Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 30, 2013

My oldest grandson turned 21 on Monday. 21! Never mind that I really don’t feel old enough to be the grandmother of a 21 year old man. And never mind that another of my grandsons—my eighteen year old—is going to be a father himself this summer, making me a great-grandmother. The thought that has dominated as I think about this milestone is that time has moved way too fast for me.

It’s like I’ve just blinked my eyes and little Nick has gone from being a babe-in-arms to a very buff, good looking man. He’s in his final semester in college, studying police foundations, security and investigations but isn’t one hundred per cent sure what he’s going to do when he graduates. There are many options open him, including one that could see him joining one of the area police forces. He’s also into fitness in a major way and was thinking of pursuing something in that field. I look forward to learning of his choice, confident that whatever he chooses to do, he’ll be successful.

Being a grandmother is the best role I’ve ever had, period. And I’m really experiencing it in several different forms. With my eldest’s family, I’ve been a granny whom they see regularly, but not all the time. I’m not really involved in the day-to-day of their lives, and never really have been. Not for lack of interest or desire to be on my part; but bowing to the constraints of time, and distance, and the pure fact in life that sons tend not to come home as often as daughters do.

Old sayings become old sayings because they contain truth. “A son’s a son till he takes a wife; a daughter’s a daughter for all of her life.” That is the way it seems to be in our western culture. I’ve seen it with friends, and relatives, and it’ so in my own particular experience. Our son’s family spends more time with his wife’s people, and have from the first.

Our second daughter, who is the mother of my late son’s children, is very much a daughter in that tradition to us. We have those two children here a lot, providing the backup primary care-giving she needs to be able to go to work—she’s a nurse—at an area hospital. Nurses, as you may know, often work 12 hour shifts. So if she’s working days, we have the children here after school and for dinner; and if she’s working nights, we have them overnight, and I get them up and going for school the next day.

Our daughter and her one child—my 18 year old grandson—lived with us for a time, while she went to college and became a registered PSW (nurse’s aide). Even when they weren’t living with us, we saw them a lot. A week barely went by when we weren’t together for at least a few hours. Now, of course, she’s here nearly every day. And while her son has his own life he’s around quite often, too.

It’s interesting, this life I lead, getting to see the different family dynamics of my children with their children, observing the similarities and the differences between them, and comparing that to how things were in this family when my own kids were all still at home.

The truth is, though, they are all growing up very quickly, and changing, and becoming their own people.

My son, my daughter, and my second daughter are all better at parenting than I ever was. When I look back, I see too many times when I was too busy; I worked outside the home because I had to, and I never seemed to have the energy or patience that in hindsight I would have liked to have had. I don’t beat myself up over this. I did the best I could at that time, and in those circumstances. I just wish things might have been a little different for us—that the stresses of occasional unemployment and uncertain times might have been less.

I really wish I’d not let time slip, unawares, through my fingers.

I hope those of you who have younger children will take the time to appreciate your young ones, even when you feel driven to distraction by the work of life. “Taking time to smell the roses” is another old saying, and one we should all take to heart.

I promise you, they’ll be grown and gone in the blink of an eye. And you’ll be left to wonder how that all could have happened so very quickly.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23, 2012

There can be no doubt whatsoever that we’re smack dab in the heart of winter. Extreme cold has blanketed much of not just where I am, but a good portion of the United States west and mid-west this past week, too. It promises to continue for at least another week.

When I consult a weather service online and see that the current temperature, with the “wind chill” factored in is sitting at minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit, I swear, even my shivers shiver.

I grew up learning weights and measures through the Imperial system, with inches and feet, ounces and pounds, pints and quarts and temperatures in Fahrenheit. While I was still in school our Prime Minister, Pierre Eliot Trudeau, decreed that we would switch to the “metric” system. This “metric conversion” was quite the controversy in its day, prompting all sorts of general grumbles of protest and snarky one liners. My personal favorite: can anyone tell me the metric equivalent for ‘crock’?

