Wednesday, July 18, 2018

July 18, 2018

Y’all might find this hard to believe, but I have the darnedest time keeping friends. I really don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I sure wish someone would tell me. If I knew what it was, I might actually stop doing it. Then again, I might not. I suppose it depends on what the truth is.

My beloved gets annoyed with me, because, he says, I don’t put up even the simplest of barriers to protect myself. He’s right, of course. I meet new people, and I am completely open to them, taking them at face value unless, of course, I see direct evidence that I shouldn’t.

It never occurs to me that some people may only be interested in me for what I can do for them because, well, I don’t behave that way myself.

I suppose in a way I represent the flip side of a coin we’ve all become way too familiar with. We all know people who are liars. And liars, more often than not, truly believe that everybody lies because they do. The same with people who will cheat the system, trying to grab a little something more for themselves they maybe shouldn’t have. “Everybody does it,” they haplessly proclaim, as they stuff their pockets with their ill-gotten gains.

So I guess I’m one of the folks on the opposite end of that spectrum. Despite having been figuratively kicked in the teeth by those I’ve believed in and believed, in the past, to be my friends, I go ahead and eagerly take on new friends. I don’t even consider that these new friends might do me dirt, because I wouldn’t do that to anyone and—more truth—I choose to not even consider it.

That’s right, I choose not to believe that the people I befriend are anything but what they appear to be. Because if I acted suspicious, if I narrowed my gaze on them, looking and waiting for the first sign they’re insincere, that would make me a cynical person.

Given the choice between being naïve and hurt or being cynical and pain free, I will choose naïve every time.

One of the things I have trouble doing in life is asking other people for anything. Seriously, I’m the first one to offer to help, if I can. If you’re my friend, and I see you have a need, if that’s something I can help with, hey, I’m there. Why? I guess because I believe that’s what friends are for, especially if it’s me doing the giving.

I have on occasion been met with suspicion myself. That always confuses me, and if that suspicion is nasty in nature, hell, I don’t even get mad. I just get hurt. Hurt is a lot more difficult to cope with than anger. Anger by it’s very nature burns off the chaff of the experience—the right amount of anger and it’s a one-time cleansing, without a refueling stop.

Hurt? About the only thing I know to do in response to feeling hurt is to batten down the emotional hatches for a while and let the pain slowly work its way through, and hopefully out.

Anger would be a healthier response. But just like that thick skin everyone has always been after me to grow, I don’t really believe changing my response from hurt to anger is in my DNA.

Friends have always meant more to me than they really should. I know that. I’ve often quoted that wise saw: people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I believe that with all my heart. I’ve experienced it time and again. I can look back over my life and see the people who’ve touched me who, I thought at the time, I touched in return and would be forever friends—but who are now at this point long gone.

I just wish people wore signs. Then I would know, if they’re here for a reason, or a season, or a lifetime.

The most likely truth is that they do wear those signs—I just don’t know how to see them.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

July 11, 2018

What an amazing, miraculous, happy-ending story!

We became alerted to the drama taking place on the other side of the world, in Thailand more than two weeks ago. Twelve boys and their soccer coach had gone exploring in a cave complex in the northern part of that country. A flash flood from seasonal monsoon rains had hit the area, trapping them, and even while rescuers were being assembled, fears ran high that the missing team had drowned.

As I watched this emergency unfolding on our television screen, I was taken back to the Copiapó mining accident in Chile in 2010. That emergency involved grown men, not boys. Thirty-three, in fact, who were rescued after an astounding sixty-nine days trapped underground. Despite the differences, at their core, that accident eight years ago and this emergency just past, are similar.

In both instances not only were the attention, the hearts and prayers of the entire world engaged, but so too were the resources, experts and rescue personnel. For a time, in both instances, the world was united in hope.

The effort to affect a rescue once the children were found to be alive—and oh, what a moment that was!—was an international endeavor. People came together, worked together, prayed together with little in common except for one major thing: these were children at risk of dying.

