Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The last couple of weeks have seen a change in my daily routine, a change that came about in an odd way.

My family loves to tease me, about anything and everything. Frankly there are times when I amaze myself, because I always laugh and almost never get upset with them. One such occasion recently had my loved ones speculating on the value of their “own personal retirement plan”—me. I’ve been fortunate to have found myself with a following. People actually buy my books! It’s exciting to me, because it means people are reading my words. That means, I’m a real writer!

Of course, my loved ones can sometimes have a more, shall we say, material view of things. One day, the entire gist of their teasing revolved around the idea someone had to chain me to my desk. The theory was that if I was chained to my desk, I could write more than I already was, thus completing more books in less time.

This was one of those occasions where, it wasn’t so much that I became upset as I did have something to say right back at them: If they wanted me to write more, then they needed to see what they could do to relieve me of some of the many things I do every day that cut into my writing time.

One of the tasks that I have been performing since the dawn of time—or so it feels—is getting up very early each day to take Mr. Ashbury to work. Mr. Ashbury doesn’t drive, you see, and so he must be driven to his job, and brought home again every day. There’s no public transportation—he works in a rural community.

On any given day I would take him there and then come home; only to return to pick him up at the end of his shift, and then come home again.

This is a drive of 100 miles each and every day, taking a total of about three hours. Because I arise so early to make this daily, morning drive, I get home again anywhere from 6:45 to 7 am—and then I generally have to go back to bed, unless it’s a day I have my grandchildren to help get ready for school, first. Bottom line, I still have to have a morning nap, and don’t fully get busy with my own agenda until sometime after 10:30.

In the last few months I’ve noticed this early morning drive has seemed a bit more difficult than it used to be. As far as I’m concerned there’s no mystery there. I am simply getting older.

My family took my comment to heart. Two weeks ago, my daughter took over this morning commute, taking her father to work each day. She uses my car, and then gets to use it for most of her own work day, too. It’s a good deal for both of us, as I have more time and am less tired, and she saves money on gas, and wear and tear on her own vehicle, which quite honestly has seen better days.

She also picks him up in the afternoon, on all but 2 days of the week.

I don’t think I fully appreciated how much the early rise/early drive took out of me until I didn’t have to do it anymore. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this is a permanent arrangement. One never knows, because circumstances can change.

But as long as it lasts, I’m going to enjoy it. I’ll be grateful for each and every day that I get to wake up on my own—so far, it’s been between 7:30 and 8:30. I can ease into my day, and not have to worry about anything except waking up my brain and then getting to work.

And yes, I’m pleased to report that without that long drive and subsequent extra sleep, I have been able to get in a lot more writing every day.

Less wasted time feeling drowsy and more time being productive. What could be better than that?
Love, Morgan

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It’s spring! This is my favorite time of year, a time of renewal, of fresh air and sunshine, and endless possibilities.

This is the first year in a great many when the new season has actually snuck up on me. Usually, by March 20th, I’m rather desperate to be done with winter. Where I live, in Southern Ontario, we usually take a real beating, weather-wise, from October to March. But this past year we experienced the least winter-like winter I can remember.

 Of course, I don’t completely trust that the snow is done for good. Too many times in the past, we’ve been dumped on with major snow falls or horrendous ice storms in March and April for me to do that.

I have a “blue box” with a lid that in the winter sits on my porch. It’s used to keep safety salt at the ready, and as I write this, that box is still on my front porch, and still more than half full of salt. It’s currently being used as a “table” by some in the family, who’ve placed it between the chairs there—they’ve already taken to sitting out on the porch in the late afternoon and early evening, and need a spot to set their coffee cups.

Last autumn, I finally got my beloved to put some flower bulbs in the ground for me. You may recall that I mentioned I’d only been asking to have bulbs planted for about 4 or 5 years. He planted tulips on either side of the wooden walkway that spans the lawn from the sidewalk to the steps leading up to my porch. The tulips are now up, and will likely bloom in a couple of weeks – Good Lord willing and the snow doesn’t fall.

Apparently, he also planted some daffodils, right under one of our bedroom windows. I say apparently, because, before I could actually see the one flower blooming there, my almost 18 year old grandson picked it for his girlfriend.

Suffice it to say that he’s keeping his distance for a little while.

There are other signs of spring around the Ashbury household, too. I’ve had to go out and purchase new ant traps. I’m not sure why, but every spring, we get a few dozen of the black ones coming inside the house. If I could see one area where they get in, I’d place some bay leaves at that spot. I’d heard it said, and have proven it to myself in the past, that ants, for whatever reason, won’t cross over the bay leaves.
Unfortunately, my house isn’t solid as a rock, so where the little soldiers are getting in is anybody’s guess.

The last couple of days have seen us enjoying lots of sunshine, with the temperatures soaring to around 77 to 78 degrees. That’s way above normal for March for us, of course. And while some flowers are sprouting—daffodils, narcissi, crocuses and my tulips—the trees here are still barren of buds, the fields still wear the matted brown cloaks of winter, and the sky itself hasn’t yet turned to that deeper blue.

It feels like springtime, but lacks the depth of the season, to a great degree.

Of course one final sure-fired sign that it’s probably spring is the very real craving I’ve been having lately to start my spring cleaning. I’ve already thrown open the doors and windows, so the fresh breeze can blow the stale air of winter out of my house. And I’ve been eyeing my windows—the ones on the house, not on the computer. I’m thinking they could use a really good cleaning. I want them to sparkle in the late March sun. It’s not really a task I can tackle all on my own, unfortunately. I’ll need some help. Maybe I can talk my daughter into lending a hand later in the week.

Mr. Ashbury has already told me I should just sit down and relax until the urge passes.

Love, Morgan

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A blog post in a section of AOL’s news partner, Huffington Post (HuffPost Living, Canada), really caught my attention last Friday. The headline read, “I just wish he would have an affair”.

Written by Monique A. Honaman the gist of this blog was that she’d been hearing from women lately who said they were tired of being married to their husbands—men who were, basically, really nice guys. These men weren’t abusers, or repugnant in any way. The women just wanted out of their marriages, and so wished their husbands would cheat in order that they could then have, supposedly, a guilt-free reason to end the marriage.

 And why did these women want out of these marriages? Apparently, they just “weren’t happy anymore”, interpreting this lack of happiness to mean they no longer loved their spouses.

I don’t want to come off as unsympathetic, I really don’t. But…

I wonder if this is one of those unintended consequences of the entire school of thought that encompasses within its umbrella themes like “political correctness”, “full participation” sports teams and “no matter what, all children must pass each school year.”

In other words, I seriously believe that this ennui is the unintended yet direct and may I say unsurprising result of the spirit of entitlement that seems to have enveloped people who are 35 years in age or younger.

Because people today have been raised to expect to always pass from one grade to the next, to always be rewarded with a spot on the team when they ask for one, to always be given ‘fair’ treatment, they therefore never have to learn how to deal with failure, frustration or feelings of inadequacy (because, after all, those things are so “damaging” to a child’s psyche).

And because they’ve been raised feeling entitled to everything, they’re shocked and amazed and completely out to sea when they discover that happiness doesn’t magically fall upon them out of the sky like manna from heaven.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t consider ending a marriage if you’re deeply unhappy within it. Although in my opinion divorce should be a last course of action after all avenues of trying to fix things have been explored. What I’m wondering, and here I may be drummed out of the sisterhood of womankind is this: would these women be happy under any circumstances?

I ask because I have long believed, and long professed, that happiness isn’t something you’re entitled to; it isn’t something that becomes yours by whim or by fancy.

Happiness is yours if 1) you decide you really want to be happy, and 2) if you then work at achieving that status through attitude and deeds.

What does that mean? Well, first it means you do not depend on anyone else to “make you happy”. No one can make you happy. That feat is only up to you and God.

“I wish I was happier in my life.” If you want to be happier in your life, then be happier. Where do you start? How about with a little old fashioned gratitude?

I’m grateful, every day, for each new day I am alive because not that long ago, I nearly died and now, with a history heart disease, diabetes, and basal cell carcinoma, long life is not something I take for granted. I’m grateful to have a roof over my head, food in the cupboards, and a few luxury items to boot. Not that very long ago, none of that was a given. I’m grateful for my family. Yes, I’ve lost a son and that’s a whole in my heart that will never be filled—but I have a husband, two living children, and six grandchildren, including two from my late son. I am blessed, and highly favored.

