Wednesday, May 23, 2018

May 23, 2018

My mother would be shaking her head, wondering where she went wrong with me. I just know she would. My only excuse is that I am now sixty-three years old and riddled with arthritis. A damp and chilly environment is not my friend, no, not at all.

So that is why on Saturday, May 19th, just this past Saturday, when two days before I had engaged my central air conditioning for a few hours and then turned it off again, I turned my furnace on once more. Yes, I did and I’m not really ashamed to admit it.

I know I commented in my last essay that the older I get the fewer things there are in life to get my panties in a twist over—or words to that effect. However, I think I forgot to mention, that with regard to those things that can raise that response within me, I’m likely to fight, and fight hard.

I’ve come to the conclusion, just this year in fact, that there is no reason whatsoever for me to endure being cold, for my ankles to be cold, or for my knees to be cold. Not one single solitary reason, because the result of that cold is unremitting pain.

My beloved doesn’t think I get outside as much as I should. Here, we have differing opinions. I am happy to go outside, on my porch or in the back yard, provided I can do so without getting drafts on my legs. I will even take a blanket outside with me in the springtime. Because, while it is true that these last few days, and likely moving forward until we hit sweltering summer (scheduled for the week after next, I believe), the thermometer may indeed rise up to seventy plus degrees, it is also true the slight breezes accompanying those days are often cooler. In fact, they are just cool enough to be called drafts, drafts which make me ache.

Don’t tell me the slight breeze is warm. I know it’s warm. I also know that after a half hour sitting there, with that warm breeze wafting over my legs, without that blanket, those legs tend to scream in protest when I stand up and try to move.

So there I was, May 19th, turning on the furnace, telling myself that one more day of using it wasn’t going to break the bank. Truly of all the expenses we have in our lives at this point, the natural gas which fuels both the water heater and the furnace is the least of our monthly bills.

The day after I turned the furnace on again, I proved that whole outside thing to myself anew. On Sunday the 20th, my sister-in-law, my husband’s sister came for a visit in the morning. I decided to make breakfast and invited my daughter to come, so she could see her auntie. My daughter brought her grand babies.

The breakfast part was an unqualified success. The times I don’t feel the weight of my age are when I’m preparing, as I did for this occasion, a dish I’ve never served before. This one was called “French Toast Bake”, a dish I assembled the night before as per the recipe, set in the fridge overnight, and only had to slip it into the oven in the morning.

Because my family is for the most part carnivorous, I also prepared sausage links and bacon. Of course, we also had what my grandchildren call “Gramma berries”; chopped fresh strawberries, in this case with blueberries tossed in.

After breakfast the little ones wanted to play outside in the back yard since it was warm enough to do so. My daughter and sister-in-law joined them, and of course I went out too. Our back-yard furniture is set up, so I sat on one of our padded chairs at the outdoor table under the canopy….and because I am 63 and occasionally forgetful, I didn’t bring my blanket with me.

My final words on this matter are thank God for modern pain medication. Yes, Sunday once more proved that wise motto: better living through chemistry.

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

May 16, 2018

There are few things in life that please me more than the scent of spring wafting through my house. For the first couple of weeks of mild temperatures hereabouts, there are very few flying insects to infringe upon my pleasure. I open the front and back doors, ensuring to block both from the ability to suddenly swing shut, and let that fresh, sweet oxygenated air flow in.

Some days, the air actually smells fresh. Those days I wish for a ground floor laundry facility and a wonderful clothes line. When we lived out in the country, I would take such a spring day and wash all the sheets and blankets, hanging them out to dry. That night, climbing into a bed in which everything had been freshened? Oh, my goodness, it was the best sleep. Ever.

I miss those days. Where we are now, there is a clothesline—up a hill that is far too steep for me to navigate alone. I haven’t been up there myself for more than a year. Though my husband can make that climb, it needs to be for just one load of laundry per day. He can go up to hang, then up to fetch, and that’s it.