As we’ve recently learned, nothing draws the involvement and cooperation of complete strangers like a threat to children, any children, all children, can do. I believe that’s because in a very real sense children in dire need belong to us all—whether they’re trapped in caves underground or trapped in a heartless bureaucracy.

As the days passed we all watched and prayed and hoped for the best but feared the worst. These were young boys, whose entire time in the dank and the dark spanned eighteen days and nights.

From June 23rd, when the team was discovered to have entered the caves, until July 2nd when British divers found them to be alive, we tuned in, and hoped, and prayed despite our fear. The parents of these boys gathered at the site, camping out, joining together to support one another, share stories and pictures of their sons, and to await their return.

Anyone who is a parent identified with those moms and dads, clinging to each other and to hope, as the days passed. Their hope was first rewarded when their sons were found to be alive. They had images then, and a few words from their boys, and the chance to send a few words back, a down payment for the time, the certain-to-come time, when they would be able to actually hold and hug their babies again. It would happen, I imagine they said to themselves, and to anyone who could hear them, over and over again. They will be saved. It will happen.

Experts debated on the best way to execute a rescue. All sorts of ideas were floated, from bringing them out in scuba gear, to leaving them for a few more weeks, until the monsoon season passed.

But oxygen was running low, and the threat of more rain was running high. One brave Thai navy SEAL, Saman Gunan, who had volunteered to help, died during the operation.

Though it was a very dangerous plan—most of the boys could not even swim—the decision was finally made to bring them out, one by one, through the dark and chilled waters flooding the narrow nearly two-mile-long path.

They didn’t announce that the method of rescue had been decided, or that a team of divers had been dispatched to begin. They only announced, on July 8th, that the first four boys had been brought safely out of the danger zone after an eleven-hour long effort.

 Amid the cheers and jubilation, organizers announced the teams would rest and return for more in a day or so. Speculation was this rescue could take up to five days. But in truth, they worked much faster than that. The next day, four more boys emerged. And yesterday, the remaining boys and their coach were led to safety.

Other divers re-entered the cave, intending to retrieve their equipment; they had to abandon that effort when the caves began to take in more water after the main pump they’d been using to keep the water level as low as possible, quit. As it turned out, there hadn’t been a moment to spare.

With so much negative news lately, this event drew us together, and drew us in. Our hearts ached for the parents waiting, waiting, to be reunited with their children. And we were inspired by the bravery of those children. They weren’t seen to be crying, or unruly. They were smiling and calm, proving that sometimes you don’t need to be the biggest or the strongest or the best.

You just need to be pure of heart, and to have faith.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July 4, 2018

On Sunday we celebrated Canada Day, and today is the Fourth of July! We celebrate our national birthday here in Canada in much the same way as you Americans celebrate Independence Day. There are picnics and parades, a lot of flags waving in the breeze, and there are fireworks at night.

We here in Canada, just like you in the United States, began existence as colonies of Great Britain. However, our two countries came into being in vastly different ways, and in different centuries, and those earliest of roots have set the course for our disparate destinies and unique national personalities. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I’ve boiled our main differences down to a few sentences. This was not done to try and ridicule or denigrate, but only to understand.

Canada became a nation through an act of British Parliament (The British North America Act of 1867). The United States became a nation through the American Revolution, which began in 1775 with “the shot heard round the world” and reinforced a year later when patriots created and enacted the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution of the United States, and fought a war for the right to be one nation, under God.

As a result, Americans hold fast to the second amendment of their Constitution, and we Canadians hold fast to being polite and diplomatic.

I think that main difference is why, as a student in both high school and later, university, it was the study of American history I was drawn to pursue. Seizing the moment and making something happen was so much more exciting to me than talking something into existence.

For those of you who’ve been kind enough to read these essays over the years you know I hold the United States in high esteem, and many of my best friends are in fact Americans. This will never change, and because this is so, I keep abreast of current events below the 49th parallel.

Ronald Reagan, the great American president, referred to the United States as a “shining city on the hill”. In his farewell address to the nation, he said in part, “I've spoken of the Shining City all my political life. …In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still.”

