Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October 24, 2012

A not so funny thing happened last week on the day that I was to drive my beloved and our daughter to the airport, so they could begin their vacation.

There was a meeting on a country road between my pretty red 2005 Buick Allure and a deer.

Now, this was a sudden and unavoidable collision. No one was hurt—well, no humans were hurt. The air bags didn’t even deploy inside the car.

The deer, unfortunately, wasn’t as lucky.

There were no clunks, grinds, or any other noises as the car traveled from the site of the impact to home. It was not yet full dawn, but there was enough light to see the results of this meeting. The vehicle was a mess, and I posted a picture of it on Face Book.

This didn’t really interfere with our plans for the day. I was still able to take Mr Ashbury and Jenny to the airport; we used her car, and I would have her vehicle at my disposal for week they were gone.

I figured, that most likely, by the time I contacted my insurance company and took care of all the paperwork and reporting, the car would be repaired and back, if not in time for me to drive to the airport again, then certainly by the next Monday.

Well, that didn’t turn out to be the case at all.

The damage to my car (that I’d had for not quite two full years) was sufficient for the insurance company to deem it a total loss.

Here is where you learn one more embarrassing fact about me. I kind of get attached to my stuff. I used to think I was a packrat until that reality show last year that I never completely watched, but saw enough of to wipe my brow in relief. But I do get emotionally attached to my things, and I sometimes even name them.

I liked my car. It was a Buick. It was mine. It was paid for. I wasn’t ready to part with it, and I really didn’t want to consider getting another vehicle at this time.

One thing I have learned, however, is that sometimes what we would prefer in life has absolutely no relationship whatsoever to what we actually get, or have to deal with.

This was one of those times.

Mr. Ashbury was away, but that didn’t really change the situation. Years of finding our rhythm together has resulted in our behaving for the most part in very predictable ways. Yes, I was ticked about the car being written off. But how I felt about it didn’t change the reality of it. I had to deal with the matter.

We’ve both long ago realized that you can reduce the stress of unpleasant, unexpected problems by focusing on finding a solution, instead of lamenting your bad luck.

 Moments after that call from the insurance company telling me they were giving me a pittance for my car, I went on line and began the task of looking for another vehicle.

 I like Buicks. The ’92 Buick I had before this last one, when it died, had more than 390,000 miles on it—or, in Canadian, 650,000 kilometers. Yep, that’s a lot, and a marvel, and sold me forever on the Buick.

Now, I’ve been pretty fortunate the last couple of times that I had to get a car. The right one revealed itself to me fairly quickly. Actually, the last one Mr. Ashbury found, while I was away at a conference.

We don’t buy new cars. We’re just not convinced in the value of them—that’s just us, and at least we feel the same way on the matter. So I was perusing the Internet for a “pre-owned” vehicle.

And this one I found, while my beloved, unawares, was sunning on the beach. My new Buick is a 2009, and fully loaded, including leather seats, a moon roof, and a digital display of information that’s going to take me a while to master.

I haven’t named it yet—but I probably will.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 17, 2012

As you read this, Mr. Ashbury and our daughter are lounging on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean. Ah, the sand, the surf, the sun.

The joy of having the house to myself, more or less, for an entire week!

Now, I don’t want you to think for one moment that I don’t miss the old dear. Of course, I do. However we have been married an awfully long time. Not as long as some, but much longer than others. And a little time apart is not a bad thing at all.

We’ve never lived in each other’s pockets. And as a matter of fact, our first experiment with the concept of “separate vacations” happened many years ago, when we were still butt-deep in the raising of our three kids.

Mind you, that first “mini” solo vacation was in the form of separate weekends enjoyed at a downtown Toronto hotel.

As I recall, mine was spent swimming in the pool, indulging in a solo restaurant meal or two, and sleeping. I did a lot of sleeping. The weekend was memorable for me, because it was an entire weekend of not taking care of others.

This is the second time my beloved has taken our daughter on a vacation to the tropics. As you can imagine, it’s not easy for a single mother to manage to afford something like a one week resort stay—although they’re not as expensive as they used to be. In this instance, however, our motivation was different than just giving her a break.

Since May, Jennifer has taken her daddy to work nearly every single morning. I no longer routinely have to awaken at 5 am to drive a 50 mile round trip.

I didn’t mind the driving, per se. It was the part that had me rolling out of bed so early that was beating me up. After taking my beloved to work, I’d then have to come home and go back to bed for at least an hour and a half. On mornings when I had the children to get up and get ready for school, that return to bed often didn’t happen until after 9 am.

This, of course, meant I wasn’t out of bed and at work until 11 or later. Then I’d have to leave the house again at 3:30 in the afternoon to pick him up from work—usually just as I was really getting into my story.

A lot of days, Jenny also makes that return trip in the afternoon to bring her daddy home. That’s 100 miles a day all told—and more than 2 hours of my time each day—that I’ve gotten back.

Jenny and her father really are two peas in a pod. She has just as much redneck in her as he does. They spend a lot of time together, and I’m very grateful their relationship is so strong. We’ve not been in communication since they left, but I know they’re having a very good time together, and I don’t have to worry as they will, very likely, keep each other out of trouble.

Or, conversely, they’ll share whatever trouble they tumble into.

I’m just as happy to stay home and get some writing done—interspersed with just enough housework to keep the place functioning. Yes, I know I sound boring to those of you who aren’t writers. You’re likely thinking, “but don’t you do that anyway?”

The answer of course is yes, I do. Vacation for me isn’t the same as vacation for the non-writer. Vacation for me is writing, as always, only in a different locale.

My favorite for this year of 2012 took place in February when we were in Freeport, in the Bahamas. I had a cabana all to myself, the ocean breezes cooling my brow, the view of the pool and the ocean before me, and my very favorite thing: the sensation of the keyboard at the end of my finger tips. The words flowed and I very happily kept up.

My beloved enjoys the ocean, and the sun, and the possibility, however remote, that he might encounter the hint of a hurricane—since it is still the season.

Two very different definitions of heaven—which is what vacation, by anyone’s measure, is supposed to be all about.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October 10, 2012

The Ashbury’s have a mouse in the house.

All right, in the interests of full disclosure, I suppose I should say that the Ashbury’s have several mice in the house.

The problem is starting to drive me batty.

You will recall that in the past, we had two kitties who, more or less and for better or worse, liked to hunt. Every now and then, they would catch the odd mouse in the house, and take it outside. Once in a while, they would catch something outside, and bring it into the house.

That was life and it had a natural kind of rhythm to it. But alas, those two great hunter-kitties have gone to the hunting grounds in the sky, and we are left with our “Spooky kitty”.

This is the kitty that moved in last August while Mr. Ashbury and I were on vacation. She has adopted us and has graciously allowed us to remain here in this house.

She lets the mice stay, too, although that really is no fault of her own.

You see, Spooky kitty came to us with no front claws. Yes, someone had her declawed—and then tossed her out to make her way in the world, when she couldn’t really even defend herself. This is why God sent her to us. He knew we would take her.

But I digress.

We have mice in the house. Apparently, our Spooky kitty scores very low on the threat-o-meter, as far as the mice are concerned. Spooky has indeed caught a couple of mice. But these mice have either escaped her completely, unscathed, or they have crawled somewhere and died—a situation that we learn of only well after the fact, and is always followed by a frantic game of “where the hell is it?”

We thought we had the problem solved a few months ago. We bought these traps—black, intricate, and hard to operate. We got two of them, and they each caught two mice. And then—nothing. As far as I could see, we seemed to have no more mice.

But they came back, apparently with reinforcements, and they completely avoided the traps.

So we bought some of the old fashioned kind of mouse traps—you know the ones I mean, the wooden ones with the springs? Nope. Someone must have told our mice what they were, because again, they avoided them.

Last weekend I drove Mr. Ashbury to our local Canadian Tire Store. Despite the name, this is a store that carries all manner of things, not just tires. It has tools, and car parts, and household items, even small appliances and mops and such.

And it carries mouse traps.

You know how they say that someone is always trying to build a better mouse-trap? Well, I’m here to tell you that person has some of Mr. Ashbury’s money.

He bought three traps, special traps. Advertised as being “humane” they are clear plastic “boxes” with a one-way swing door at one end. Inside the box is a tiny tablet made of herbs and valerian root. Said table is (allegedly) irresistible to the little rodents. They nibble and then doze off, allowing you to take the box outside, and gently transfer the sleeping rodent to the garden.

I wanted to ask how humane they were if the sleeping, defenseless little critters were then afternoon snacks to the neighborhood’s semi-feral cats, and other predators. But I didn’t, because I now understand and agree completely that these traps are indeed humane.

As of today, not a single mouse has ventured into one.



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Autumn has a special scent in the air, a certain something that tells you, as a creature of this planet, that summer has waned and soon the winter winds will blow. The sky is a paler blue now, and the days have shortened. It’s a time for preparing for what’s to come, and finishing off projects begun in the spring.

It’s the time of the harvest.

The scent of autumn always calls to my nostalgic self. When I was a kid, autumn was the time of canning and homemade soup slowly simmering on the stove, of rosy cheeks from brisk walks.

I loved walking and did a lot of it. We lived in what, growing up, I considered an extremely rural community. There was a country store just a mile down the road, but the nearest town was about six miles away. As a teen, I routinely walked to town if I wanted to go to a movie, or go shopping. There was no public transportation, and my Mom’s taxi only went one way—my choice which way, but I figured I’d rather have the ride home at the end of my excursion.

Autumn was the time when school resumed—we always started our school year the day after Labor Day—and it was the time when, at least in my family, it was all hands on standby for that first frost warning.

My mother, you see, had a vegetable garden. Did you have one? Now, I need to tell you something about my mother’s garden—the one that became mine for a few years after she passed and we moved into that house.

This garden measured 25 feet wide by about 75 feet long. Each spring, one of the neighboring farmers came with his tractor to first plow and then disk this patch of earth for us.

By the way, we lived on top of the Niagara Escarpment, and the quarry (yes the one where my beloved still works) was just down the road, not even a quarter mile away. The significance of this fact is that every year, after the plowing and disking, the first chore of gardening was gathering all the new rocks that had come to the surface.

My mother grew tomatoes and peppers (mostly green peppers) green beans, yellow beans, and potatoes, cucumbers, squash, and corn. At my mother’s knee I learned not to plant the various varieties of squash too close together—especially the cucumbers and the watermelons—and to put the corn in the west end of the garden.

The most prolific of my mother’s crops were tomatoes, potatoes and cucumbers.

When the first frost warnings came—for the milder frosts—we had to go out and “cover” the plants still bearing fruit. This was an exercise that involved old bed sheets, opened paper bags, and those rocks we’d dug out in the spring. But then, the day would come, when mother would announce that it was time to harvest the garden.

She had a portable double-tub wash tub that we used inside for laundry but which also served as the washing station for the harvest. The tub would be hauled out; the hose would be employed; and the vessel filled with the coldest damn water you ever had your hands in.

I swear, that is my biggest memory, how cold my hands got scrubbing the potatoes and the cucumbers, especially. Yeah, there were such things as rubber gloves in those days, but there was no way in hell my mother would get those for me. And since I was the youngest—I would have been about 10 or 11 at the time—I couldn’t be expected to dig, or pick, or lift baskets and baskets full of produce. But I could wield a scrub brush like nobody’s business, and I did.

Potatoes were set to dry on a sheet spread out on the grass. They had to dry before you could store them. The cucumbers were set into baskets, having been sorted for size. Smaller ones became dills, medium ones, sweet pickles. The larger ones and I had a date later, because they needed to be sliced, the seeds culled out, and the left over veggie put through the grinder, as the first step of making green pickle relish.

Nothing went to waste; everything was used. What wasn’t canned or turned into a preserve, was frozen. Those scooped seeds were tossed into the compost pile out back. I never really understood when I was a child, but looking back from where I am now, I realize that garden fed us. As my mother at that point was a single mom, supporting three kids on a nurse’s salary that in the day was meager, that garden was a God-send.

If I ever get back to the country, you can be sure I will once more have a garden. Although it won’t be quite as ambitious a one as my mother owned.

And you can also be sure that when it comes time to harvest, I’ll corral my grandchildren. Some lessons are worth passing on.


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