Wednesday, January 17, 2018

January 17, 2018

Today is R plus 54. Yes, we’re closing in on the two-month mark of my husband’s retirement from the work-a-day world. I have to be honest, and tell you, it’s actually gone much better than I had hoped it would.

Please don’t judge me too harshly for my reservations. I’d only had past experience to go by. The last few years, my husband had enjoyed three or more weeks off each year, stretching from before Christmas until into the New Year—well, all except for the Christmas of 2016, when that long period of respite was canceled due to unexpected sales. And for those last few years of long weeks off, right after the two-week mark, he started to go stir crazy. Add to that knowledge all the times he’d had vacation time, with no vacation destination…friends, it wasn’t pretty. Three years ago, during one of those three-plus week long Christmas hiatuses, was the year I banished his computer from my office.

It’s hard to get your head into the story when someone is sitting practically beside you, staring at you, watching you to see if maybe you’re bored yet, and would like to go somewhere and do something? Would you? Huh? Huh?

For the first full month of his retirement, my husband focused on resting, and reading, and binge-watching shows on Netflix. He’d informed me before he actually retired that he had no intention of wasting his days by sleeping in. No, he was going to be up by seven-thirty each morning. He’d spend that hour or so I asked of him, doing things around the house, and then he’d apply himself to recreational pursuits.

I bet you’re all wondering how that plan worked out for him? Well, from my point of view, perfectly. In our natural habitats, you see, I’m a morning person, and he is not. I’ve been getting up, for the most part, between seven and seven-thirty since he’s been retired. And I have my house to myself until at least nine on most days, and some days until ten. The only problem with his plan to get up early was that it was predicated on the unspoken natural law that early to rise goes hand-in-hand with early to bed. And by early, I don’t mean early morning. A man going to bed at two-thirty a.m. is sure not getting up at seven.

Over the last week or so, my beloved has finally read enough, and binge watched enough, and surfed the internet enough, and napped enough, was ready to begin what he had decided would be his major focus in his golden years: writing.

He’s working, actually, on his third book. The first one he wrote years before I was ever published, after I challenged him to do so. The challenge came, perhaps not in as friendly a tone as it might have, after he’d spent a few good long minutes lecturing me on all the things I was doing wrong in my process of writing. Yes, my friends, I uttered those words, “if you think it’s that easy, why don’t you write your own damn book?”, never expecting that he actually would take up the challenge.

I can tell you that book had a beginning, a middle, and an end—as did the next one—and that is more than a lot of aspiring authors ever produce.

The fiction sub-genre he’s writing is “dystopian”, and he had a lot of notes before he actually sat down at his computer and began to use the word program for the first time. And as I sit here, writing this, he is in the other room, at his keyboard, working.

 He tells me he loves what he’s doing, and that is the most important thing. When the time comes, he’s going to look into “self-publishing” his novel. Neither one of us cares if it makes a penny, though I have a feeling, the way life can sometimes send you a funny little twist, that it might.

For now, he’s happy, and it is in fact bringing us a little closer together. He’s just recently learned one little diddy, an “author’s lament”, if you will. Those of you who are authors know the tune well. It’s called: that moment when you do something, you’re not sure what it was, and several hundred of your hard-crafted words simply disappear from the screen. Forever.

I came when he called me, retrieved his latest saved version, and commiserated with his grief of the unfair vagaries of fate. I told him been there, done that—which is why we have Dropbox.

I also told him: save, save, save.

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

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

January 10, 2018

In my neck of the woods, at least, the terrible deep freeze has let go—for now. In its place have come temperatures a little more “normal”, whatever that really is these days. According to the weather network, the rest of this work week – from today to Friday inclusive – the temperatures will be in the low forties, and instead of snow, we’re to get rain!

There are two major problems with this turn of events. The first, of course, is that when you have (relatively speaking) warmer air come in over an ice and snow-covered landscape, you inevitably end up with fog. Thick, impenetrable fog that takes a while in the morning to burn off. I am a veteran winter driver. I can drive through fog. I can drive on an icy road, as long as it’s not obscenely icy. What I hate more than almost anything in the world? Driving on obscenely icy roads, in a thick fog. I did that from time to time when I was younger, and when David was still working. He had to be brought home from work, after all and once in a while, when it was one of my days in the winter to do so, we had those ghastly driving conditions. These days, I take one look outside and plunk my butt down, inside if it’s icy with a side of fog. The second major problem with rainy days coming too soon after such a harsh deep freeze with a ton snow is that it’s possible what you’re going to end up with thick, slick ice over every damn thing.

I’m grateful that I have plenty of safety salt on hand. Once the rain is done and the temperatures drop again, my beloved will ensure my walkway and sidewalk are well salted. I hope we get enough of the darn liquid precipitation to reduce the snow significantly, rather than just make it wet and heavy before it turns the landscape into an ice sculpture. Reducing the snow means it’ll mostly be gone all that much sooner; wetting it will only leave us those unholy chunks of ice to deal with.

We used to call what’s slated to happen over the next few days a January thaw. I’m not sure what to call it in 2018. Apparently, we’re in for some above freezing temperatures at the end of next week, as well. We’ll have to wait and see how it all comes out. The forecasters do their best, but I think it’s the nature of the beast that in the end, all the professional prognosticators can give us are their best guestimates. Sometimes there are elements involved in the process of weather prediction that sneak into the mix that no one expects. They call meteorology a science, and I get that, but in my opinion, it’s not a pure science. It’s a combo science, crap shoot, and mass of voodoo spells. If this were not so, we would not have that February pagan festival known as “Ground Hog Day”.

But those circumstances, they’re almost a metaphor for life, aren’t they? We can study a situation, make plans, and form a decision to act, only to have everything change at the last minute. There’s that wide category in life called “shit happens”, and there is nothing, not a single darn thing, that you or I can do about it.

So, all you can do is all you can do, and when it comes to the weather, you just have to hope for the best. This is one area in life when it really pays to be prepared. Any plan you make that calls for the weather to behave in a specific, wished for manner is a plan A that desperately needs a plan B.

Not wanting to get stuck in a situation where, as we get older, we run the risk of having our furnace foul up on us—been there, done that—we now rent that appliance. Having lived through the third of three winters in a row, a couple of years back, when our furnace quit on us told us this was not a scenario we wanted to experience again any time soon, especially going into retirement. This way, the utility company can soak us a bit each month instead of our being faced with a two-thousand-dollar invoice to unexpectedly have to pay on a fixed income.

If this particular January thaw comes to fruition, I won’t get excited or change any of my plans. I may open a window to get a bit of relatively warm and fresh air into the house. Being closed up is my least favorite state of being. But I’m not going to go nuts.

I’m going to keep on as I mean to go, marking each day off the calendar as one more step toward spring, which will almost certainly be here sometime in March. Maybe. If we’re lucky.

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

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

January 3, 2018

On this day, especially, I remember my father, who passed away when I was eight and a half years old. That was 55 years ago, on January 3rd. He was only in his forties, and he died of a stroke. Just a month or so before, he’d had a heart attack, and was not long home from the hospital when he left us. My memories of him aren’t many, as I didn’t have him in my life for very long, and I imagine the trauma of losing him had an affect on my memories as well. Mostly, looking back, I see freeze-framed moments, mere snapshots of the life I lived in those few years when I had two parents.

In 1963, children of 8 years old weren’t as sophisticated as they are today—at least, I sure wasn’t. We had school, and we had some television. Not much beyond Saturday morning cartoons and whatever was on before eight p.m. on a week night. I watched whatever it was my parents watched, and there for sure wasn’t much objectionable on the airwaves in those relatively early days of television.

I don’t think that life, in general, was necessarily more innocent in that day and age than it is today. But for a kid living in a rural community, with no community resources near-by, no “outside influences” beyond my little three-room school, no Internet, no social media, no cell phones—well, life sure was a lot more sheltered compared to today.

I sometimes wonder how I would have grown up differently, if I hadn’t lost my father at so young an age. Certainly, between my parents, he was the more affectionate of the two. He would read to me at night, and tuck me into my bed. As a matter of fact, one of my earliest, most vivid memories of him was his doing exactly that, tucking me into my bed. In the winter, my dad would put me in that crib, then take my sheet and blankets out to the living room where, one at a time he would warm them on the oil space heater, and then tuck them close around me.

I would have been three or four at the time. And yes, I was still sleeping in a crib at that age—ours was a small house and my parents, my sister, and I shared a bedroom in those days, so there was no room for an extra bed. My paternal grandmother had the second bedroom, and the vestibule by our front door was converted into a sleeping area for my brother.

As I said, I sometimes wonder how I, and my life, would be different if only…but of course, you can’t change what was, and to covet to do so would be to wish, in a way, to surrender all the good of your “what is”. Things happen in life to all of us, and for better or worse we are shaped by those experiences.