It is still all of that, your nation, even if a bit of smog at the moment is making our view of that shine a little less than it was. The United States was molded by the framers of the Constitution to be a country that would endure. In their time, these brave patriots had broken away from a ruler they deemed a despot; therefore, protecting against having a despot within their newly minted borders anytime in the future clearly was a central focus for them as they crafted that most amazing of documents, the Constitution of the United States. The checks and balances built into that document’s structure guarantees that yours is a nation of laws, and not of men, and that the nation itself is greater than any one person or group of persons, and that it will endure long after all who are alive now have turned to dust—provided, of course, that the majority of America’s citizens work together and work hard to keep it so.

Freedom is a gem more precious than diamonds or rubies. People who are free represent the most cherished and sought after state of being in human existence. How could personal freedom not be one of the highest human ideals? God Himself created us with free will—the right to choose our own destiny—the right to choose between good and evil, and the ability to do so.

There are many nations whose citizenry do not have personal freedom, or who’ve had it but traded it away, either wittingly or unwittingly, for a gilded cage. That makes us—the citizens of Canada and the United States—two very special peoples. But this freedom we have isn’t free.

It has never been free.

Men and women have died, first seizing and then protecting this right of ours. They’ve fought wars, and some have paid the ultimate price, to guard our blessed heritage of freedom.

As we celebrate our nations birthdays let us remember the purpose to which we were originally called, the sacrifices made on our behalves, and the responsibility we have to guard not only our own rights and freedoms, but to work to establish and then to guard the rights and freedoms of all our fellow citizens, not just here in North America, but all over the world.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

June 27, 2018

On Saturday, June 23, I once more did that thing that likely would have made my mother curse, if she’d been here to see it. I turned off the air conditioning (again) and turned on the heat (yes, again). And I’ve come to the conclusion that my inner curmudgeon isn’t only not so inner anymore, she’s taking over my mind and worse, much worse, my mouth!

I was sitting in my office, early in the morning. David was still asleep. He tends to roll into bed sometime after two a.m., so it’s not surprising that he’s not up with the sun. Neither am I, for that matter. I aim for six-thirty, unless I’m extra tired, and then it’s seven-thirty. Saturday, it was the latter. As I looked out my office window, which is behind my monitor, I couldn’t help but notice the overcast skies and wet glass. As I began my daily routine, the sound of rain played a lovely background symphony. My blanket was on my lap yet even so I…. shivered.

I turned on the electric fireplace I have here in the office, which since I rearranged some of the furniture in the last couple of weeks, no longer blows in my direction. Fortunately, there is a fan on a stand in this room, too. I put the fan on low, aimed at the electric fireplace, and that helped. But I wouldn’t be spending my entire day in the office and I wasn’t the only one in the house.

Perception is everything. In January, if the temperature soared to sixty-three, we’d throw open the windows and step outside in shirtsleeves. At the end of June after steadily warm (and at times too warm) temperatures, sixty-three feels chilly. Sixty-three and rainy makes it feel twenty degrees colder.

So yes, I turned on the furnace. It’s only set for seventy, but most important, the bit of heat from the vents should defeat the damp. And, with the system controlled digitally, I need only press a couple buttons to turn off one (a/c) and turn on the other (heat).

Where my burgeoning curmudgeon comes in? I think it was when she grumbled all the way to the system controls, words that sounded like, “I’m too damn old and been through too damn much to be so fricking cold and shivering in my own damn home in the last days of June.”

I’ve noticed a tendency—or perhaps I should characterize it as a growing compulsion—to speak aloud such mutterings. When I’m alone, or even with my husband, this is not a problem. In the past when I would be alone, I have often spoken aloud, explaining to anyone who did happen upon me and heard me that I’m a writer, and I’m testing out dialogue. Some folks actually believed that. As far as my husband is concerned, he usually just chuckles, especially if some poor sap on the television news is the target of those mumblings. And if he’s the target? Well, he is mostly deaf, and his hearing aids don’t always work well—especially if he’s tuning out the world—or his wife.

