Wednesday, November 27, 2013

November 27, 2013

I’m nothing special. I was given some talent to string words together, and I have been blessed to have this second career. I’ve worked for it, of course. It wasn’t just handed to me.

When I came out of the hospital on Christmas Eve in 2002 after my triple by-pass surgery, I was terrified that at the ripe young age of 48 I would be staring at decades ahead filled with nothing to do. Anyone who knows me, knows that it’s very rare for me to sit idle. I have to keep busy, keep doing. It’s just the way I’m wired.

I feel so very thankful for so many things. I thought I would share some of those things with you, as some of you are about to celebrate Thanksgiving.

With this new career I’ve embarked upon, has come new friends. I am so very grateful for the professional connections I have made. I’ve been a writer down to my toes all of my life. And all of my life, making friends was tough because I was such an odd duck. People didn’t get me and I sure as heck didn’t get them. I found women particularly mystifying. I’ve never liked to shop, fuss with hair or makeup, gossip about boys—or anything else for that matter. And shoes? They really don’t turn me on at all. I suppose that last really is a blessing because as crippled as I am with arthritis, I’m not missing out on anything by not having the latest fashion on my feet.

But now I have friends who understand me. Friends who know what I mean, because they have been there—artistically speaking. Just a few words exchanged via Skype in the middle of a busy day, and I am grounded, comforted and understood. I finally can say I have people in my life with whom I get to enjoy real a sense of belonging.

I’m grateful to have so very many readers—readers who are also friends! Nothing touches me more profoundly than when a reader reaches out, and sends me a few words via e-mail. I’m always very humbled when I read that my words have helped—whether they helped the reader with something in life, or gave them a sense of camaraderie, or just gave them a couple hours of escape from a hectic, difficult life. I can be pretty stoic most days, but when I read those messages from my readers, my heart fills with gratitude and quite often, my eyes fill with tears.

I grateful for my husband of nearly 42 years. Neither one of us, nor our marriage, is perfect. But we are still together, and still friends, and that’s something. My beloved is a good man. He’s overcome many challenges in his life. Most significantly I can say he is 31 years sober. I’m proud of him.

I’m grateful for my children, and my grandchildren and one great grandchild. Yes, we suffered the loss of our middle child, our second son. But we had him for 29 years, and I hold him in my heart, and see him in the two beautiful children he left behind.

I’m grateful to live in Canada, a country free from anarchy. I don’t go to bed at night and fear what may be hiding in the darkness. I don’t need to worry about whether or not bombs will fall, or soldiers will overrun my town.

Though I have had some health challenges, I’m still well enough to plan ahead. We none of us know how much time we have in this life, but I’m grateful for every sunrise I get. And do you know what? I like being grateful for every sunrise I get.

We all have much for which we can and should say thank you—not just on Thanksgiving, but on every day. I believe that an attitude of gratitude enriches us, bringing out the best and the fullest not only in us, but also in every moment, and every relationship.

Gratitude is like a little added dash of nutmeg to the eggnog of life.

On behalf of our entire family, Mr. Ashbury and I wish you all a very happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

November 20, 20113

Often life is a dance—a three-step, where you take two steps forward, then one step back. I’ve been trying to think how many people I have met in my life to date: I don’t have an exact number but I do know it’s in the thousands.

I’m still waiting to meet the person whose life is so charmed they have no crises or challenges or issues to deal with, ever.

I am a person who has had many of the above, and what I have learned is this. When we do have these crises, these challenges that spring seemingly from nowhere, there are almost always two things that can be said about them. The first is that they didn’t really spring from nowhere. If you look back far enough, you can see a root cause, an action taken or not taken that contributed to the situation you are now in. And the second is that every challenge is an opportunity in disguise. It’s an opportunity for you to grow as a person.

I can recall our being so broke that every single day began with the prayer, “Lord, please do not let anything go wrong today”. Fortunately for us, God’s answer most days was, “okay”. But there were a few, “no, you need this bump. There’s something I want you to learn.”

Last Thursday, when I was sitting at my computer, in the peace and quiet of an empty house, I noticed that the inside temperature wasn’t quite what it should be. I don’t mind donning a sweater, and I often do just that before I will ever turn up the thermostat. But on this occasion I looked at my thermostat. It was set pretty high, probably over 80, but the temperature inside registered just barely 65.

I couldn’t recall when the furnace had come on last, so I listened as I went back to my writing. I heard it come on, run for about a minute or so, and then go off. My first thought was that the thermostat wasn’t working right. And then, when I smelled a funny odor that reminded me of exhaust, I realized that maybe, there might be something else not right.

On Friday when I brought my husband home from the airport (his flight came in at 0630), we had breakfast and then a nap. The furnace came on and yes, that odor was still present. I asked David about it and he told me that he didn’t really know anything about the furnace. So when I got up again, I contacted the company from whom we bought the appliance. We rent our hot water heater from them, and have a service contract on the furnace, as well. It was late when I left the message.

The next morning I got a call from them asking me to open a window for cross ventilation, and telling me they were alerting the gas company. Good thing they did. I never thought about a carbon monoxide leak, because I know that gas is odorless; however, apparently sometimes when a furnace leaks that toxic material, there are other substances in the emission, too, and those substances stink. Again, lucky for us.

Also lucky for us, our house is nowhere near air tight.

The gas company turned off the furnace, and the repair man showed up. It took him a while but he discovered that the secondary heat exchanger was shot. The part had to be ordered, and so we would be without heat until Tuesday. Good news? We bought this furnace 10 years ago and major parts are covered under the 25 year warranty we had. Bad news? The labor isn’t covered, and that was going to run us over a thousand dollars.

Ouch. But unlike when we were starting out in life, saying that daily prayer, we’re a little smarter financially than we used to be. And while that chunk of change does hurt, it’s not panic time. And because it is not panic time, we don’t have the added stress of wondering how the hell we’re going to manage to pay that repair bill.

We could pay it, and we did, and as of 4 pm yesterday afternoon, the furnace is back at work, keeping us warm.

Another challenge faced and this time met successfully. But only because, in times past, some challenges that we faced, and struggled with, did not end in success, but in failure.

And we learned, and we grew.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November 13, 2013

Ah, home sweet home. As much as I loved being away—especially being down in Texas with my good friends the Rainiers, spending time with Bella Juarez, and meeting with my wonderful publisher—it’s good to be home, too.

Of course I missed my beloved, and we had a couple of really good days together—and then it was his turn to fly off.

As you read these words, he and our daughters—both the one I gave birth to, and the one I did not—are undoubtedly having a blast in Las Vegas.

The girls have never been to Nevada before, while this is my husband’s third time there. The other two times, of course, we went together – the first occasion was for our “honeymoon” which we took on our 17th anniversary. The second was related to his job. In 2002, not long before the family who’d owned the quarry where he works sold the business to a large corporation, they treated us both to a trip to Vegas, so he could attend the Con-Agg Expo, which is always held in that city. David really was thrilled to go to that, because he has always loved his line of work.

My beloved and the girls had a lot of plans for what they would do in the short time they would be in Vegas this week. Gambling wasn’t very high on their priority lists, either. The girls did want to visit at least one casino. If my beloved bets a dollar on anything, I’d be very surprised. He is absolutely not a gambler. Mostly, the three of them wanted to see a couple of shows, and take a tour out to Hoover Dam—and they were hoping to squeeze in a tour to the Grand Canyon, too.

Since they only took a short trip—they’ll be home Friday—I don’t know how much of what they have planned they’ll actually be able to accomplish. I did tell them if they felt like they were flagging they should go to a bar in one of the casinos and order a coffee. I don’t know if it is truth, or urban myth, but I had no trouble, both times I was there, believing that they do indeed oxygen into those gambling dens.

I feel like I’m experiencing a reprise of my own vacation, in a way, since I have the house all to myself until they return Well, all to myself except for the puppy and the cat. My husband said that while I was away in Texas for those ten days, both animals “acted out”. I wasn’t surprised to hear that, because they’re not used to being without someone in the house during the day. David still had to go to work, and poor Tuffy probably thought his life had taken a turn for the worst, having only the cat for company.

I’ll have to tell my husband, when I pick him up on Friday, that the animals were actually quite well behaved for me. But the truth is, life for them returned to normal. I’m home with them most days, so it must seem as if everything is as it should be, except for one thing: there’s been no daddy at night which means that for the puppy, no walk at night.

