, but with both of us working together it was accomplished quickly.

 And it almost seems to me that this winter is going to be over just as quickly, too. I know we haven’t had it as bad as so many others, including those of you in the southern United States who seemed to have gotten whacked by snow and ice storms a lot this year. I’m not complaining about our unexpectedly mild winter, but I am curious. Since I know it has been a better winter than expected, why am I so eager to be done with it?

It must be something innate within me, but maybe, not just in me. I think racial memory connects us all to the desire to survive, to thrive, to leave behind the season of hibernation and bounce into the season of new life.

I feel an almost desperate need for spring, for the sight of early sprouting, beautiful blooms and rich green grass. I hunger for the blue skies and warm sunshine that will help nurture the life growing all around us.

And oh, how I long for the scent of lilacs and lilies of the valley once more. 


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

February 12, 2019

I’m wearing a bandage on my left thumb. I haven’t needed one on any of my fingers for some time, because I’ve been very careful when cutting things. However, I admit I was a bit tired on Sunday when I was prepping supper.

On the menu was meatloaf, and scalloped potatoes. My husband wanted cooked cabbage as the veggie, but I wasn’t sure if my daughter liked that, so I also made carrots. A lot of cutting was going on!

The cabbage, of course, was the veggie that plotted with the very sharp knife to slice my thumb. I guess my tiredness played a factor, too. Whatever the case, I ended up with a nasty cut on my thumb. Not bad enough to need a doctor or a stitch, but it bled, so I needed to tend to it.

Knives and I on average just don’t get along all that well anymore. Neither do the oven and I, though, touch wood, I haven’t burned myself in a while. I understand that I need to be diligent always, in several areas: walking, using utensils, showering…

Being aware, paying attention, that’s a skill that I’ve honed over the years. You don’t need to fall too many times, walking with a cane, to understand that you must pay attention to every single step you take all of the time. Falls are to be avoided at all costs, and while a part of me acknowledges that some falls will happen, the rest of me contends that they’ll be far fewer than they might otherwise be if I just pay attention.

My friends, getting older is not for the faint of heart.

The cut on my thumb is healing but the process would go faster if I could remember to not use my left thumb to do anything.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that my beloved and I have now two eleven-week-old puppies. Yes, he and my daughter won that one. They just decided it would be so. To be completely fair, she is pitching in. The little guys are used to sleeping upstairs in her bed-sitting room with her chihuahuas, one of whom is the puppy-momma. So she takes them upstairs at bed time (anywhere from 9pm to midnight), and the little ones spend the daytime hours down here with us.

That’s actually quite reasonable. Now, you might ask, “but Morgan, what will you do if your daughter goes away overnight, or for a few days? I can tell you the “overnights” are highly unlikely. She has told me that God has not yet created a man worth kicking her dogs out of her bed for. But the few days will happen likely once or twice a year. She and our second daughter are planning a four-day, three-night jaunt to the Caribbean before the end of this month. And the answer to that dilemma is simple. During the time that she’s away, David will be sleeping up in her room—likely on her sofa—so the animals will not be lonely or distressed.

It doesn’t suck that for those three nights that I will have our new, wonderful Casper bed—and all attending linens—to myself.

The job of training the puppies is ongoing. Three things they need to learn as quickly as possible: to use the outside as their bathroom (though we do have puppy pads for those times when they forget, or can’t get out), they need to learn their names, and they need to heed one command: up.

As it was with their puppy-daddy, Mr. Tuffy, I can’t chase them. They need to know that if I want them then they have to let me pick them up. So far, Bear seems to be the most responsive to this command. Missy—the name we’ve given to the female pup my daughter nicked named Little Miss—isn’t quite there yet. One sentence of digression, here: the girl dog’s name is actually Little Miss Sweetie, and we’re calling her Missy, for short.

Oh, and I don’t know if I mentioned this or not. Bear is more chihuahua than Morkie, and Missy is more Morkie than chihuahua. Bear was born last and for the first two weeks he was the biggest of the three. But he is now half the size of his sister. The hardest thing so far has been trying to convince my husband that Bear is normal sized for him. He’s never going to be really big, and that’s the truth.

Mr. Tuffy was on the small side for a Morkie. I have a feeling that won’t be Missy’s fate. Of course, as with all things, only time will tell.

There is one more thing they’ve both learned in the last week, as well. In the evening when David and I are on our new sofa-recliner, watching a bit of television, that’s the time for them to climb the puppy stairs to the sofa, and sleep on the bed that is the human-mommy.


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

February 5, 2020

There are only three prognosticating rodents that I pay any attention to: Punxsutawney Phil, Staten Island Chuck, and Wiarton Willie. For my American readers, the last one is in Ontario, north of here.