I recall the older people often saying, when I was much younger, that the temperature fluctuating so much will cause a body to come down with…well, something. I’m not sure if that belief has any real basis in fact. Just lately, I’m trying to be careful and make sure that what comes out of my mouth, or off my keyboard, is the truth, and not false.

I don’t know about all y’all, but I am so darn sick of hearing falsehoods—aka lies.

As I was finishing up writing these words, I decided to check the web site I have stored in my “favorites” for a weather update. At the top of the page were these words: “Enjoy these comfortable temps in Ontario, extended heat wave (those three words in all caps) is coming. Plus (all caps) a strong (all caps) storm threat.” The temperature at the time was 57.

I’m trying to figure out if there was ever a time in my life when I thought 57 degrees was a comfortable temp. There might have been, but I don’t remember a specific moment, which tells me it was likely more than a few years ago.

And that lack of recall is probably just as well.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

June 20, 2018

As you may recall, four years ago, after much debate and back and forth between us discussing our two options, we decided to give our back yard—the part of it that is immediately accessible to us—a face-lift. Originally, we thought we’d get a small on-ground pool installed, but aside from the hassle of the red tape with the town, we realized that doing so would take the entire back yard away from the dog.

So instead, we bought ourselves a gazebo, some outdoor carpeting, and a patio set consisting of a table with four chairs, and called it done.

At the end of that first season, when we were close to getting snow, my beloved disassembled the arrangement, and stored everything in the outside shed that he’d just built. Also spending time over the winter months in that shed, as it turned out, were some chippies—chipmunks to those of you less familiar with the cute little critters. Now, to give those tiny rodents their due, they never chewed the canopy of the gazebo—just the ends of the “screens”, that part of the screens that touched the ground when the gazebo was erected. And since, when David put the gazebo back up the following spring after we bought it, we could no long technically use those screens, because they no longer met so they could not be zipped up, well, that wasn’t a real problem for us. (A slight digression here—he admits he may have had challenges recalling just how the metal frame went together, and sort of winged it, making the structure just a teeny weeny little bit not quite as it was.) The screens continued to hang bunched together in the corners of the gazebo, and the tattered ends weren’t particularly noticeable.

However, we decided as we took the canopy down last November, that this year, 2018, we’d get a new gazebo. In the fall, we thought, when such things might go on sale. But thanks to the skewed sense of seasons as calculated by the retail community in our country, we found a clear-out sale in May, and ordered our new back yard shelter. This one is a bit bigger than the lst, a bit fancier, and cost about the same as the first one did four years ago.

It is also a nice, bright, cheerful, sun-courting red! And, (this is really the cherry on the cake), it arrived last Thursday, in time to be erected for our Father’s Day barbecue supper that we’d decided to hold.

Armed with the invaluable munition of experience, David began to erect the new gazebo on Thursday about noon, taking his time, determined to get it right. He’d already decided that in the fall, when he takes it down to store, it will be stored in the house—upstairs, in fact, where there are (knock on wood) no chipmunks, and where there is no possibility of theft. He will also only take down the canopy and the side panels. The metal structure, he will leave standing. Our back yard is somewhat sheltered, and the metal structure of the last one weathered three winters just fine.

Neither of us are overly active these days, and our dog is so small that the remaining yard really is sufficient for him to exercise in. He does get a walk each day, and as a bonus, he has a “run”—aka our front porch which spans the width of the house and upon which he runs back and forth whenever there is a person or a dog walking down the street. And by whenever, I of course mean at least ten, possibly fifteen or even twenty times a day. Every single day.

Mr. Tuffy believes himself a guard dog, thinks he’s a BIG guard dog, and takes his responsibilities very, very seriously. And we love him for it.

We had our little family party last Saturday, with our oldest and his wife, and one of his three children—the other two, sadly, had to work. I was so pleased they came, and we all enjoyed a good meal. It was special having them come, and for me, that’s the best part of any holiday—the time I get to spend with my family, whether that family is by blood or by tradition—and with friends.

I hope the fathers reading this enjoyed a day last Sunday of spending time with your kids, grandkids, and loved ones. I hope there was lots of love and laughter—and, of course, food!

