Wednesday, June 21, 2017

June 21, 2017

My, but aren’t we human beings difficult creatures? And aren’t we just filled with complaints? If it’s not too cold outside, it’s too hot. If it’s not too dry, why, then it’s too wet. We go from “I wish the air would move a little”, to “Oh dear Lord, that wind is going to sweep me away!”

Sometimes I wonder if our complaints about the weather are made because it gives us an outlet to bitch. You have to admit, that is one thing you can grumble about and that really, no one individual can feel they’re the target of your vitriol. If your nearest and dearest complain about the weather, well, that has nothing to do with you, does it? You can tell them to have at it without a care.

I think we need to complain, and I believe it’s a way for us to unleash our aggression. Ideally, that’s one of the benefits of the sports we put our young boys and girls into. Oh, sure, I’ve heard all the opinions about building team work, learning fair play, self discipline, and getting exercise. As a member of society who really wants society to work, I can agree with all those benefits. But it is essential for us, as we grow, to learn how to get rid of that aggression.

The problems arise, when we fail to remember one salient point about humanity. For all that we’re intellectual and sentient beings, for all that we consider ourselves civilized, we are also a part of the natural world. We’re animals, with animal instincts, and not all of those instincts, thanks to our origins, are refined or even polite.

I firmly believe if we do not give our young boys and girls, men and women, sufficient outlets for their natural animal-based aggression as they grow, we harm them, sometimes irreparably. In my opinion, aggression repressed is not aggression destroyed—it’s merely aggression delayed.

There are parallels between the natural world and people living in society because despite our best efforts to be civilized, despite our best efforts to believe we are above the natural world. I believe that when humans are forced from a young age to tamp down their natural aggression, it never goes away, it truly is simply delayed. Delaying aggression only builds pressure within. Eventually, pressure suppressed long enough is a pressure relieved by a cataclysmic explosion. We see this in nature, and we see this in us.

Just ask the folks living around Mount St. Helens. Or look at the people who are guilty of road rage incidents. Or, that very modern-day phrase, people known for “going postal”.

When I was a kid—and sorry, the older I become, the more I turn into one of those old-timey kind of folks always saying that, but I digress. When I was a kid, there would be fights in the school yard. Teachers would pull kids apart after a few punches were exchanged, and, (this is important) aggression expelled. If the cause was severe, there would be a meeting in the principal’s office, but otherwise, it was just a school yard fight. Sure as hell, no police would called, and no one stuck labels on anyone else for these childhood fisticuffs.

I understand the movement toward all the efforts to stop aggression (not talking about bullying here, that’s something else altogether), I understand the motive is to stem violence. But what we have to do is channel that need to blow, that need, yes, for violence, into something that uses the energy and emotions that combine to create that aggression in the first place.

I believe that this is a need as basic to humanity as food, water and air. I really believe that. I also believe we can ensure our kids learn to recognize it and then to relieve it in a healthy manner.

Simply telling kids it’s wrong to feel that way isn’t good enough, and it’s not the way to go.

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

June 14, 2017

Each Mother’s Day, I go to the floral department of my local grocery store and purchase three miniature rose bushes in pots for the girls. By the girls, of course, I mean my daughter, my second daughter, and my daughter-in-law. It’s a small tradition that I began years ago. You may have guessed I’m big on traditions. There’s so much uncertainty in life, it’s nice, I think, to have a few things one can count on.

The girls, for their part, individually chose to plant those rose bushes in their gardens, rather than keep them in the pots. Another tradition, and one that means the world to me.

Come Father’s Day, there’s just my oldest son, as well as my husband, to show appreciation for. Rather than a rose bush, I’ve tended to gift our son with other things instead. Most usually, it’s clothing. This year for the first time, I will give him a gift card. That seems to be my fall-back gift, lately. It isn’t that I don’t want to take the time to actually shop, although my stamina for that activity is much less than it used to be. It’s more my belief that it’s better all around if the person being gifted can choose their own gift.