It doesn’t happen very often, but this year all three of them have predicted an early spring. Now, I’m going to ignore the whole “early spring” versus “six more weeks of winter” discussion claiming that, in fact, the two are actually the same amount of tiem. The difference is, of course, what you make it of it. So many choices, so little time!

So no, I won’t go there.

You may recall that I claim that up here in Canada, we really have six months of winter, stretching from October first to March 30th, inclusive. By that reckoning, we are at this moment 4/6th done with the blighted season, with only 2/6th left to go. Again, same time frame it just sounds better to say 4/6th done as opposed to 2/3rd done. My final word on the subject is that spring will come, and in my opinion, the sooner, the better.

We changed our minds about the sofa/recliner we wanted for our living room in that we were going to order it in black, which would mean a 12 to 14-week delivery period. We decided we really didn’t want to wait that long. So this past Saturday, we went to the furniture store, and tried out the one that they had in stock, the very same model only in walnut instead of black. We tried it, we loved it, we bought it.

Our new sofa/recliner arrives today!

Now all we need to make our living room complete is a small round or oval area rug in front of the sofa, and a piece of art to hang on the large blank wall above our television set. My husband is insisting on working on the bedroom next. I’ve asked him if he wouldn’t really rather get someone in to do it for us, but he has refused. He wants to do it himself (with some help from our daughter and possibly, hopefully, he will accept the help of our granddaughter’s fiancĂ©, a lovely young man who works in house construction).

I understand where my beloved’s insistence coming from. I think a lot of men, especially, go through a phase after retirement where they wonder if they have any usefulness anymore. It’s surprised me some that he’s feeling a bit of that, but he is. So, I am not saying anything, except to encourage him to do whatever he wants to do.

We human beings are complicated creatures, aren’t we?

Now, I promised all y’all an update on David’s decision about whether or not he was going to keep one of Tuffy’s puppies. I’m so happy to tell you that he is! You may recall that the litter born on November 28th consisted of three pups – two boys and a girl. One of the boys and the girl are fluffy – more Morkie-like than Chihuahua. The other boy that was more Chihuahua but with some Morkie showing, has Tuffy’s black/brown-beige combination of colors. He also has that look in his eyes that is so like Tuffy. The fluffy boy has been adopted by one of my daughter’s friends. He now lives only a few blocks from here, and there may be play-dates in the future. His adoptive family already loves him to bits.

Our daughter is still trying to find a home for the fluffy girl. I have a feeling that my encouragement to my husband about the love of a puppy being worth the cost of the eventual parting might have taken better than I’d hoped. It’s more than a little possible that if our daughter can’t find another home, he’s going to insist on keeping her, too.

As much as I don’t feel we can manage that, I know my daughter is here, so the extra work isn’t all on me. But more, I don’t believe I have the right to tell him what to do in this, either. If I don’t appreciate someone here telling me what I can or can’t do, then how can I object if he comes to a decision of what he wants?

The answer is: life is short, and I can’t. I’m trying to live by the principle of doing unto others, and I have found the older I get, the easier that is.

I will let you know if indeed he makes that choice. In the meantime, I introduce to you Theodore Bear, son of Tuffy.

He’s already well loved (as is his sister). I’ll keep you informed on the puppy situation.


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

January 29, 2020

Do you remember plastic curtains? Are they even a thing, anymore? I ask because we have very recently installed new curtains in our living room. They went up just a few days ago. They’re burgundy in color, and we ordered them online. They were advertised as thermal black-out drapes, they have grommets—and our daughter had to help her daddy hang them, because he couldn’t get the folding right. In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t think I could have, either. 

In the first place that we lived in back in 1972, we had plastic curtains. It was an apartment in the middle of a big city, and covering the windows was a priority for privacy’s sake. We were, after all, newlyweds. It only cost us five dollars for the pair, and we hung them in front of our living room window, which was one of only two windows in the whole place.

I’m almost positive we took those plastic curtains with us a year later when we left the city. We moved back to the country and into the house in which I lived my first five years of life. The house belonged to my mother at the time. When we moved next door when I was five, my parents kept the first, smaller house as an income property. David and I and our firstborn moved in after Mother had to evict her previous tenant for not paying the rent.

For my part, I had been living in the city for the first time in my life and it hadn’t gone well for me. I felt ill all the time, I remember, I think because I simply wasn’t used to the noise, or the pollution. We moved to the country around the time of our first wedding anniversary, in July.