My mother-in-law had a clothes line that was not only on a pulley system, length-wise; but once the line was full, she could pull a cord and raise it into the air, about eight feet up, changing the elevation sufficiently that nothing even hung even close to the ground, and the laundry was in a position to get that beautiful breeze above the fence lines. Yes, I had severe clothes line envy, and haven’t since seen a similar system.

At one point, we had to purchase one of those outdoor clothes hangers. You know the kind I mean, a pole with four arms and plastic line in several tiers forming squares? My kids called it a foreign swing. I had one, and I used it, though I was never completely happy with the way it worked—unless the day was particularly breezy. I also had David string some clothes lines in the basement, and again, while that worked—as did the wooden indoor clothes hanger that folded down like an accordion—I was just spoiled by rural living. Nothing beats sun and fresh air on clothing that is pinned and stretched out, seducing the breeze and the sun to caress and dry it.

Then there was the time I washed and then hung my favorite blouse on that clothesline in the country. I was a teenager at the time, and in Home Economic class that day, I had managed to get a mustard stain on my sleeve. I came home and washed that blouse, hoping for a miracle. But, alas, the stain remained. So, I hung it on the line and didn’t get it in until the next day. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the mustard stain was gone. You can’t convince me otherwise: Mr. Sun fixed that problem for me—the sun, nature’s bleaching agent.

These days, my house isn’t as clean as I could make it whilst in my twenties or thirties or even forties. I do what I can, and my beloved gives me some help. But it still freshens the place when I air it out, making it feel clean, and that helps. Things are certainly tidier here on a day to day basis than when the kids were in residence. Ah, those long-ago days when it was four against one vis-à-vis the housework. And while I do my best, as mobility-challenged as I am, I don’t fret about the state of tidiness as I once did. All I can do is the best I can do, and the best I can do is enough.

Maybe that’s the biggest benefit of getting older. Fewer things seem worth getting upset about. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

May 9, 2018

Mother’s Day is coming up, this Sunday—that’s just 4 days away. To those of you who have a mother, or a wife who’s a mother, or even an adult child who’s a mother, this is your official “head’s up”. Use it wisely.

There are many times through the year when I miss my own mother. She died when I was just 21, at a time in my life when I was going through challenges that made me really want my mother. I don’t think that’s a wish that ever goes away, do you? Our relationship wasn’t perfect, because neither of us was perfect. It was what it was.

She never ever would admit to having made a mistake. In her mind, that would be a weakness, not a strength. For my part, I was guilty of sometimes tuning her out, simply because she was my mother. I guess we can file that under typical human behavior.

Do you know where I see remnants of her today? In my daughter. Jenny possesses many of my mother’s traits. As well, she’s in a medical-related career. My mother was a registered nurse. Jenny recently told me she was born without the “emotion” gene. She bases this belief on the fact that some of the things other people “feel”, the things they get upset about or excited about, she just doesn’t get. Now, I’ve seen her in action and I’d dispute her self-analysis, but it is true she doesn’t like to show her emotions, and that is very much like my mom. I can get away with giving her a hug, sometimes. Anyone else? She puts up both hands and says, “personal space.” She’s not my mother, of course, she’s my daughter and her own woman. I think she sells herself short, but I’ve learned there’s only so much you can tell a grown-up child. “Grown up” is such a subjective concept, isn’t it?

Mothers Day, historically for me at any rate, was and remains a day for the giving of flowers, or plants. I mostly gave my mother plants, that she could then transplant into one of her four flower beds. One time, the three of us—my brother, my sister, and myself—got together and bought her 2 flowering crab apple trees, which she planted in front of the house—one in each of 2 round gardens.

Those trees, which would have been gifted in the early 1970's, were still in existence until about a year or so ago, when the current owner of that property finally took them out. In his defense, I believe they were failing at the time.

I have always told my children that I didn’t need gifts—a card was good enough, and a homemade one was even better. That wasn’t only something I said to spare their tender hearts, it was how I really felt.

These days, of course, they’re adults, and I can’t say that I’m as overly concerned about their tender hearts as I was when they were small. I’m not above giving a kick in the ass when one is warranted, though those times have been few, indeed. I’d like to see my son more often than a handful of times a year. When they had young children and were shepherding them to sports and clubs and other extra-school activities, I completely understood. Now that their kids are all adults? Not so much. 