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

June 13, 2018

We’re nearly at the half-way mark for 2018. So far, I’m not sure what to make of this year. The last couple of weeks have been particularly notable because the actions of two celebrities have brought the subject of suicide into the spotlight once more.

We think we make progress, we humans. We continue on with our various social experiments as the decades roll past. We divest ourselves of the concept of division by class, with most of us moving toward an attitude of inclusion. Some have said that the technology of this modern age has worked to keep people apart. Others claim just the opposite—that thanks to the Internet and social media, people who were uncomfortable or had challenges mingling with their fellow humans, face to face, feel freed now, with the various forms of online “gatherings” to open their metaphorical arms and minds to their fellow persons.

And yet at the heart of it all, regardless of the strides we’ve made or the modernity of our times, we remain singularly individual beings. We appear to live in a “herd” with our cities and our towns and our villages, with our high rise apartments that house thousands of souls at one address, but in fact we are, at the end of the day, alone inside these shells we call bodies, alone and far too often, we are lonely.

This state of loneliness is, for some, a difficult state in which to exist. Our bodies may decree that we’re separate entities, but I don’t believe we were made to be isolated. Indeed, people invest a lot in the quest to seek connections with other people and sometimes fail utterly to make ones that last. Most of us aren’t very good at judging the difference between “a reason, a season, or a lifetime” when it comes to allowing people into our lives—into our hearts. Because we are individuals and different, each of us, all of us, one from the next, there are any number of ways we react to this situation we can find ourselves in, to this, for some, crippling loneliness. We can appear, on the outside, to have it all including the proverbial gold rings of human existence—fame and fortune. And yet, on the inside of our hearts and our minds and our souls, there is a hunger, a need, a desolation, and eventually, there can be a hopelessness.

I don’t claim to hold a degree in psychology, but I believe with all my heart that at the base of every suicide, and every suicide attempt, is a sense of being trapped in a state of hopelessness.

Hopelessness sprouts not only in the lonely, but in the hearts of those coping with difficult life circumstances. People lose jobs, relationships, fortunes and loved ones. They can be abused, mistreated, and stripped by others of their dignity. We get in these very tough times, and we think—we come to believe—that no one, ever has gone through this. No one knows the pain, the heartache, the weariness—the hopelessness that we feel.

This is a situation so pervasive, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised to learn the number of people inflicted with this feeling is nearing epidemic proportions.

If only we could get through those who are in these emotional and mental quagmires that they’re not alone. They’re not the only ones going through those rough patches. I can guarantee you that whatever it is any one individual is experiencing, they’re not the first and not the only person to be dealing with that exact circumstance. We can think we are and believe we are, but we are not.

Help is available, but one has to reach for it. Perhaps you have a friend, an acquaintance, a relative that you feel may be in dangerous straits, emotionally. Or maybe it’s you who’re in that place. Maybe you feel as if there is nothing left for you but the end.

There is help, and I urge you to reach for it. I urge you to tell others who you may feel are too close to the edge. There’s no shame in that, in reaching out and asking for help. And no shame in providing the information below to a friend, and acquaintance, a relative. Or maybe, it’s information you can use yourself. There are thousands of professionals and volunteers dedicated to the cause of suicide prevention. Here are some links:

In the United States: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/  or call 1-800-273-8255

In Canada: https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/  the website has a link to each provincial center.

In the UK: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/

People are waiting to help. Hopelessness doesn’t have to be terminal. Some decisions, once taken, cannot be undone.

I urge you, for you, for your loved ones. Reach out. Get help.

Love, Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

June 6, 2018

I’ve been trying my hand at some new recipes over the last few weeks. I enjoy cooking, and even though I’ve cut back on the number of meals I make for us each week, I try to change things up. I also believe that just as playing a couple of games each day helps to keep certain of my synapses firing well, so, too, trying out new recipes keeps another part of my brain thriving.

