Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March 26, 2014

Well, I’ve gone and done it again. I’ve begun to do something that at one time I promised myself I would never, ever do. I’ve turned into one of those older folks who will frequently preface their comments with, “you know, back in my day...”

Friends, this isn’t the first time I’ve broken a promise to myself, either. I have to confess, because the burden is weighing heavy on my heart. My mother was not what you’d call a touchy-feely kind of woman. No, she was more the kind who believed that one had children because indentured servitude was so passé. She would forever be assigning tasks for me to do. Now, on this side of age the equation I can truthfully say that’s definitely not a bad thing at all. But back then when I would ask (and when I was a kid I almost always asked), “why do I have to do that?” her answer inevitably would be, “why should I keep a dog and bark myself?”

At the time, I thought that was a horrible thing to say to your child. I promised myself many times that I would never, ever say such a thing to my children. Yeah, I know, please don’t laugh. It’s truly sad, that the first time I felt totally frustrated by a recalcitrant child who mouthed that very same well-known question? You guessed it, my mother’s words came right out of my mouth without even asking my permission first!

I think it’s a part of living that’s universal. Certain words and phrases and habits become ingrained in us early in life, and we can’t help but repeat those patterns over again as we get older.

Some, however, I have broken. And maybe it’s a clue for me the ones I did break, were really the worst of the lot.

My father died when I was eight and a half years old. He was the love of my mother’s life. She followed him just thirteen years later. And in the time she was a widow, she never once even looked at another man. In 1963, the year my father passed, we hadn’t arrived at the welfare state yet. People still did for themselves or did without. We hadn’t reached a stage, either, where we insured ourselves out the wazoo for every conceivable eventuality. Mortgages weren’t life insured in those days as a matter of course, and my parents’ mortgage certainly wasn’t. There was enough money in my father’s estate from his modest life insurance to pay for his funeral, and that was about it.

Because I know the kind of person my mother was, the weight of responsibility she felt at suddenly being the sole provider for the three of us was a heavy burden for her. Her job had to come first, in her mind, because that was the means to take care of us all. As a nearly 60 year old woman, I can certainly understand that. But as the youngest in the family at the time, a little girl who was bereft of her daddy, I didn’t understand it at all. She rarely told me she loved me, and even more rare were the outward signs of affection that I would receive from her, like hugs.

As a teenager going through the inevitable season of angst, I once wailed out my deepest sorrow: “I just feel that you don’t even love me!” My mother’s response? “If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t put a roof over your head.”

Like I said, some patterns were not repeated by me as a parent. Not a day went by, when my children were in my care, that I didn’t hug them and tell them that I loved them.

Also, I grew up more than a little afraid of my mother. I can tell you that while that fear kept me in line, it also kept me insecure and frightened. Again, that pattern ended with me as a child. I might have been a little too lenient with my own kids—but to me that was a far preferable reality to the alternative.

You know, back in my day, they used to say “spare the rod and spoil the child”. And while I can relate to that tenet, especially in this day of permissiveness into which this current generation seems to have fallen, there is a negative result to that creed as well.

And I’m not sure at all that the positive affects justify the negative. That pendulum keeps swinging between leniency and discipline, but what we really need is to try to find the balance that my day, and this day, both seem to lack.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

March 19, 2014

I admit it. I could very well be addicted to this computer, and not all of it is about writing stories. I use Face Book, and I play games. I’m probably on FB more often than I should be, but I can justify the pastime, for the most part. Primarily, I use that particular social media tool to keep in touch with my readers, and for promotion. Beyond promotional purposes, I read other people’s comments far more often than I post comments of my own. I’m a lurker, a silent witness to the trials and tribulations that others are willing for me to know about (I figure they must be if they make those comments in the first place). I don’t mean for that to sound cynical. In truth, the openness of others is a particular blessing. Reading what people are willing to share is a means of understanding what people are thinking about, what they’re experiencing, and what’s important to them.

When I first became a published author, I joined the social media site of the day, My Space. I tried to use My Space, but I found it confusing. I consider myself a reasonably smart woman, but there is this invisible shield between myself and certain technological applications, and unfortunately, My Space is one of them. As is Photo Shop, and my most recent attempt (and fail) to be savvy, Tumblr.

Despite my being challenged by them, by and large, I think all of these innovations—not just Face Book and other social media sites, but the very heart of it all—the Internet itself—as being a tremendous advantage to people who are curious about other people, and most especially, to those who are mobility challenged.

When I first went “online” I mostly did what a lot of people in the beginning did with their computers. I played games. There’re several “game” sites on the web that are free. My daughter showed me one, and it had bingo! It didn’t take me long to form this new habit.

This particular site that I frequent had “chat rooms”. At the time, I was still recovering from my triple by-pass surgery. I was practically a shut-in in those days. This was a long, slow recovery for me. Moving around was painful and it took me a good three years post-op before I was feeling anywhere approaching normal.

In that time, I turned to the computer for company, and I’ve pretty much not changed that habit in more than a decade. In the beginning of my computer addiction, I played those games—bingo mostly, but some different forms of solitaire too, and Mah-jong. And I chatted with other people, many of whom were also physically challenged. Friendships were formed, and a few of those friendships are still vibrant today.

Several of the people I chatted with were elderly. Women and men, to a one they were delighted with their computers and the new world of socialization that it opened up for them. A few of these people even confessed to having been so lonely before their families got them online, they cried often.

Now, of course, while I spend a lot of time at the keyboard, much of it is in support of this wonderful career I have. This computer, this means of communication, has provided me with my second chance at being a contributing member of society.