I had intended to walk Tuffy myself Tuesday night, as I thought it would be good for the both of us. He’s little and not capable of pulling on the leash hard enough to unbalance me, so I am able to walk him. The only challenge to my plan was the thin coating of ice that had formed on the stairs attached to our porch.

I have to go out later today and pick up some safety salt. This fall has found us woefully unprepared for the ice.

Right now, I’m in my office, shivering a little, about to put my electric fireplace on and grab another coffee. I can’t help but think about Texas, and how warm I was, comparatively speaking, just last week. And I feel I must assure all of my Texas friends that the dip in temperatures they were experiencing last night—down below freezing—was not my fault.

I’m almost positive that I packed the cold weather and brought it home with me when I returned!

My alter-ego has a new fan page on Face Book! Please take a moment and “like” Cara Covington:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November 6, 2013

I have to tell you that I really like Texas.

This is my fourth trip to the Lone Star State. I have always found the people here to be warm, welcoming, and very respectful.

Do you know, it takes some getting used to, having everyone—and I do mean everyone—calling me “ma’am”? I have always tended to address strangers I encounter as “sir” or ma’am”, because my mother may have been gone for more than three decades but her lessons live on. It’s something I do without thinking, and yes, I have received some strange looks in the course of my day to day life.

Here in Texas, the use of good manners is really quite common. But it’s more than that. I think it’s very natural to the people here to treat others with respect. I think it is ingrained. At least it has been with the people I’ve encountered.

Texas is a very logical place for me to visit. My publisher, Siren-Bookstrand, is in Texas—Austin, in fact. The writer with whom I collaborate on a cross-over book once a year is right here in Texas, too. Her name is Heather Rainier, author of the wildly successful Divine Creek Ranch series, and she is in the San Antonio area, which is where I am staying. And the series I am writing under my other pen name, Cara Covington—The Lusty, Texas Collection—is, of course, set in Texas.

This isn’t a vacation, it’s an extended retreat. There’s nothing, in my world that comes close to the joy of being in a room, face to face with a fellow author. There’s nothing that beats digging our fingers and toes into the fertile soil of our imaginations, and seeing what we can grow in it, individually and together.

Bouncing ideas off each other, Heather and I often experience what we’ve dubbed “unimind”. Other times, one will have the first part of a plot twist, and the other will have the second part. We make a good team—we really do.

I was also thrilled to get to meet and spend time with another Siren author, Bella Juarez. Her Black Ops Brotherhood series, which draws on her own military expertise, is not to be missed. We spent the day together yesterday writing and talking about writing. That was great.

I also had the opportunity to spend time with my publisher, and to meet the editorial staff at Siren. It was wonderful being in the same place with so many talented people. I don’t have enough words to tell you how deeply I respect these people—or how much I love my publisher!

The weather here has been pretty warm, for the most part. There was one evening we were out, having dinner, that when we stepped outside to leave, everyone was shivering…the thermometer had dropped to 56 degrees! It was cool, but I can tell you if we get some days back home up to 56 in January I am like as not to go outside without a jacket on.

It may come as no surprise to any of you that I pen these essays ahead of Wednesday – usually. So as you are reading these words, my friend Heather and I should be getting ready to go out and about, touring some of the surrounding area. I’m going to take some pictures and shamelessly play the tourist as I look for a few souvenirs to take home to my loved ones.

I’m going to get myself something, too. Primarily, I want to get me a cowgirl hat. Yes I could easily by one at home, but I want a genuine TEXAS cowgirl hat.

I had a cowgirl hat, black felt, which I had purchased a few years ago, long before I was ever published, but I made the mistake of allowing children to play with it. When it comes to the children I have a very hard time saying no. Alas that hat is but a memory.

In the meantime, until we head out touring and shopping, I’m at my keyboard, working hard. There’s a breakfast room in this hotel just down the hall from my room. The morning meal is complimentary. The coffee, tea, hot water, and juice are available all day—and all night, too.

Sunday morning found that room very busy. I imagine that a lot of people were heading home after spending a long weekend here. I got chatting with one woman, and when she found out I was visiting from Canada, she gave me a hug! She said, “We’re all so pleased that you are here!”

Do you know that hug uplifted me and stayed with me all the rest of that day, as did her kind words and sweet smile?

Like I said, I really like Texas.