I sat down and calculated it out. Well, maybe calculation implies a heavier reliance on logic and mathematics and than I actually employed. I suppose the closer truth is that I performed a combination of calculation and guessing. Here then, are the results of my guessulations (guessing/calculations): I will have been a wife for 46 years on July 14th. Since number 46 isn’t yet completed, I used 45 years as my base, figuring on 11 leap years in that time. This gave me 16,436 days. Allowing for times when we might have eaten out, ordered in, or gone to someone else’s house for supper, I took off 14 days per year. Now, for most of our married life, we rarely went out and didn’t take more than a scant handful of vacations until I became published, in 2007. So I don’t think I’ve allowed for too few times not cooking. Taking out those two weeks per year, leaves me 15,806 days. Let’s make allowances for a possibly faulty memory and therefore possibly skewed perceptions and cut that back to 14,000 days. That’s still a lot of suppers that I have created in my lifetime! Even the most enthusiastic chef would get tired of preparing the same meals over and over and over again.

Which, of course, I have, mainly because there aren’t that many varieties of meat to center our supper around. Beef, pork, poultry, lamb, and only very occasionally—because my husband really doesn’t care for it—fish.

I always was one for trying new things. When we married—in fact, on the very afternoon when we got home to our small apartment after our weekend-long honeymoon—my beloved told me he eats roast beef, roast pork, mashed potatoes, creamed corn and canned peas. [Imagine shocked face emoji inserted here.] After I got over that shock, I told him that since he didn’t make enough money to buy only roast beef and roast pork, he’d have to eat what I could prepare based on our grocery budget. We compromised. I’d make it, he’d try it, and if he really didn’t like it, I wouldn’t make it again. In those early days the only thing he didn’t like was liver, which now is one of his favorite meals.

That whole give-it-an-honest-try mindset worked very well for us, to the point that he eagerly looks forward to each new concoction I set before him. He’ll tell you that I have had very few fails over the years. I think I’ve had more, because he liked some of the things I’ve made that I didn’t.

Now that I have more time, I have more freedom to let my adventurous spirit peruse new recipes—primarily ones I see on my friends’ Face Book walls. Recently I’ve made potato crusted quiche, potato and leek soup, Colcannon soup, French toast bake, and cashew shrimp. Not all at the same meal, of course. Sometimes I have to look up baking equivalents. Sometimes I have to hunt up ingredients that I don’t have and sometimes, that means ordering an ingredient online because not even the local grocery stores have what I need.

 My beloved and I were talking, as we often do, about how things used to be, and we both remembered fondly the gravy that I used to be able to make from hamburgers. There would be an option on the menus of the local restaurants back in the day called “hot hamburger”. Basically, this was a hamburger patty with gravy all over it. No condiments necessary, just the bun, the meat, the gravy inside and outside the bun, and a fork and knife with which to eat it. Kind of like SOS but with a hamburger patty. And at my table, usually served with a veggie instead of fries, of course.

I have noticed, in this day and age, even using what’s billed as “extra lean hamburger”, it’s practically impossible to be able to make a pan gravy from it. Normally that wonderful hamburger pan gravy would have remained a fond memory of the past.

Unless you’re me and go out and buy a beef roast when it’s on sale super cheap—and then proceed to cut that roast down to chunks and then put it through a meat grinder.

The meat grinder we have is an old one, and only has one cutting face, and the holes are very small. I do have a food chopper, and I ended up using that this time, and while it did the job it wasn’t the best it could be. However, I took that roast and ended up with 12 very good-sized patties. The first couple we cooked in a frying pan. Ah, the gravy! That was a real blast from the past. The rest of the burgers I cooked outside on the grill, as I wanted to freeze the bulk of them, which I have done. For us, twelve burgers equal 4 to 6 meals, and that’s a darn good value from a piece of meat that cost less than 17 dollars.

My husband loved the results so much he told me to order a new electric meat grinder. His exact words were, (and said around a mouthful of meat) This. Is. So. Good! I’m rubbing my hands together in anticipation of the fun I’m going to have with my new kitchen aid, just thinking about the hamburgers, and ground pork and maybe even ground chicken creations that may be in our future.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury