Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 31, 2013

What a strange summer we’re having this year! The weather here has gone from chilly to hot and back again. Today is the last day of July, which seems incredible to me. I really think that as we get older, how we notice the world around us changes. We march to our own rhythm, and in some ways our focus turns inward—but not really in a selfish way. Things in the outside world that when we were younger seemed so vital to us just aren’t that important anymore.

Sometimes I think that I’m living in a different reality than other people are. The days don’t mean the same thing to me as they used to. Yes, every one of them is precious, but their value to me is different than it used to be. Now, the days are not governed by the time on the clock and what I can get for myself in the hours provided, so much as they are defined by my activities, my thoughts and tasks, my goals and mostly, my relationships with other people.

I’ve been staying up later than I ever have before—now that I am fully freed from having to drive my beloved to work, I’m slowly coming to the realization that I don’t have to live by the clock the way I used to.

It’s been kind of slow evolution for me, though, and while I know that burning the midnight oil has been a choice I’ve made, I’m really not sure I like it.

I may stay up until two in the morning, but then I feel really guilty if I sleep in until nine, or nine-thirty. I feel like I’m standing with a foot in each world—the world of the night owl and the world of the early riser. It’s uncomfortable, to say the least, because those worlds are drifting apart and I am way passed the age when I can comfortably do the splits.

Life is going to change even more for us over the next five years, as my beloved approaches his retirement. Friends, I worry about that, I really do. I don’t worry so much about a change in our income. We’re very blessed that way. Our house is paid for, we live frugally, and we both have retirement savings accounts. Added to those blessings, I am doing something that I not only love but that earns me a living, and it’s something I can conceivably continue to do until I die—the Good Lord willing and the river don’t rise.

No, I worry about what life is going to be like when we are here, together. Every day. Week after week, month after month, and year after year after year. Just the two of us, and the puppy and the cat.

Seriously, I worry about this. I’ve seen my beloved with two days off every week, and I know how he tends to spend those days. I shudder to think of him with nothing but time.

He tells me I don’t have anything to worry about. I’m going to pray that’s so. I do know that like me, he believes that when one retires, one needs to keep busy. People who retire from active jobs, who then do nothing day in and day out but sit on their bottoms watching television and going for naps, don’t tend to live very long. David has long wanted to restore old farm equipment—or old cars, he hasn’t decided which he wants to do the most. Hopefully, we’ll be able to have the facility for him to follow that dream. Our goal is to buy another house before he retires, one that has an outbuilding he can use as a “shop” to work in.

We don’t need or even want fancy, we just need something that will work for us. This house with its upstairs and its laundry room in the basement and its river-terraced yard really does not work for us anymore. Or more specifically, it doesn’t work for me.

  I always knew that life was supposed to slow down as we got older. I’m not certain I understood beforehand that this slowing down would be accompanied by a filter that would weave itself between me and the rest of the world.

But at least now I understand the serene, slightly unfocused expressions I used to notice on the faces of the old people, sitting quietly on park benches, as they watched the world go by.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 24, 2013

Recent events have got me thinking about something that, believe it or not, I don’t really think about all time: professional behavior.

A lot of people associate that phrase, “professional behavior” with how you behave in an office environment—or while at work in retail, or the teaching or medical professions.

However, “professional behavior” is an ideal to strive toward regardless of whether one works in an office or store or school or hospital, or if one works for oneself in any capacity—say, a small plumbing business fixing toilets, or even as an author.

What is professional behavior? I went looking online for a really good definition, because how I perceive that characteristic—at least right now as I am writing this, in a far from objective frame of mind—may in fact be colored by that very bias to which I have just confessed.

I don’t often quote others in these essays, but I came across some excellent words written by someone else. The website where I found those words is here: and you can click on that link or copy and paste the url into your browser and read the entire not very long article. The author is credited as being Lynda Moultry Belcher. Here is what it says on that site about Ms. Moultry-Belcher: Lynda Moultry Belcher is a writer, editor and public relations professional. She worked for a daily newspaper for 10 years and has been a freelance writer for more than 15 years. She has contributed to Divorce360 and Revolution Health Group, among other publications. She is also the author of "101 Plus-Size Women's Clothing Tips" and writes "Style At Any Size," a bi-weekly newspaper column.
This author indeed bears the necessary credentials to have a few words to say on the subject of professional behavior. The section of the article that caught my eye reads as follows:

“It is important to remain professional at all times when engaged in a business environment, whether for a company or your own business. Being professional not only lets people know you are a reputable person to work with, but also conveys intelligence and poise regarding your position. People who are professional are unfailingly polite, courteous and well-spoken, no matter what the situation. Being professional means you keep your cool and remain calm under any circumstances. No matter how upset a co-worker or customer makes you, you don't react; you deal with the situation rationally and calmly. Not everyone places an emphasis on professional behavior. When this happens, it's important that you still remain businesslike and not react to this adverse behavior. Instead, remain professional, no matter what the behavior is of those around you.”