I don’t recall celebrating any Father’s Days when I was a kid. I’m sure I did, with my siblings, but there is just no memory in my head of ever doing so. There never has been. When I was eight and a half, my father died, and after that devastating point in my life, the next fathers I knew were my husband and my father-in-law. In those days, the gifts were more of a token, as was the card. It seemed more important to give a nod of recognition to the fathers, on their day.

Fathers play a vital role in the lives of their children. They are the bulwarks, the guardians, the ones we look to in times of trouble, or fear. Fathers, in the ideal state, never tremble, never show uncertainty or dread to their families. We cling to them, our fathers, and receive our sense of security from being able to do so.

What an enormous burden we lay upon the shoulders of our fathers!

In this day and age, it is sad to say, the role of father is being redefined. I say sad to say, because so many younger fathers think their job is done after the procreation moment. However, for those who choose to go beyond procreation, choose to become fathers to their children, that role no longer has a single sense to it, in that individual families, individual fathers, seek their own definitions. In some families, for example, the women remain working outside the home and the fathers stay home and take care of the house and the child until the child hits school age. That is different from all that I knew—although my mother did work outside the home when I was little and my father did cook and clean and do laundry sometimes. But just because the role of the father is different than what I knew, that really doesn’t make it less.

People should have the freedom to define themselves. What remains steadfast, in my opinion, is the general principle of parenting. If you are bringing children into the world, then as adults, whether you’re the mother or the father it is your responsibility to care for that child, to nurture, to protect, and to equip that child with the tools he or she will need to become a productive, happy adult.

That is a tall order for anyone to fill. It requires taking one’s eyes off one’s self, and keeping them firmly fixed on someone else. Someone smaller, weaker, and needier than you.

A tall order, indeed. So, to the fathers out there, I say Happy Father’s Day. We honor you for your service and encourage you in your mission. It’s not an easy one, but then the truth is that nothing worthwhile ever is.

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

June 7, 2017

I’ve come to a greater appreciation that it’s the quality of a moment, and not it’s duration, that is the most important aspect of any event.

Remember how I waxed near poetical about anticipating the day when I would be able to take in the aroma of my lilacs and lilies-of-the-valley at the same time? That was a moment I’ve been anticipating since I panted both the lilac bushes, and the lily bulbs at the front of my house.

Lilac bushes don’t seem to grow quickly, at least not compared to other flowering shrubs. They take time. Lots of time. I wish I could remember exactly how many years ago I panted mine, but it has to have been at least 4 years ago. They’ve only grown a few inches in height in that time, and have gained a bit of girth. Every spring, I count the appearance of those tiny green buds as the bushes/trees proclaim new life, a victory. Last winter wasn’t as harsh, here, as the winter before. That doesn’t mean I was any less on pins and needles, waiting to see those buds. I really don’t take their survival for granted.

What I didn’t know was that this spring’s blossoms would finally reach the point of being bountiful enough to release a good amount of fragrance into the air. And yes! I was finally able to inhale both scents at the same time. I didn’t know it was going to be this year. But, as I am prone to do, I’d hoped.

It was a wonderful handful of mornings. Not a full week, more like four days. Yes, I’ve been waiting for years and I got about four days during which those two aromas mingled.

I wonder if that’s a metaphor for life, in general. Do you suppose that a lot of things are that way, that the anticipation appears to outweigh the actual event? I know many would say it’s so. I hope I am never among those that do.

You see, I count anticipation as part of the event. I’ve always done that. I enjoy planning for a trip, working out what clothing I’m going to take, what sights I want to see, even what I might like to bring back for my grandchildren as gifts. To me, that has always been a part of the experience of vacation. That way, the “trip” if you will, isn’t only the week or so of the actual time away from home, but includes the months leading up to it.

Similarly, the years that I’ve spent hoping for, and waiting for, that sense of scent (pardon my pun) had as its crescendo, the few mornings recently past, when I stepped onto my porch, inhaled deeply, and received as my reward an emotional homecoming of sorts. But the anticipation of that first day, that first moment, that first breath—well, that was as much a part of the experience, don’t you think?

We live in an instant society, when we expect everything to be fast. I’m guilty of that myself. Patience? I pray for it every day but many days sadly go without that admirable quantity. You should see me at my computer some days. I open one browser, click on the site I want that’s in my bookmarks—and if it’s not opening in five seconds, I’ll close that browser and open another. Nope, sometimes, there’s no patience here.