I’m afraid I don’t much care for the use of metric. When I see the temperature listed in degrees Centigrade I still have to do the math in my head to convert to Fahrenheit to know how cold or hot it really is. Now that I have a fair bit of white hair showing, I figure I can get away with ordering a pound of bologna at the meat counter, instead of a half a kilogram, without feeling guilty.

It’s a testament to Canadian stubbornness that 43 years after metrification became the law of the land here, no one at any meat counter blinks at giving you pounds or ounces instead of grams or kilograms—not even the young staff members who have in their lifetime never used anything but metric measurements.

I understand the imperial measures better. They’re automatic to me. I know exactly how cold it is outside when I see “feels like” minus fifteen. I don’t have to convert, I just have to shiver and stay indoors.

We are, at this moment, just ten days away from Groundhog Day. Yes, that wonderful non-holiday holiday we’ve celebrated for years as the day when there is light at the end of our (imperial or metric) winter tunnels. I have to be honest and tell you, I’m not feeling as sick of winter as I used to at this point in the year, simply because while we still get these arctic blasts, winter simply isn’t as toll-taking as it used to be.

Then, too, it’s really easy to ignore the weather if you don’t go out into it very much. As you know, I no longer have that daily trek of a hundred miles all told to take Mr. Ashbury to work and pick him up again. At present, I’m only making the drive to bring him home on Tuesday afternoons.

It’s very easy to pretend the winter doesn’t exist when you stay inside most of the time.

We’re not taking any mid-winter vacations this year to escape the wintery state, either. Last year we were blessed to be able to fly to the Bahamas in February. This year, wonder of wonders, Mr. Ashbury has decided we should, perhaps, show a little restraint when it comes to “getting away from it all”. He actually admitted to me that maybe, just maybe, we had a few too many trips last year.

He had one more than I did, but I’m still reeling from the surprise that he would say such a thing. I didn’t ask him if he was feeling all right. I’m smarter than that. I just nodded my head and told him that he was right.

Of course the day is coming when we will have to consider the possibility of an annual migration away from Canadian winters. When Mr. Ashbury retires, and when our two youngest grandchildren are old enough they no longer need us to care for them while their mother is at work, we’ll likely become what our American neighbors call snowbirds.

It only remains for us to decide, whether we’ll choose one place to go to each year, or if we’ll try different locales with each winter solstice.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January 16, 2013

For the past few years, it seems to me, our winters have changed dramatically. Oh, we still get cold weather, and a lot of it. Sometimes it is brutally cold. We still get snow—we had a dumping here on December 26th, the first real snowfall of the year. It continued to snow off and on for a week, and we ended up with about four to six inches, all told. But the winters are not like they used to be when I was younger—even when I was a young mother.

Used to be the snow would begin anytime after October first, and wouldn’t be gone until mid March, and sometimes April or May. There was a reason why you never, ever planted your garden before May 24th around here, and that was it.

In years past, if in the middle of January, all of the snow melted so that there was not a speck of it on the ground—like it did this past weekend—well that would have been an extraordinary thing, indeed.

But that very phenomenon seems to be the norm for the last few years or more here in my part of Canada.

I remember having enough snow in the yard, when I was a kid, to build an enormous fort with tunnels (no one ever told me that was dangerous). My older brother had to help me with stacking the “bricks”, the fort was so tall. I also recall sitting in the front seat of our car and marveling that you could not see over the snow piled up on the side of the road by the snowplows as you traveled down the road.

It was that way my second year of marriage, too, the year when we moved back out to the country from the city.

When my oldest was ten, I built an ice rink in our side yard. I took an hour or so every day for a week, spraying the area with the garden hose, which I had to then take into the house immediately after so it wouldn’t freeze. That rink lasted until the end of April!

With my own senses I know that the weather is changing; it’s different than it was. I cannot say with scientific certainty that this means global warming is real. I can’t because I am not a scientist, but I know it is true, nonetheless.

I understand, really I do, why so many politicians and officials fight this idea that we’re in deep kaka with Mother Nature. They have their own interests, their own agendas, and they cannot grasp that anything could possibly interfere with those things.

Businesses don’t want to acknowledge the change that is happening or admit culpability because it would cost them money; so they make sizeable contributions to political campaigns instead to ensure that nothing gets done, no new regulations get passed, and so they don’t have to spend more of their profits to fix the problem.

In the meantime, the damage we’ve done to the environment gets exacerbated every year. Eventually we will come to a tipping point. And then, these industrialists and nabobs will lose their profits anyway because there will be no one to buy their products.

There are things in this world that are infinite—like love and hope—but our resources, and our atmosphere are not. I personally believe that already there are holes in the ozone layer far more devastating than “they” want us to know about.

The sad part is that if everyone did what they could, if everyone did something, this damage could be reversed. We humans have so very much in our power in our hands; we have no idea! Together, there really is very little we cannot do.

But that’s the sticking point. We have to do these things together.

I don’t pretend to have any answers. Social awareness seems to be an ebb and flow kind of thing. Just when you think the collective consciousness is waking up, someone slips it a Mickey Finn and it falls comatose again.

But I worry about this on many fronts, not the least of which is our accountability to the Lord. We are not being very good stewards of the planet God gave us.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

January 9, 2013

I suppose we’re already heading toward the time of year known as the winter doldrums. I can understand completely how this might be so already. I don’t know about the rest of you but it seemed to me we barreled into Christmas at the speed of light, hit it full force, and then landed on our butts shaking our heads in an effort to stop seeing stars.

I’m still trying to recover from the impact.

This particular holiday time is for most of us, when you think about it, far more than the two or three actual “holidays” celebrated. In the Ashbury household, as you know, the “break” lasted 19 days. For many of you with school aged children, the break would have lasted around two weeks or so.

I think this is one of the reasons we hit the “doldrums”. No, not because there are children afoot; but because our daily routines come grinding to a halt. You’ve probably heard of that old saying that states: a body in motion stays in motion. Actually it’s a common way of expressing Newton’s First Law of motion, and man, did Sir Isaac ever know what he was talking about!

We have our routines which, whether we are aware of it or not, we have refined down to an exact science. Hell, some of us who drive the same route to work every day even know where not to take a sip from our take-out coffee cups, because if we do we’ll slop, and that knowledge is for the most part subconscious.

So we’re fine and going along, tickety-boo, and then everything comes to a screeching halt for the holidays. Suddenly we have time on our hands and a question we never have to ask any other time of the year: now what the hell do I do?

See, we prepare for Christmas, buy the gifts, make the plans, etc., for one or two of those 14 or 16 days we have at our disposal, but we sure don’t plan ahead for the rest of them.

So there we are, stuck in the midst of winter, children home, and nothing structured to do.

The second reason we tend to fall into the doldrums, of course, is the reduction in sunlight we experience from November through to March. We forget that the human body needs sunlight as much as do the plants and flowers in our world. Not only are the daylight hours restricted this time of year, but we seem to have way more cloudy days in the late fall and winter than we do in the other seasons. Where it is cold (like here in Canada) and we do get a sunny day, we tend to stay indoors because—well, because it is cold.

I am particularly affected by this lack of sunlight, and was surprised a few years ago when I heard it actually had a name: Seasonal Affective Disorder. It happens to me every year and every year I say to myself, oh yeah, I meant to look into getting one of those special lights that are supposed to help. But then, of course, the SAD season goes away and I forget all about that light, until I need it again the next year.

For any of you who’ve wondered, yes, procrastination is indeed my middle name.

I keep meaning to get more organized, too, so that when the Christmas break arrives, I’m ready for it. I often think it would be nice to have everything arranged ahead—and then, as Christmas and New Years become a dim memory, I could slip into a brand new schedule, I could know with confidence that I can put my best foot forward every day, in a perfect balance of nutrition, and exercise, and with a schedule that would assure me that my every moment will count for something.

Yeah, right.