Regardless, I love them as much now as I did when they were little, and enjoy them more, when we’re together, because the stress of parenting is absent.

As for the girls—my daughter, my second daughter, and my daughter-in-law—I have a Mother’s Day tradition that I’ve observed for the last several years. Our local grocery store has a small garden center, and in advance of every Mother’s Day, there are miniature rose bushes for sale. I always buy three, as well as a card for each of the girls. And yes, I get my son something on Father’s Day, too.

All three of the girls appreciate these roses. I know this, because they’ve, all three of them, planted them in their gardens. Each of them now has several miniature rose bushes that bloom each year.

Now if only I knew why roses no longer smell like roses. I have no real clue, but I wonder if it has to do with some kind of genetic modification. But that’s a topic for another day. To all the mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers out there – I hope you have a very happy and family-filled Mother’s Day!

And a very special Happy Mother’s Day to my newest granddaughter, Nathalie who, with my oldest grandson Nick last night welcomed to the world their first son and my third great-grandchild, Noah. 

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

May 2, 2018

This past Saturday, stepping out on an extreme limb of faith, I asked my husband to once again remove the ice claw from my cane; but even more brazenly, I asked him to please put my winter boots into storage, upstairs—along with my winter coat.

He did ask what I would do if it snowed again, and I told him the truth. We’re nearly all the way out of April. If it snows again, I’m staying inside the house—and I don’t even care if we’re out of coffee when I do it.

I know that last bit has my beloved concerned; after all, that’s going below the bottom line beneath which we both, usually, we will not sink. But friends, I tell you truly, a person has to draw the line at some point and take a stand.

That’s mine.

We’ve had a couple of days of magnificent, fresh-smelling air in the last couple of weeks. I took the opportunity to have my front and back doors wide open to air out the house. Also, I have my bedroom window open about an inch and a half now. I’ve always slept better in a cooler bedroom, with the window open. But I’ve noticed some changes, lately. And I believe that I’m possibly on the verge of inching toward that tipping point, the one my daughter has told me about. The one where a person steps (or maybe stumbles) over the line from middle age, right into the morass of elderly status.

My daughter, Jennifer, is what’s known here in Canada as a PSW—a Personal Support Worker. I believe, in the U.S., that career is referred to as being a Nurse’s Aid.

Now, Jennifer doesn’t tolerate the heat well. She not only visits clients in their home, but she also has clients she visits at a senior’s care facility, here in town. The rooms there, apparently, each have their own thermostats. And a lot of her clients have that sucker cranked right up, no matter the time of year it is.

She tells me that there are days when she comes out of a client’s room and has to take a moment to allow her body temperature to come back down to normal while she uses a tissue to mop the sweat from her brow. She shakes her head as she tells me, that sometimes, even in those environments, those poor people will complain of being cold.

I am beginning to understand that concept. My internal thermostat has been off since I hit menopause, a while back. In the middle of the day—any day—I will either feel icy cold or very hot. Part of the cold, I understand, has to do with poorer circulation. That is especially true in my right foot—because of the veins they took out of my right leg during my emergency heart by-pass surgery in 2002.

My office is cooler than the rest of the house, and my feet can get very chilly, even though I am wearing socks and leg warmers and slippers. Later in the day, when I am “legs up” in my recliner, with a blanket covering those legs, from my knees to my ankles, I sometimes have the same problem.
I solved that dilemma about a month and a half ago. While in Walmart, I purchased an inexpensive fleece blanket, the small kind meant for sitting with, not for beds. I folded it in half lengthwise, and sewed it shut across the bottom and about a foot and a half up the side.

Mostly—when I’m in my recliner—I slip my legs (minus my slippers) into this hand-made “cubby-hole” for my feet, get those legs up, and cover myself as previously with my other fleece blanket. Within about fifteen minutes, sometimes sooner, my ankles and feet are toasty warm and I am a happy woman.