But that saying, patience has its rewards? It’s true, if you make anticipation a part of the event or experience you’re aiming for.

That almost seems counter to what I said last week about not wishing away time, but it’s not. It’s more like savoring your time. I try to savor each day, to find something to appreciate and be thankful for.

Because, at the end of my time here on earth, I don’t want to regret that I was in too much of a hurry to look forward to and embrace the small miracles of life.

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 31, 2017

What the heck happened to May? Here it is the last day of the month, which means tomorrow is the beginning of June. Once June is over, that’s half of the year gone! Poof!

For a long while now, I have wished there was a way to bring back that sense of time I had in childhood—that sense that the days and weeks and months took what seemed like forever to pass. I wasn’t sure how that could be done, exactly, but that has been one of the things I sometimes muse on when I take my daily “legs up” rest. I need to put my legs up for a bit each day because of my arthritis. This rest period is also a time when I just relax in my electric recliner, and let my mind wander. Sometimes I drift off, sometimes I don’t. It’s usually past midday at this point and I’m usually slightly annoyed with myself for how little I’ve accomplished at that point. And being annoyed brings other petty peeves to mind—like how the older I get, the faster time seems to fly. So, having mused on the situation, I came up with a bit of a solution, and I think it’s working.

First, I haven’t read ahead as to what the summer is predicted to be like, weather-wise this year. I’d just as soon let that come on its own without any guesses from me. In fact, aside from any engagements that might be on my calendar, I try very hard not to anticipate ahead too much, period. The trouble with ‘counting’ down the days, in my opinion, is that you can end up wishing away your time.

Time is far too precious for that.

This is a concept I’ve meant to share with my beloved. However, he’s told me on more than one occasion lately that his “ways” are set. He says 64 is too old to change. I’m not sure I agree with that. But we’ve been married long enough now—forty-five years in July—that I try to respect his points of view—even if I don’t share them.

The other way I thought of to slow time is to simply appreciate and be grateful for each new dawn. I do take a moment to give thanks each morning, because I’m still alive. I imagine anyone who’s had a brush with their own mortality is very conscious that each new day is a gift.

I’ve enjoyed, this spring, taking note each day as to the way the trees have come back to life. In years past, I was so busy doing, I didn’t take the time to just be. Hence, each spring I would be shocked at the speed with which the trees seemed to go from bare twigs to full leaf. This year I paid attention more and I saw, because I did that, the incremental, though constant changes from day to day. Little buds that grew to become an aura of light green that gradually darkened and expanded to young leaf and finally to full leaf. That process took a few weeks! It wasn’t as fast as I’d imagined. Imagine that!

You see, it occurred to me that while our perception of time may be fast or slow, time itself lives beyond our human perspective. It moves at a constant rate, and has since it began. That fact cannot be altered, but our perceptions of its passing can be.

I suppose it all comes back to that mantra of mine you all have read many times before—everything in life is a choice.

I think more people should embrace that concept, and take the time to see how very true it is. There is always a choice, and you, the individual are truly in the driver’s seat—oh, maybe not so much for things that do happen to you beyond your control.

But you’re most certainly completely in charge of how you react to those them.

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 24, 2017

I think I’m at that place I never believed I would ever be: feeling a little as if the world is moving too fast for me and leaving me confused and unsettled as a result. The changes in technology notwithstanding, up until last November, I really thought I was doing all right—for an older broad.

I don’t try to keep up with every bit of technology as it evolves. That would really be futile, because whether I like it or not, the truth is that as we age, our reactions and thinking processes do slow down some. It’s normal. Maybe if the natural life span for human beings could aspire to two centuries instead of only one, then things might be different and I might just now be coming into my prime. But they’re not, and I’m not. When you couple being over sixty with the reality that my health is not the very best, well, it’s only to be expected that I begin to react as if I’m…older.

That said, I haven’t focused so much on the visual arts, or on all the cool apps a person can get for their smart phone, though I do have the ones I want, and have learned to use them. I focused instead on the skills needed to serve my vocation, writing. I have a lap top for travel, and a PC at home here, with a tower, a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse. I have a wireless printer beside me, and my Internet access is also wireless. I have a cell phone that I use to text, to call, and to play a game or two while I’m waiting at the doctor’s office. My cell phone is also my alarm clock and my camera, and I can take pictures that then get loaded onto my computer. I can even send these pictures to friends, or post them on Face Book. I’ve also got my banking app on my phone, though seriously, I’d rather not use it. I much prefer using my desktop for that.

We have a wonderful television we got just a few years ago that can be used to connect to the Internet, but no, that’s too much for me and we don’t use it for that, in any event. Actually, the entire television is too much for me. Fortunately, Mr. Ashbury is quite adept at using it. And since I can operate it sufficiently to tune in breaking news during the day, or to replay a recorded program in the early afternoon when I am having my “legs up” time, I’m content. We won’t talk about the blue ray DVD. Yeah, my daughter is going to have to come by and show me how to use that thing, all over again.

But despite all that, which I consider normal and acceptable, more and more I’m feeling as if this world is just moving too fast for me, and for once it’s not the technological changes that are the cause of this sense, but the societal ones. And maybe it’s not too fast, so much as life seems to be moving entirely in the wrong direction.

I have to tell you, I didn’t see these changes coming. In fact, a year ago I would have sworn—no, I did swear—that it would never happen. Such a large number of the people on my continent would not choose lying over honesty, meanness over fairness and compassion, xenophobia over intellectual curiosity, or hatred over love.

I never thought it would happen and yet I see this happening all around me, and I’m completely at sea. It’s almost as if all the morality, all the truth, with which I was raised, with which we all were raised, has been erased from the collective consciousness of human kind. And yet, as I think on it, I begin to wonder. Am I really being lost in these changes…or is my vision simply being skewed by smoke and mirrors?

As a teenager growing up in the 60s and 70s of the last century, I was taught to examine what was presented for my consumption against a set of tenets I needed to decide upon and then adopt as my own, in order to judge whether or not I was being sold—well, snake oil. As a child, I was taught that there were certain immutable moral laws by which we humans lived. Those morals didn’t change based on circumstances or time, or anything else. They held fast, were solid, and could not be brushed aside ever. In other words, as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be. Yes, there are truths that fall into that category—etched in stone.

Since the dawn of time, human kind has known that there are two great forces struggling for domination over the hearts and minds of the people: good and evil. And the truth is, that while evil may get ahead for a time, and even seem to be winning, there is one thing evil is simply not capable of doing: and that is becoming the good.

In this struggle, Good will never use evil in order to win. Anyone who thinks that it will, has been seduced by the evil. Think about that for a moment, because there are some truths in the universe, and that is one. Evil is evil, period. Lying is lying, period. Hate is hate, and racism is racism, period. And Good will never use evil in order to win.

Evil, on the other hand, has no such restrictions.

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May 17, 2017

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day here in North America. I specify the location, because I know that in the United Kingdom the occasion is also celebrated, but quite a bit earlier—this year, it was on March 11th.

When I was a child, I didn’t always have any money to buy my mother something for Mother’s Day. I usually made the card for her, although once in a while, I bought one. Sometimes I managed to get Mother a fancy tea cup and saucer set (they had them at our local Kresge’s store, and at a very affordable price). Those times I couldn’t buy her one of those cups, I would go out to the garden and pick her a bouquet of her own flowers. She always claimed that as long as she was “remembered”—that meant a card when I lived with her, and at least a phone call but preferably a visit once I was older and out of the house, she was happy.

One of the biggest sins a child could commit in my mother’s eyes (and here the word child refers to adult children) was forgetting either Mother’s Day, or her birthday. I’m sad to say that one birthday did go by without my calling her, or even remembering the day. All these years later, I don’t remember the circumstances, only the result. I think I was more upset about my transgression than she was.

I find, as I get older, there are some ways that I’m becoming more and more like my mother. And this stance of “you don’t have to buy me anything, just remember me” is one of those ways. Flowers and cards are lovely—I have a drawer full of cards that I’ve been given over the years as I never throw them away—but the time my kids spend with me, either on the phone or in person, is truly the best gift of all.