Now you know why I never make New Year’s resolutions.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January 2, 2013

As many of you may have guessed, I usually pen these essays a few days in advance of Wednesday. That’s because I don’t always know what I want to say, or what I’m going to say and it sometimes takes me a while to come up with just the right topic. But sometimes, writing them ahead is a good thing in and of itself. Sometimes writing the essay allows my mind to go to a happy, happy place. Well, for a little while, at least.

Such is certainly the case with this particular essay which I wrote last Saturday.

If all has gone according to plan then, as you read these words, my beloved will be at his place of joyful employment. Please don’t misunderstand, or worry: There is no doubt of his having a job—thankfully he still has the same job as he’s had these past 35 or 36 years.

This is just me, writing while he is still HERE and not THERE and counting down the days that are left.

To his credit, during these past two weeks while he has been home with me every single day, he did not hang over my shoulder and pounce back and forth like an Odie dog on drugs (as he has in the past), asking, “Whatcha doin’? Wanna do something? Wanna go somewhere? Do ya? Do ya?”

In fact he hasn’t really done much of anything at all, unless you count keeping his chair from defying gravity as “something”.

My husband has many fine qualities and y’all know he’s the love of my life. I suppose there really is only one person to be blamed, here, for the situation in which I find myself, and that is me.

I have spoiled my husband instead of kicking his ashes and making him do stuff around the house, all these years. Now, he told me before he began this two week time off that he intended to help out and “do stuff”. In fact, he told me I need only focus on my writing and making dinners, and he would do the rest.

So you see, the problem isn’t that he’s unwilling to “do stuff”. The larger problem is he doesn’t see the stuff that needs to be done.

He doesn’t see the clutter on the coffee table, the scatter of clothes (his, of course) around the living room, the empty coffee cup from the day before (also his) sitting in the humongous flower pot belonging to the yucca, or the high density of lint and fluff and debris on the living room carpet.

He doesn’t see that the bed is askew, with the sheet and duvet half on the floor. He doesn’t see his pile of laundry on the floor on his side the bed that is blocking the heat vent.

He doesn’t see the clutter on the bathroom counter, or that the bathroom mat needs shaking out or the fact that the sink could use a good cleaning.

He doesn’t see the dishes piling up all over the damn place, or that the kitchen garbage needs to be emptied. In fact, he can jam stuff in there, be unable to close the lid, and still not see that!

He doesn’t see any of the dozens of things needing to be done, at all. And he knows he doesn’t see any of them.

His first day off from work, (December 14th!) he promised me that he would be the “house bitch”. That is to say, he promised that all I would have to do was cook (he hates that and I would never dream of asking it of him). Come to think of it, my daughter also promised to have him over to her house for a day or two so he could do things for her as well—and she didn’t follow through, either.

But I’ve learned something important these past two weeks. I now know exactly what Mr. Ashbury thinks of what’s involved in being the “house bitch”, my traditional role: he thinks I do only one task a day!

It’s true! Following his directives to “tell me what needs to be done because I can’t see it,” he dutifully does whatever I point out to him—vacuuming, dishes, whatever. [I must here admit that he has on about three occasions actually vacuumed or swept a floor without my urging. A miracle!]

Then, after that first task is done, I say to him: would you please do this (fill in the blank). He looks at me, his eyes wide and filled with shock, and though he does not say it aloud I know he is thinking, “But I already vacuumed!”

I’ve not yet tried to suggest a third task to him, as clearly, this might prove to be too much for the old dear.

Yes, Mr. Ashbury is a very spoiled man, and if all has gone as I have prayed, then he is at this moment, as you read these very words, THERE and not HERE.

And I’m spoiled too, because I like having my house to myself. I like my routine of multitasking each day [performing a combination of writing and numerous housekeeping chores around the house] in a rhythm that is peaceful, solitary and mine.

But friends? The experience of these past two weeks does not bode well for Mr. Ashbury’s eventual retirement from the work-a-day world. No, it doesn’t bode well at all.