I believe that this is sound advice, and applies to all people who make their living from the good graces of other people. That includes writers, don’t you think?

My personal take is that it not only includes us, we’re a group that should be particularly mindful of the way we are perceived by our peers, our contracted professional associates, and our readers.

I am a logical person, even though I am an author of erotic romance. I could wave the “artiste” flag, I suppose. There are those who would say that after having published 32 books, with the 33rd being in the hands of my publisher, I’m entitled to be a bit of a diva.

But I never believed that having talent, or being published, or having an audience excused bad manners, or tacky actions or rudeness of any kind.

I therefore have some advice to those who need it. I will even give that advice in a way that’s plain, and simple, and logical: Words of edification will never come back and bite you in the ass.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

July 17, 2013

This past Sunday, my husband and I celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary. We didn’t do anything different, or special that day—except we did exchange cards. Then I made him his usual Sunday breakfast while he watched Meet the Press. Afterwards, he turned off the television and headed out to paint his shed.

I washed the dishes and then headed to my keyboard. I’ve just submitted one novel, and have been working hard on the next one.

There were no fireworks, no flowers, no dinners out. Perhaps for some couples, every anniversary is a big deal. I learned long ago that my beloved doesn’t think that way, and really, that’s okay. We did have a huge dinner last year with relatives and friends, and we likely may have a bit of a to-do in nine more years.

This time, though, I think I’ll leave the planning of that event up to my family.

Sometimes, people will ask me how you make a marriage last for so many years. There have been various answers I have given from time to time. I won’t lie to you. Sometimes, if I know the person asking the question really well, I will chose a specific answer I think they need to hear. There really is a lot of work that goes into maintaining a marriage. There is no one magic bullet that will guarantee success. And whatever I do say in response to the question is always true.

Just recently I heard, for the first time, a song by Lee Brice called Love Like Crazy, and the words to that are spot on, too.

But really, I suppose, the best answer I can give to that question—how do you make a marriage last for so long—the most all encompassing answer I can give is quite simple and can be summed up in just two words: don’t quit.

I don’t know how it came to be that quitting seems to be something people do often and well these days. But quitting—unless you’re stopping a bad habit—is nothing more than capitulation. It’s saying “uncle” to whatever it is you’re walking away from. It’s saying that what you have been involved in is too difficult, too complicated, or too much effort for you. That what you’re walking away from is not worth the difficulty, complications or effort.

Quitting, unless it is quitting a bad habit, is in itself the worst habit you can have.

When you first get engaged, and then get married, you’re in a bit of an euphoric state, I think. Everything about your beloved seems wondrous and magical. And then, for most people, as the days and weeks and months and years progress, your relationship changes. Life happens. You have work and worry. You have challenges and crises. You have children! They bring with them a whole boat load of love and a whole new set of problems and pitfalls.

Sometimes, you suffer devastating losses.

You get older and more tired, your youthful glow becomes a middle-aged pallor, and you don’t always hear the violins anymore when you kiss.

In short, life happens, and life molds you, and it molds your love as well.

If you’re lucky, your love adapts and perseveres, maybe not being the candlelight and roses it was at the beginning of your relationship, but becoming what you need it to be, that bond that unites you as two who are one, steadfast together in the company of others. Fearless in the face of fickle fate because you have that one hand to cling to.

But that evolution won’t happen if you quit. So my advice to you, no matter how long you’ve been married, or what challenges you’re facing, is don’t quit.

Diamonds only become diamonds after enduring tremendous pressures without fracturing. Diamond wedding anniversaries are formed exactly the same way.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July 10, 2013

My beloved’s week off of work went by very quickly—for the both of us. I am delighted that he managed to keep himself busy without having to seek me out every half hour or so, as he has done in the past. Not only that, I’m doubly delighted that he finished every item on his “honey do” list.

Well, practically. He needs to paint the shed he built, but the last few days before he went back to work turned out to be very wet. The weather forecast is calling for the rain to be done by tomorrow. By next weekend, we’re hoping, the new structure will be dry enough for him to apply some resin paint to it.

He actually quite enjoyed the act of constructing the shed. Before the company that owns the quarry where he works bought it from the family that used to own it, he used to be responsible for designing and building different pieces of equipment. Of course, that construction was done with steel and an arc welder, as opposed to wood and nails. But the sense of creation is the same, as is the pride of accomplishment.

I know he’s missed that these last few years. Now of course, as his working career is winding down, he is no longer expected to perform the heavy, physically taxing work he used to do. Now, he drives a very big truck for most of the day.

We kicked off his vacation week by enjoying a Sunday out, on the 30th, as we attended a house party to celebrate Canada Day. Our puppy was also invited to this event, which served as Tuffy’s debut in society, as it were. He was the most well behaved puppy, ever. Everyone fell in love with him, with a few people telling us that if we ever got tired of him, why, they would be ever so happy to take him off our hands.

You can probably imagine Mr. Ashbury’s response to those offers. That’s right, two words: not happening.

We did purchase a puppy carrier for the inside of the car, something safe for the puppy to travel in. He hasn’t liked car rides very much at all so far, and that is unfortunate, as we had hoped to be able to bring him with us when we travel to Pennsylvania in September.

The woman who was our hostess at the house party works with animals, and she suggested just taking him for small car rides on a regular basis. We began to implement that plan on Monday of last week. We’ve had some success. Tuffy has discovered that car rides can, in fact, be fun. He likes to have his face in the wind.

On this past Sunday, when it was time to head out to get groceries, Tuffy decided that he would not be left behind. Pennsylvania for him in the fall is looking distinctly possible.

Now that my beloved has returned to work, I’m hoping that I can return to my normal routines as well. I manage a regimen of housework mixed with writing most days that gives me a two-pronged sense of accomplishment. When I have weeks that require me to go out of the house more than a couple of times, I get annoyed. Even if the “going out” is to my benefit, I have found that in the last year or two, especially, I prefer my routines, and my house—and my solitude.

I’ve been told that I am in danger of becoming a hermit. I know that isn’t precisely so because I continue to have my characters for company, as well as my wonderful, online community of readers.

Now my husband has returned to work and they, and the dog and the cat, are mostly the only company I have. But my beloved has reminded me that I won’t have to suffer thusly for too long.

He’ll have another seven days off in just three weeks time.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

July 3, 2013

Ah yes, summertime!

The time of humidity indices, kids out of school, and perhaps, to some, that most feared of all occurrences: the husband’s week off of work. Now mostly that’s nothing to be concerned about for us, as in the Ashbury household, the husband in question nearly always insists on going somewhere and doing something.

Did you notice the qualifier, ‘nearly always’?

We booked this week originally to be the week we would head to Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Aside from visiting our good friends, this trip for me is a week of research and discovery. I have a couple of novels—romantic suspense, not erotic romance—planned that are to be set in this area. So I use my trips wisely, getting to know the flora, the fauna, where not to step because of occasional subsidence [it’s coal country], and of course, the people.

However, our good friend, instead of retiring from his position with the Pennsylvania Capitol Police Force on June 30th, discovered he qualified to do so mid-May, and so he did. He’s now begun a part time position as a cop on a local force, and wanted to get his first three months in before taking any time off. So we’ll head down to Pennsylvania in September, which is going to make a busy autumn for me, as I will also be going to Texas in October.

In the mean time, yep, you got it. One week. Just the two of us. Right here at home. The dreaded family staycation.

I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I am not on vacation. I have work to do. I have a manuscript to finish polishing and then turn in and another to start.

My beloved on the other hand has...a project planned. Fresh from the success of his replacement of the kitchen floor, he came up with several things he wanted to do this week, including building himself a storage shed for the back yard.

He reminded me of a kid with Christmas Cash from Auntie May as his week off neared. Surely one week was long enough to do more than that one project? He’d be walking around the house saying, “I want to do this, and I want to fix that.” I—being me—had to say, “Well whatever the heck you do don’t forget the other thing!”

My beloved surprised me by nodding his head and then he asked me to make him a “honey-do” list.

Friends, I have never—not once, ever—in our soon to be 41 years together dared to create such a document.

Why not? A lot of reasons, I suppose but the chief one may surprise you.

I had a good friend, now with the Lord, who was a teacher, which meant he would have some time off every summer. He wasn’t a young man, really, in his forties at the time that we became friends. Yet every end of June saw him receive a comprehensive list from his wife, such as (in my mind) one might give a teenager to assure they stay busy and out of trouble all summer.

One of the tenets to which I attribute having achieved 41 years together is: thou shalt not command thy spouse to do anything.

I was appalled at my friend’s list and would never presume to create one on my own for my own husband.

But I wanted to be congenial and I was amenable to the concept, as long as it was something my husband wanted me to do. So, being a smart wife, I opened a new word document and asked, “What do you want me to put on this list for you?”

He dictated, and then asked me if I could think of anything he’d forgotten. This was as safe a way as I ever could have imagined of reminding my beloved that he had yet to buy and install the tracks, thus finishing the kitchen floor at the doorways.

Our second daughter stopped by this past Saturday, and said to Mr. Ashbury, “you’re on vacation! That’s great, good for you. Any plans?”

He immediately held up the document I had created, at his request, and said, “Look! Look what she did! She gave me a ‘honey-do’ list!”

I knew the truth right then and there. It was going to be a very long week.