This past Mother’s Day, my son Christopher and daughter Jennifer both came to visit me, as did my “second daughter”, Sonja. I enjoyed visiting with my son and his wife in the morning, and the girls in the afternoon. They all brought cards and hanging baskets of flowers for the porch. My great-granddaughter, when she visited the next day with her nanny, picked me a tulip from my own garden. I considered myself very blessed just for all those visits alone.

You can be sure, I cherish that tulip, even more than those lovely hanging baskets.

The traditions we honor in our families are important. They form the legacy that we, through our observance of them, hand down to the next generation. My parents have been gone many years now, and yet some of the things they did for us and the way in which they did them, found expression in my own family as I was raising my kids. For example, all of my kids got giant oranges in their stockings for Christmas, as did their children—and as did I, when I was little.

That’s not to say the traditions we pass down mean the same now as they did then. These days, large oranges in December are not such a luxury as once they were. There were Christmas mornings when we wanted to eat those oranges first, before even the candy and the wonderful full breakfasts our mother made. Those big oranges were juicy and sweet, and we didn’t even have to share them!

I hope those of you who are mothers were blessed to spend time with your children last Sunday. And I hope the traditions you’re building in your families blossom into loving legacies.

They’re a true and beautiful way to keep those long gone from this earth, close to your heart, and a way for your children and grandchildren to remember you.

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

May 10, 2017

Just in case you were wondering (and I am sure you were) today marks 196 days until my beloved hangs up his hard hat, parks his safety boots, and turns in his final punch-card. Only 196 days to go, and I am nowhere near ready for the change that is headed in my direction at the speed of light.

I’ve been giving the matter a great deal of thought, as you can imagine. This is going to be a huge adjustment for both of us, and completely different than the one we’d imagined it would be, just a decade ago.

Ten years ago, my husband still loved his job, and really didn’t want to think about retiring at 65. He felt certain, in fact, that all things being equal, he’d still be happy to work at 70 or even 75, that they would have to drag him away from his truck, kicking and screaming.

The fact that he no longer loves his job, and the added complications that COPD have brought to his life changed things, of course. And while his bosses have known for several months that his retirement was coming up, it has come to light that they’re a little reluctant to see him go.

He’s still the go-to man when something in the production line goes wrong and no one can figure out how to fix it. They’ll ask him to supervise the repairs which he is happy to do. He just can’t do that work himself anymore as it usually involves a lot of climbing up and down stairs, and we’re talking a few dozen feet in the air. His boss told him they didn’t know what they were going to do without him. Who was going to train the younger ones coming on staff, in the proper way to do things? Last year the company hired several new employees, and David spent some time training every one of them.

There was a time he would have been persuaded to put off retiring. As they continued to try and convince him to do just that, he told them point blank: if they wanted him to stay that badly, they could provide him transportation back and forth, to and from work.

He doesn’t have a driver’s license, and hasn’t for more than thirty-five years, a consequence of his misspent youth. The long daily treks are too hard on me, and our daughter, who has been driving him every day for the last several years, has had enough. The distance is about 25 miles one way, so for my daughter or myself to chauffeur him, that’s 100 miles a day. Personally, I don’t believe they’ll take him up on his offer and that’s really just as well.

My husband, in his career, has left his mark. He has trained several men who are now supervisors—some at his own site (the boss directly below the plant manager being one), and some at other sites throughout the province.

The main crushing plant that he built himself, beginning some thirty years ago, has mostly been replaced now, but it did the job for a couple of decades. And while all the equipment in the production line is relatively new, the principles of how to turn big limestone rocks into various gravel products remains the same. In this day and age, more than ever, you have the case of people with a lot of book knowledge but no practical experience designing systems that never seem work, straight out of the gate.

But that’s the way it’s always been, isn’t it?

So here we are, counting down the days to something that not so long ago, really, seemed way, way off in the distant future. It’s funny how that works, but I know it’s a common thing. So common, in fact, that John Lennon once included that very observation in a song.

Life really is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

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