Mother didn’t give us a break on the rent, either. She charged us what she’d charged her last tenant—75 dollars a month. There was a field that separated the house we rented from her house. This was in 1973, and we lived in that house until her death in 1976. After the funeral and the reading of the will and a discussion between my brother, my sister and I, it was decided that my sister would have the house I was in, also known as the little house; David and I would have the house that had been Mother’s, also known as the big house; and we would each of us pay our brother a set amount each month over several years. 

But back to the curtains. Over the years, we’ve had nice looking curtains, and ugly plastic ones. We’ve had sheers that I made by purchasing the material at a fabric store, putting a hem in the top, and then sliding them onto one of those flattened rods that hook onto brackets. You know the kind I mean. We’ve had icky colored curtains we’ve bought at garage sales, and even a couple of pairs we bought new from a discount store. All of them had one thing in common, and that was that they were very, very inexpensive.

Now these new ones aren’t what anyone could call expensive, not really. But I can tell you, they are the most expensive ones we’ve ever had. When I saw the burgundy drapes online, I thought of the soft brown laminate flooring we’ve installed, and the new “pale peony” color of our walls. Imagine beige with just a hint of pale pink, and that’s the color of my walls. Our current sitting furniture in that room is brown, and my electric chair is a muted blue—as if it was nearly an aqua blue but someone sprayed a light grey fog over it. And, we also have my mother’s china cabinet, which is made of maple, and was built by her father, who was a cabinet maker.

I imagined those drapes in my living room, and I thought they’d make the room “pop”. I am pleased to report that I was right! This astonishes me more than I have words to say, because I’m not very good at deciding what goes with what, color-wise. My talents don’t lie in the visual arts.

We have one more thing to do to make our living room complete—well, two actually. The first we will accomplish this week, when we go to a local furniture store and order our new sofa/twin recliner set. We’ll hopefully order it on Friday, with an expected 12-week delivery. And, we have to look for some art. We want something on the wall above the television, the one solid wall in the room. David thought that whatever we get should be longer than it is wide. I’m thinking possibly a set of three. Nothing expensive. Art collectors we are not. We just want something that will fit, that will look nice, and finish the room.

I’m feeling bold and maybe a little full of myself now, because the curtains worked out. I could be on a roll! I’m hoping that I was being honest in my answer to David when he asked me what I had in mind.

I told him I really didn’t have a clue, but I’d know it when I see it.


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

January 22, 2020

Many years ago, we lived out in a rural community—one that was so rural the word “community” to describe it really is superfluous. We lived out in the sticks. Yes, our nearest neighbors were within sight, but the closest store was about a mile and a half away, and once that corner store closed, the next closest was about six miles from us.

I loved that place. It had been the house in which I had spent most of my childhood. I loved it even though it was old, and drafty. That was the house where we had our first fire; we had the house repaired afterward, updated electrically and given a new face. Then, for reasons far too complicated to put down here, a couple of years later, we sold it.

If I could have one do-over in life, it would be that decision, the sale of that first house. But I digress.

Before the fire, we had two dogs, named Snoopy and Cherokee. And I’m not sure how now, (okay, I know how but I’m not certain if I know who the sire was) but our Cherokee ended up having a litter of pups—nine pups—and we gave them all away except three of them. Yes, that meant we had five dogs at one time, out in the sticks, where they ran free, because in those days that was how it was. They weren’t big dogs, they were medium sized, but still there were five of them.

When we would be out in the yard and throw a ball? It sounded like a herd as they all ran after it! I don’t recall the copious details of raising those nine pups to the eight-week point. But I’m trying to, because at the moment we have three puppies almost at the eight-week mark here. On Friday they go for their vet checks – something we didn’t do in the olden days, either. And then, after that, within a couple of weeks, two will go to new homes, and one will stay with us.

This new puppy will be David’s new best friend. David has decided to name him Theodore Bear. To that impressive moniker, I will add: son of Tuffy, because he is.

Three puppies that are Chihuahua(dam) and Morkie(sire) cross are apparently called Chorkies. Two of the three are fluffy, kind of like their daddy, but mostly all black, like their mommy. The third resembles a chihuahua, almost; he doesn’t have a lot of fluff, just a tiny bit, but he’s brown and black, which were Tuffy’s colors, and he’s getting a bit of facial hair that resembles his daddy’s beard. He’s the smallest of the three, even though he was the largest at birth.

The most important thing about Bear is that his daddy already loves him.

David traveled a bit of a road to get to the point where he wanted one of the pups. I mean, he always kind of wanted one? But Tuffy, you see, was his heart in a lot of ways. Tuffy was supposed to have had a life span of 13 years. We got him when he was eight weeks old, and we only had him two months shy of 7. 