One other dilemma has no solution. Sometimes my knees will ache like a bad tooth-ache. So, I put my heating pad on them, and that begins to ease the discomfort. That wonderful device can also, unfortunately, trigger a hot flash.

My husband suggested, and yes, with a straight face at least until the words were out of his mouth, that on such occasions I apply an ice pack to my head. He said, that way, I could be a real earth mother: my knees would represent the tropics, my head with the ice pack, the north pole, and the rest of me, the temperate zone.

A sense of humor is a wonderful thing. But I digress.

Just like those dear souls my daughter cares for, I, too, have taken, from time-to-time, to raising the thermostat in the house. Most of the time, over the winter months, it’s set at seventy degrees. Last year, that was sufficient for all but a handful of days.

This past winter, however, and even as recently as last Sunday night, we dared to be wastrels, spendthrifts throwing away heating dollars as if they were so much flotsam and jetsam on the sea of life.

Yes, I think we’re making that leaving-middle age transition, because we dared to raise the setting on our thermostat from seventy degrees all the way up to seventy-two.

If you tell me that proves it, and it’s all downhill from here, I’m going to pretend I don’t hear you. 

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

April 25, 2018

There’s been a lot of talk, lately, about history. As in, “when history looks back on these times, they won’t be looked upon kindly”. Or, my personal favorite, “They’re on the wrong side of history!” “They” of course, being whomever, depending upon and according to the speaker of the moment, is considered “in the wrong”.

I think it’s good to keep history in mind as we live our lives. But not just the history we’re making in the moment. You see, some of the history we’re making is new. But sadly, much of it is a repetition of what has come before—actions we took that wreaked dreadful consequences upon humanity.

History, you see, really is something you’re doomed to repeat until you learn from it.

It was a fervent belief in eugenics and racial purity that allowed a power-hungry madman to come to power in Germany and to go on to become one of the greatest human monsters of all time. That didn’t happen centuries in the past—that was just eighty-five years ago, in 1933. Those beliefs weren’t simply beliefs that sprang into being spontaneously; they were beliefs that were coined and fed and nurtured by the madman himself. In that monster’s day, the scapegoat he chose as the reason his country was no longer great, was mainly the Jewish people. Millions of them died in this satan’s attempt to not only make his country greater, but to make himself the absolute dictator of his nation, and then of the world.

Ultimately, he failed primarily because one nation, The United States, left behind its isolationism and rose to the challenge, leading a force of allies that defeated him. And from the moment that war was won, wise souls began to caution us all that these freedoms that our courageous fighting forces had secured for us were not guaranteed; we needed, all of us, to stand guard over them, and keep vigil upon them, lest they be subverted once more.

We needed to remember, lest we forgot. Sadly, it would appear that we’ve forgotten.

Our basic human nature lies at the bottom of our susceptibility to being led astray. Times get tough, things change, we feel insecure, and because of our human nature, we seek to blame someone or something for our woes. We didn’t do this to ourselves, so someone must have done this horrible thing to us! And that very aspect of our nature gives an opening to the snake oil salesmen of the world to slither in and wreak their havoc, to wallow in their chaos and to generally make a mess of everything. But all that havoc being wreaked upon us has nothing to do with bettering our state of being; it’s all about the despot of the moment and his fortunes and his whims.

Down through the ages, times have gotten tough and things have changed. It’s not someone doing something to us, it’s cyclical. The answer, the way to cope, is not to cast aspersions and strike out at whoever appears to be a convenient target; it’s not to blame others, and shout to the world with a raised, shaking fist that all would be fine if only they would just go away. Whenever we’ve done that, which I liken to throwing a kind of “grown up spoiled-child hissy fit”, the cosmos sees to it we get a “time out”. And that time out is rarely pleasant.

The better way to respond when times get tough and things change is to support each other and to adapt and adjust to the new paradigm. The adoption of the can-do spirit that led to the boom times that followed the end of the Second World War is a prime example of that sort of response. In my mind and in my heart, I know that’s the only way to answer these kinds of difficulties.