I do know that my father, when he was a young man, was a writer. I recall a family friend, a man who grew up with my dad, once told me “wherever Jack went, he always had a note book and pencil with him”. I have some of his work, all that survived that long-ago time when the young man who eventually became my father would craft stories and poems. He stopped writing after his own father died when he was seventeen or eighteen, and he had to leave high school to go to work to support his mother.

It truly was a different world back then. Not better, or worse, necessarily. Just different. How my father’s life changed by the passing of his own dad had a direct affect on how my mother responded when toward my brother, when our father died. My brother was eighteen at the time and in his second to last year of High School. And while it was still common for young men of that age, in those days, to leave school and work to help support the family under such circumstances, my mother refused to consider that option. My brother was to stay in school and go on to college—it was what my father had wanted for him, and what my mother insisted upon.

My brother is now seventy-three, a retired elementary school teacher who attained a masters degree in education. I’ve never asked him if he ever thinks about the sacrifice our mother made for him, because he and I, though we love each other, are different people with different perspectives and different world views.

I do my best to appreciate each new day I’m given. Family history has shown me that life is short and uncertain. So I do the best I can, and treat people as kindly as I can.

I live with an attitude of gratitude and know, for me, that is the way I was meant to be.

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

December 27, 2017

I don’t go overboard decorating my house for Christmas. In fact, other than our tree, the house holds no decorations at all, with one exception. That exception is the heart of my home, my kitchen. I have a box that we keep upstairs for eleven and a half months of the year. That box is labeled “Christmas Kitchen” and inside it is everything I need to display my Christmas spirit.

The rest of the year I have a “lazy Susan” in the center of my table. A silver tray with four glass smaller trays that form a circle, and a round one that fits in the middle, this piece was a gift from my late son. I’m not certain why the name “Susan” is associated with this device. I know several women named Susan and not a one of them is lazy. I’ve also heard the term “loose Susie”, and I don’t get where that one comes from, either. But I digress.

My usual kitchen table centerpiece is currently in my office, because we don’t have any other place to set it. On my table in its place is a small green wreath, inside of which sits a large red candle. On either end of this wreath, I have a glass candle holder, with long red tapers. Then, on each end of this collection stand two red, wooden, hollow “Santa boots”. These boots measure three inches tall and two inches in diameter. Accompanying this center piece on my Christmas-time table are four place mats, plastic, but with holly and ivy and glittered pine cones forming the decorative pattern.

In the Christmases of my early childhood, these four boots were part of my parent’s annual Christmas display—there was the Creche on one table, and the boots and a large candle in a wreath on another. The candle was also red, not smooth like today’s candles, but knobbly. This candle would be lit only on Christmas Eve, and only allowed to burn for a small period of time.

The boots would be filled with nuts and hard candies. It’s a testament to one of the differences between those times and these, in a way; today if you set out four small containers of candies and nuts for your guests, you’d probably be considered “parsimonious”. We weren’t as gluttonous in those days, not by half. Ice cream was available only in a small brick, that when opened would sit easily upon a luncheon plate.

I came into possession of the wooden Santa boots after my sister passed a few years ago. The old candle is still in existence and at this moment is sitting on a shelf at my brother’s house. I have no idea what my siblings did with the Creche in the aftermath of my mother’s passing. At the time I was a little too emotional to think of such things.

I change my table setting on the same day as my husband erects our tree. Because our daughter developed an allergy to pine trees the same year our house here in town burned down, we have a small artificial one, that doesn’t stand more than five feet tall. The tree is festooned with miniature ornaments. The surviving older glass bulbs from my childhood and my husband’s, are no longer displayed, but kept safe to pass down.

We’re not fancy people, not by anyone’s measure. I’ve always been more concerned about the quality of the hospitality I offer my guests than the appearance of my house. If you’ve ever met me face to face, you’ll know I present a clean and neat appearance, but I don’t tend to wear makeup, or even a lot of jewelry. I can’t see the point in fussing.

I treasure my simple pleasures, and my simple traditions. When I look at those Santa boots on my kitchen table, it’s as if I’m reaching across time to join hands with that little girl I used to be. I feel once more the comfort of my parents’ presence, and am reaffirmed by a sense of history and continuity.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year. May 2018 be a year of love and laughter and peace.

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

December 20, 2017

The first snowfall of the season finally arrived here in Southern Ontario a few days ago, and of course, it was accompanied by bone-aching cold. The day after the snow fell, according to the weather network, it was 18 degrees out – but it “felt like” 7.