The pain of losing an animal is real, and for David and yes, me too, losing Tuffy was devastating. When we knew Bella was pregnant, David’s original position was that he didn’t want to go there again.

There are a lot of reasons to decide not to take a puppy on. Most of them are valid, and when looked back upon, static.

The reason David clung to at first was that he didn’t want to go through that kind of loss again. And I understand that. But I also understood that a decision made under those emotions could come to be a decision he would regret. Tuffy fathered three puppies, and the girls and I believed and still do that if David doesn’t take one of them, he truly would live to regret it.

I’ve written within the confines of a novel or two, that once you love, you become a hostage to your loved one’s fortunes. It’s so with people, and it’s so with pets. Now with pets, you understand going into the relationship that you will outlive your fur-baby. You will have to suffer that loss at some point down the road. Most of us, I believe, suffer that loss after the pet’s full life expectancy has been reached. We get a good long time to prepare, emotionally, as best as one can to such an event. And letting go, that final goodbye, is a gift we give them for the long life of love they’ve given us.

But nothing in life is free, and the price you pay for love and joy is often loss and sorrow. And the secret is knowing in your heart that love, true love, is worth that price, and more.

David still says that he hasn’t completely decided, not one hundred percent. For his sake, I hope he keeps the little bugger.

But that is a decision that only he can make. I’ll keep you informed.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

January 15, 2020

I think it would be a really good idea if we gather together all the climate-change deniers, those who are in a position to do something about what’s happening to our planet but claim that it’s all a hoax. Let’s load them all up and send them for a nice visit to Australia.

Those pictures that come to us over the safety of our computer or television screens each day are so damn hard to watch, aren’t they? More than billion animals, dead. Some entire species possibly extinct. Carbon-eating trees and plants, gone. The loss of the plants and the animals has been the most devastating toll, because most of the area burning is not as heavily populated by people as some other areas of Australia are. But it was full of oxygen producing foliage and animals—creatures who are of this planet every much as we are but have no say as to how we manage it.

I don’t want you to think I am blind to the human tragedy here. I know that houses have been destroyed, and lives lost. Houses can be rebuilt in the space of months; foliage cannot. Animal populations cannot. David and I have lived through two fires, a few years apart, different properties. I know how hard it is to lose things, especially photos and personal mementos, which are irreplaceable. It’s like a victimization, so I am not deaf to the suffering that people have endured during this catastrophe.

Any loss of any human life is a tragedy, and human beings have not escaped this inferno. As of January 5th, 25 fatalities had been reported. One can’t help but want to scream in response to the total carnage, as night after night images of the flames—and the charred remains of what was are broadcast for all to see. What had been green and lush and thriving, has now been completely and utterly destroyed.

The animals and the vegetation can’t rebuild on their own instantly. That will take a long time, but I’m not sure how much of that quality there is if we don’t work on this crisis now.

I can’t get over the figure, a billion animals dead. A billion!

Those brave souls on the ground—volunteers from many countries including Canada and the Untied States—do what they can. Firefighters have arrived from other nations, and every effort is being made to fight the flames. But people can only do so much in that regard. Whatever actions they take is but a stop-gap until Mother Nature sends rain—and lots of it.

Pleas have gone out for financial aid. I often hear people say that they can only afford five dollars, or ten or two, and feel bad about that. They lament that their five dollars won’t do much. But if everyone gave even two dollars, collectively that would be a lot of money. It really does help, it makes a difference. And fighting the fires as they burn and caring for those animals that are being rescued, that’s vital work, no doubt about it.

But where we should be working, where the need is the greatest is to target the causes of this global catastrophe. We need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions, find ways to cut down on our usage of resources, and encourage our scientific community to come up with viable, sustainable solutions to diffuse the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, and reduce the threat to the planet—and to the futures of our children and grandchildren.

We need a global effort to fight this global crisis.

Now, back to the climate change deniers. Those who ignore this danger, this crisis, because fighting it will affect their bank accounts. Their greed will be the death of us all. But they should know that even gold and silver will melt if the fire is hot enough, my friends. If there is any justice in the cosmos then those two things, the gold and the silver of the greedy will melt and trickle away, down, back into the earth from which it came, leaving nothing in its wake but a quickly fading memory.

What does it profit a man or woman to gain all that wealth and lose the earth? A rhetorical question paraphrased from another author, but I’ll answer it. It gains them nothing.

If we don’t wake up and tackle this crisis in earnest, all of us, together, then eventually, among the ashes, what will be left is nothing. Those who once had it all—the wealth, the prestige and the power will discover that all their battles, all their denials, all their lies have left them princes of a dead and rotting planet.