In nature, species that do not adapt and adjust to changes, die out. That’s what survival of the fittest means, and it’s not a political tenet, it’s nature’s way of protecting life, all life. Only the strongest, the most viable, and the most adaptable organisms are allowed to go forward.

They adapt, and they adjust and they, to totally mix my metaphors, make lemonade out of lemons instead of trying to rid their environment of “the others”.

We have to learn to do that again. We have to learn to recognize when we’re being sold a bill of goods that is nothing but horse pucky. We have to remember that the freedoms we cherish are not absolutes, they are not forever. They, like the most delicate of orchids, require care, and attention, and work. We have to remember that we were created not to rule this planet, or to live in isolation, but to help one another.

I have great hope for our future, because I do believe that most people are good—if, perhaps, a little too trusting of those smooth-talking snake oil salesmen.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

April 18, 2018

Should I have known it was going to happen? I mean, it’s April, which is supposed to be springtime. That whole, “April showers bring May flowers” vibe is supposed to be doing it’s thing. Really, I think it was quite reasonable of me to remove the ice claw from the bottom of my cane. Aside from sometimes being a nuisance—when the claw is retracted, it’s on the outer side of my cane, and can catch on things if I’m not careful—it’s also heavy. Not ridiculously so, but just enough that it makes a difference.

So no, I don’t think I was out of line taking that thing off my cane a couple weeks ago. That said, we had an ice storm over the weekend just passed. I’d been certain, while it was happening, that by Tuesday night/Wednesday morning—this morning—all sign of that weather event would be gone. But alas, my hopes were dashed. The claw is back on my cane.

This storm was a different tempest for different people, depending upon location. In Toronto, which sits on the shores of Lake Ontario, they experienced the kind of ice storm I usually visualize whenever I hear those two words. They experienced ice coated trees and buildings and utility poles and streets, a clear glass-like casing which was perfectly transparent and ultimately really heavy. Trees came down, power lines came down, and car accidents abounded. Then the temperature rose a little, just enough to cause sheets of ice to cascade to the ground from the tallest of structures. 

Melting occurred, but not a total melting. There was plenty of ice to clog drainage grates, causing flooding and general misery. Falling ice from the CN Tower tore a hole in the dome of the stadium where the Toronto Blue Jays play, resulting in the game scheduled for Monday night to be canceled. More than a hundred thousand people lost electricity during the event, some for as much as thirty hours.

Here, about an hour’s drive west of the Greater Toronto Area, we had a different kind of ice storm. We had no solid ice covering over vehicles, trees, buildings, streets or sidewalks. Instead, it more or less rained ice pellets. From the time the storm began until it ended—practically the entire weekend—we were inundated with what looked like wet, icy snow. The temperature fluctuated, so some of it was rain, a bit was snow, but most of it was ice pellets.

Ice falling in pellet form makes a particular sound on the windows. It’s a sound that says, good thing you don’t have to go anywhere. And if you do, just send an email and cancel. We both stayed indoors throughout this event. We had all that we needed, and gratefully, we only suffered one tiny flicker of our power. The outage lasted less than five seconds. Of course, it was enough to turn off the television and the Keurig. The former then had to reboot, a process that is automatic and can’t be rushed. It takes about five minutes. It happened during the telecast of the ACM awards show—about ten or so minutes in—but we just shrugged and picked up our e-readers and read until the television came back on.

About two inches of white stuff was on the ground here by Monday and fully half of it remains this morning. It really looked like two inches of snow, but there was nothing fluffy about it. At night, it freezes almost solid; and then, during the day, as the temperature inches above freezing, it gets wet and sloppy.

I’m a bit worried about my poor spring flowers. Those tiny little shoots—narcissi, tulips, hyacinths and crocuses—had become fairly substantial before Mother Nature’s little hissy fit. I can still see the tips of them, so I will be hopeful that, being the hardy Canadian perennials that they are, they’ll simply dust themselves off and keep growing.

According to the weather network, the temperature will hit 43 today, and be above 40 and into the 50s over the next seven days. Fact or fiction? Only time will tell.