Talk about scientific precision! To me, too cold is too cold. This old body of mine can’t tell the difference between 18 and 7. This body just shivers, and craves a blanket, a heating pad, and for the thermostat to be cranked upwards. Oh yes, and a nice hot cup of coffee, if you please.

Seriously, this ancient house of ours does have air leaks when the breeze comes from the west or north west. Generally, in the winter months, I keep my furnace set at 70. If I’m a bit chilly, I put on a heavier sweater or, if I’m relaxing in the living room in my electric recliner, I cover myself with a blanket.

If the moment comes when, even covered, I think I’m cold, then I turn up my furnace a whole two degrees! Of course, if the wind drops, back down to 70 it goes, because all things being equal? 70 really is warm enough.

My beloved didn’t take the snow blower out until several days after the blanket of snow fell. To his credit he did a really good job of digging out the car, clearing the walk, and clearing the opposite side of the road from our car. On the 16th and the first day of each month we have to park on the opposite side of the street from where we were. We do have a driveway, but it is off the side street that is a steep hill to the south of our house (we have a corner lot). I don’t park in the driveway during the winter. One swipe of the snow plow and we could end up with a heavy, unmovable three-foot ridge of snow at the end of that driveway—and possibly on our car, too, as the driveway is just deep enough for the car to fit into. How steep of a hill, you may ask? Well, if I were standing on the sidewalk in front of our house at the corner, the elevation of the driveway (looking up, of course) is more than my height from where I’m standing at that point.

We always get a laugh on storm days. One of our living room windows faces that side street. We invariably chuckle when cars attempt to go up that street, only to slide right back down again because they can’t make it all the way up. Salt and sand can only do so much. In the end, steep and icy is steep and icy.

We’re settling in here, getting used to spending our time in the same place practically every day. One thing that my husband was surprised at was how fast the days go. At the end of most days, when he was working, he would answer my question, “how was your day?” with one word: “long”. He’s pleasantly surprised that time isn’t dragging for him now.

We’re just about ready for Christmas. All the gifts we’re giving this year have been procured. I may do a little baking. My granddaughter, who usually comes so we have a baking day is now seventeen and working two-part time jobs. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m pleased that in years to come, she’ll have the memory of those past baking days to look back on.

 As I write this, and get ready to send it out to you, David is in the living room, setting up our tree. It’s a small one, not even as tall as I am. Because it’s tiny, I bought a bunch of miniature decorations to go on it. We no longer seek out those “icicles” because, goodness, they end up everywhere! We’ll have the lights turned on in the evening as we sit, side by side, reading our books. There will be a heating pad for me, blankets for both of us, a thermostat waiting to be turned up. And oh yes, there will be coffee. Most of mine these days is decaf, but I quite enjoy the taste.

David and I wish you all the very best joys of Christmas—fun, family and friends.

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

December 13, 2017

What can I say about the debate currently taking place on many of the television news magazine programs, and talk shows? It really does feel as if we, as a society, have finally begun to turn a page. With all the show business, television, and political people being shown the door based on allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, it feels like a new day has finally dawned in our society.

I say, “feels like”, because I’m not convinced—but I am worried.

Yes, it is far passed time for those who believe it’s perfectly all right to practice sexual harassment to be stopped. Passed time for those who use their positions of power to threaten those under their aegis if they don’t submit to their demands for sexual gratification to be shown the door. However, we need to go forward in this apparent “social cleansing” with great care and due process.

I am completely uncomfortable with the concept that a person can lose their livelihood on the basis of unproved allegations alone. I heard one person on the side of the “throw all the bums out” brigade actually say, “it’s not like they’re going to starve to death”; and this person also said, “they’re just losing a job.” What a totally asinine comment to come from a so-called enlightened and intelligent person. The accused are losing more than a job. Their reputations are in tatters and they have been transformed into social pariahs. Just losing a job? Hell, they’ll be lucky if they ever get one of those, ever again.

This cleansing would be problematic even if there was no such thing as a person who would lie in order to seek revenge for past wrongs, or for the fulfillment of a personal agenda. But we all know, unfortunately, humans do lie. They especially appear to have a propensity for lying now that that particular sin is practiced and even celebrated with new, clean sounding labels like “alternative facts”. And in case you take exception to my calling “lying” a sin, I will point out that I didn’t decide that. Exodus 20:16 did.

But I digress.