I have a career that pleases me because I chose to work at doing what I love above all else to do. I have a life that is full, because I choose to make it so. Am I happy? Yes, I am. Do I have days of boredom, or days when I don’t feel happy? Of course I do. I’m human, and no human being is ever happy 24/7.

My advice to anyone who feels a lack of happiness or fulfillment in their lives is to first define what would make you happy or fulfilled, and then do something about it. Work on making yourself happy, because no one will ever be a better friend to you than you, yourself.

And then, just because you should, take your eyes off yourself and put them on someone, or something else. Do good. Help others. Give yourself the gift of a sense of having made a difference in the world. And then watch happiness bloom.

Love, Morgan


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I used to watch a lot of news programs. In years passed, I never missed Peter Jennings, after which I would flip my dial over to catch the BBC World Report, and then the CBC Evening News. Every night my beloved would watch Chris Matthews, followed by Keith Olbermann, and I’d be right there with him. We’d watch some Fox News programs, as well, because we like to hear both sides of an issue. We’d also catch a couple of really good debate shows on PBS on the weekend. Sunday was Tim Russert, and then George Stephanopoulos, and whoever CNN had on, too.

Then, for reasons I don’t entirely understand—not long after the 2008 American Presidential election, in fact—I lost my news habit.

Well, I’ve picked it up a little bit in the last month but I’m beginning to believe I was better off without it.

I’m all for being well informed. Since I spend a great deal of my day in front of my keyboard, and I do tend to drift onto the Internet several times a day any way, I am generally aware of what’s going on in the wider world around me.

It’s essential to know if there is about to be a coffee shortage, for example, so I can run out and stock up on it.

However, I’ve discovered that tuning in too closely to the news, current affairs, and political consciousness is not good for my blood pressure.

Will someone please tell me how it is that public figures can get away with wholesale lying?

There is one fact with regard to the latest brouhaha that a participant in that firestorm of words got horribly wrong and no one—no one at all—said anything about the wrong fact.

Therefore, I have a request that I will make, and, men, I’m apologizing in advance if this is something you already knew: Will someone please tell the men among us that birth control pills are unlike Viagra in two very important ways: 1) they are used not only for contraception but also for treatment of irregular or absent menstrual periods, menstrual cramps, acne, PMS, and for serious medical conditions such as endometriosis, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and 2) they are not a pay as you play kind of drug. In order to be effective as contraception, birth control pills must be taken every day, even if the woman taking them is not currently having sex.

 Here I sat over the last week, watching the coverage of that brouhaha, with all the talking heads giving their left-leaning and right-leaning interpretations of what was said by whom to whom about whom, the pros and the cons, and not one of them said, ‘well, from a factual standpoint, of course, what was said is just not true.’

It got my blood pressure rising, and it got me thinking.

There are a lot of people who like to have their say, and who don’t care if what they have to say has any relation to the truth, or not. Further, these people—in all areas of life, not just politics and news programs but blogs and chat rooms, and anywhere that people can imagine themselves to be in the spotlight—cue the off-stage deep voice announcing, “and now, the star of our show...”—these people believe that if they shout the loudest, and the longest, even if all they are shouting are lies, then they automatically win and they are automatically, therefore, right.

 Hello? Truth is truth when it comes to verifiable facts and data. To say someone said something when they did not, and you know that they did not, is a lie. To say a thing is a widget when you know that it is not, is a lie.

Lying is, to put it another way, bearing false witness against thy neighbor.

So, if all this lying is going on, and everyone is okay with it, how do we as a society uphold the laws of the land? Because now, by extrapolation, it’s ok to lie on your tax forms, and job applications, and police reports and hey, we need to really get rid of those “misrepresentation of the truth will result in a $20,000 fine” fine-print paragraphs that are on everything we sign and date. Oh, and we need to abolish the crime of perjury, too.

More importantly to me, on what moral ground do we stand in raising our children and getting angry when they lie to us? “Do as I say, not as I do”? Seriously, I thought we’d evolved beyond that one.

Also seriously, I’m going back to imitating an ostrich. It’ll be easier on my heart. And so what if I’m not all that well informed? I have faith that if things get really bad out there, someone will give me a call and tell me about it.

Love, Morgan