This has been a particularly long winter, despite having a few days clustered together here and there when it seemed positively balmy out. I did have one magnificent day, in February, I think, when I had my doors open, and fresh air filled my home. I really hate to think that one day was our early spring, come and then gone.

Yesterday my husband expressed the opinion that, because we had such a cold and long winter, we were likely in for a very hot summer. He shrugged his shoulders and said that if that was so, he might be tempted to have us go to the beach—something we haven’t done for a couple of years now.

If it does get very hot, I’ll show him this essay to remind him of his words, and then hold him to it. 


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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

April 11, 2018

I spend a great deal of my time writing. Or at least, in writing mode. We authors have an acronym for that. It’s BICFOK. Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.

I don’t produce words as fast as I used to, even just a few years ago. It often takes me longer now to write a book. These, as you know, aren’t massive tomes. Lately, my word count per novel has ranged from sixty to eighty thousand words. Some folks don’t even consider those full-length novels.

Sometimes, I have the best days. Those are the times when I am so into my story, when my characters are so there, it’s almost as if I’m a court stenographer, recording the action instead of being the writer creating it.

I have a lot of laugh out loud moments as I work. If I inadvertently write the wrong word—for example, wonton instead of wanton—it’s not unusual for me to burst out laughing. Yesterday my goof was “she held on for deer life”. Yeah, when I’m focused and reaching, and then I goof? I just have to giggle.

The biggest adjustment I aimed for in the days leading up to the date of my husband’s retirement, was trying to mentally prepare myself for what might be. I feared that I would suddenly have less time in which to write. I’m not generally one to look at the glass as half empty. But in my defense, in those months, my beloved was excited and anxious himself. It kind of was like when you come into a bit of a windfall and you discover you have a few extra dollars just for you. You might have trouble deciding what you’re going to do with that unexpected blessing. Maybe, I’ll buy this; maybe, I’ll buy that. Or, I could get this, and this. Or maybe….well, you get the idea. Yes, he had it in mind that he was going to spend his time writing—but that wasn’t real to him yet. So yes, based on the evidence at hand—all the ideas he had as to how he was going to spend his incoming surfeit of time, I worried.

Thankfully, instead of having less time to write, I actually have more. Our appointments are few and well spaced. We’ll both admit to having morphed, since November, into hermits. Especially during the not-quite-yet-departed winter months, neither one of us wants to go out and about.

Cold air and icy ground are not our friends, not at all. Part of the joy of neither of us having to go to work is we can both just hunker down when we want to. David and I were just discussing the subject of tires for the car. My winter tires are still on because we’re still getting snow and some black ice, and also because we need to buy new summer tires. The ones I currently have are done. Since we no longer drive very much, we’ve decided we’ll simply get four good all-season tires, and no longer bother with snow tires for the winter.

There’s one more adjustment we’ve made as well, another change in our day-to-day routine. And, in a way, this is a case of my becoming semi-retired. I used to make a good full supper every night. But since David no longer goes to work each day, he’s no longer as active as he was, and therefore, he’s no longer as hungry as he was. For the first couple of months, I carried on as I had always done, and was getting annoyed that I ended up tossing out so much food. So now I cook a full supper every other night, and in between we have plenty of food to eat—left overs, soups, lunch meat, salads and a few frozen entrees to choose from. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy cooking. But it doesn’t make sense to cook a full supper six nights a week (I did get Fridays off) and see only about half of it eaten.
That’s one of the reasons I have more time to write. Less scullery maid work for me.

But the other reason is that David is so absorbed in his own writing. He doesn’t want to go out just to get out of the house. He doesn’t want to go and see. He wants to stay and do. Stay, and write. For a man whose keyboard technique is hunt-and-peck, his production rate is phenomenal. His burgeoning novel is over one hundred and twenty thousand words to date.

The days don’t seem to have enough hours in them. There’s nothing I like more than being busy. I know that just as I’m not working as quickly as I used to, that more slowing down will be in my future. Getting older is a process after all, and it sure isn’t one for the faint of heart—but that’s another story.

For now, we are a household of two writers and a dog. We are busy doing all day long. And we’re having the times of our lives.

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