My point here is simple. Yes, using your position of power or authority over another to coerce or try to coerce sexual favors is wrong. Yes, touching another person without permission, especially in an inappropriate way or an inappropriate place is wrong. Yes, we need to have a discussion on these issues, and not just one gender but both genders must stand in solidarity on these principles and stand for what is just and fair and right.

That discussion needs to delineate and spell out the difference between brushing one’s hand against another’s posterior, and grabbing another’s genitals outright; between an adult who tries to kiss another adult, and an adult who molests a child. These transgressions are not the same, they are not equal, but they are all transgressions and need to be stopped.

We have to take care as we go forward that we do so with careful, thoughtful deliberation, and not with our emotions in the driver’s seat. We need, all of us, to work together to make our work places safe for all people, and to ensure that no one forces themselves in any way, shape or form upon another. And if we deign to take from a person their career as a punishment for these transgressions, if we’re going to destroy a person’s reputation, then we better make damn sure that such charges are proven—or at least credible—and that such penalties are warranted.

Because to continue to proceed headlong without due process down the course we’ve already embarked upon is to risk the very gains and the principles we seek to claim. To continue to lash out as we have been doing, painting all the people accused of various wrongdoing with the same brush, is to diminish the case against the child molesters among us, equating that crime with groping—and to risk the very principle we’re trying to enshrine in reality.

We must take care that those who are accused are truly guilty; because accusers are human, and humans lie. So let’s get our collective anger under control, put shackles on our personal thirst for vengeance, and stick to the high ground and do the right thing.

These words come to you from one who in the past has been a victim of the worst kind of sexual predation. It’s not easy to let go the need to “get back” at those who did wrong to us in the past. But it is the right thing to do.

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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

December 6, 2017

I’m 63 years old. You’d think that by now, I’d be used to the fact that December is the month when Christmas occurs. But no, every year I seem to raise my head above the sand in which it is perpetually buried, look around, spot a calendar, and say, “oh, crap. It’s nearly Christmas!”

I suppose I could claim an excuse this year, considering that so much of my mental storage space has been used up dealing with our recent life change—if it weren’t for the fact that, as I said, 63 years old now, and counting. I should know better.

We are, as one might expect, paring back expenses. Tightening the old belt. It’s going to be a few weeks before we know exactly how much money we’ll be receiving monthly from the combination of David’s company pension and the government one, so therefore, we won’t know the total income we’ll be dealing with until then. As for my income (since I am not now nor do I ever plan to be retired), I never know how much money I’m looking at until I get my quarterly check. That’s just the nature of the beast, and after ten years, something I’m used to and very grateful for.

 If you’re thinking I’m not a person who deals well with the concept of financial uncertainty, you would be correct. I know it’ll only be a matter of time before I know what to expect and can organize accordingly. The real trick for us, of course, will be adjusting to getting two payments a month instead of one each week. That may take awhile.

We shopped ahead, loading up on meat and canned goods. I re-organized my small deep freezer, so that I can find what I’m looking for faster. At the moment, we hope to be able to get by having two major grocery orders a month, and then shop for perishables like milk, eggs, bread and butter as we need them. Extras we’ll relegate to my quarterly check—at least that’s the plan, for now.

It’s all just a matter of getting used to a new normal, and I know it’ll all work out. Being older also means I don’t really get worked up all that easily over the bumps in life. I try hard to keep the main thing the main thing, and roll with the flow.

I did my Christmas shopping yesterday. I went to the bank, took out my budget and stuffed it into fourteen Christmas cards. Done. I used to give gift cards, but they charge you about 6 dollars per gift card, and then tax on top of that, for the fee! So, I decided to cut out the middleman.

Now, that’s one area right there—the giving of gifts—where it’s good to be older. When I was younger I shopped for hours for actual gifts for everyone, and worried that people wouldn’t like what I had chosen for them. I can recall spending a lot of time over the holiday season, worrying about that, and whether my house was clean enough, my food good enough and plentiful enough, and blah blah blah.

But now I’m older, and the main thing being the main thing, I have a whole new attitude. We give what we can; we host as we can; I can promise not to poison anyone with my cooking and baking; and we still love with our whole hearts. That’s who we are, and people—yes, even family—can take it or leave it.

For me, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of the Son of God. It’s about spending quality time with family and friends, and resting in the sweet, sometimes bitter-sweet, memories of my years on this planet so far.

A little seasonal music, a warm cup of cocoa, and a good book to read in between socializing—and if I’m lucky, an after-dinner chocolate to sweeten the deal.

And remembering that the main thing is living, laughing, and loving and not working, worrying, and weeping. 

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