 I hear people who use a computer at their day jobs say that once they get home, they don’t want to go near a keyboard. Quite frankly I thought I would be that way, too. I spend anywhere from eight to twelve hours most days, writing. But unless there is something on television that I particularly want to watch, or some chore I need to get done, here I sit. I wear a step-counter to help me to remember to get up and move around, but otherwise, this is my “station”.

I know of some people my age and older who don’t want to be bothered with this medium. They believe it is a fad that will go away. Others—far in the majority—want to pursue every new innovation they can.

A friend of my brother’s said it best. We were all having a discussion about cell phones and texting, and he asked her why she wanted to even bother. He’d tried, he said, but never found the need for all these modern devices.

She raised one eyebrow and told him, “I don’t want to be left behind!”

Wise words. I think I’ll frame them.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March 12, 2014

I can still recall the weeks leading up to our wedding. It was 1972 and I was pregnant, just a couple weeks away from my 18th birthday. Way too young, yes. But it was what it was. My mother, of course, was not happy about the entire situation. Not happy in a “you’re pregnant so you don’t get to wear white” kind of way. Again, it was what it was.

About a week before the day, I was having a disagreement with my mom over—well, over what, I don’t recall. But what she said to end the discussion I do remember. “Right now, you live under my roof and you will do what I say. Next week, you will be living under David’s roof, and then you’ll do what he says.”

I also recall my unspoken reaction to that: I don’t be thinking so.

Generally speaking, though, because of the times, and how I was raised, I have always thought of my husband as the head of the house. Now we’ve been married a while—our 42nd anniversary is coming up in July. David is still the head of the house. But he isn’t the one who’s the star of the show around here. And neither am I.

The animals are.

I was thinking about this earlier as I was cooking our dinner—pork schnitzel with potato casserole and green beans. Missing from the pan in which I cooked the meat were garlic and mushrooms. We love garlic and mushrooms—but both are bad for the dog.

What’s that you say? We shouldn’t be feeding our Morkie too many table scraps? Well, I agree, but Mr. Ashbury just loves to feed his little boy at the table. And of course, the little boy just loves to eat whatever his daddy gives him. “Gives him” is the key wording here, because if Mr. Ashbury puts that same food on a saucer on the floor for him? He’s not interested in it.

Tuffy doesn’t get people food every night. If we have sausage, for example, he has to make do with his Cesars, because sausage makes him sick. We do generally only give him the basic meats—pork, beef, and chicken. He does have his preferred flavors of the dog food, too, of course. Primarily he loves the “smoked bacon and eggs” and anything with the word ‘steak’ in it.

A small digression, here. Something I have never understood. How do we know that the dog food in the plastic container, or the can, is smoked bacon and egg flavor? Who tests it to determine this? Just wondering.

Tuffy has a wardrobe. Currently it consists of three coats and six or seven sweaters. There were a few times this winter when he actually came and asked for a sweater because he was cold. No lie. He also has toys. Oh, a ball you may ask? A Frisbee? Well yes to the former—four, at last count, all capable of making a squeaking sound. He also has two small squeaky pigs, 2 medium and one very large squeaky chicken, and various other and assorted toys including the big strong tied rope thingy that he loves to play tug of war with, and a couple of “critters” that used to have pull-out strings that would make them skitter on the ground. Oh, and the “squeaky toy” must be of a sufficient quality so that he can make it squeak all by himself.

Tuffy has so many toys that we have a medium sized box in our living room, where the toys are kept. Sometimes. When they are not scattered everywhere around the house.

Lest you think only the dog gets catered to, I will have you know that when HRH (her royal highness) the cat comes to my chair and bats at me, I have to get up and give her kitty treats (the dog likes these, too). And when she makes a particular “meow” sound, it means I must go into the bathroom and turn on the cold water tap for her. Just enough, mind you, that there’s a trickle. Then I must leave the bathroom so she may drink in private.

Bedtime has gotten particularly interesting of late. The dog has been sleeping in our bed since last May when my daughter stayed here and broke him of that icky “play pen” habit. The cat has recently decided she deserves to sleep in the bed, too. The cat sheds a lot, and the dog not at all. So I have a bath towel on my bed, between my pillow and the headboard. This is so when kitty jumps up (about 4 nights out of 7), she has a place to sleep and I, for the most part, keep her hair off the sheet.

The dog sleeps between mommy and daddy, about waist level. And while the animals often are nose to nose, and about to play a game of doggie pounce in front of cat and cat swat dog, the bed seems to be an agreed upon piece of neutral territory.

Yes, they do communicate and co-operate; how else could they so perfectly schedule taking turns having their servants fetch, carry, or shake a paw?

It’s a dog’s life, and in this household, a damn fine one at that.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March 5, 2014

I have been remiss with regard to a very important issue. Today, I hope to correct that.

You may recall that back in the fall, we had a problem with our furnace. It was the first problem we’d had in ten years of ownership, which, I suppose, is pretty good. In the course of dealing with that breakdown, we discovered the problem was causing a carbon monoxide leak into our house. Fortunately, we had the problem seen to immediately, and it was also lucky for us that this breakdown happened in the daytime, when I was awake.

Following that episode, and my essay about it, I was contacted by a faithful reader, Janet, who urged me to get a carbon monoxide detector and install it in my home. It could be, she said, a real life saver.

She further and subsequently challenged me to write an essay about the importance of everyone having a carbon monoxide detector in their home.

Thank you, Janet, for the excellent suggestion.

 Y’all should know that actually, we did go out and buy a carbon monoxide detector just a few days after that furnace malfunction. The device cost us around twenty-five dollars and was very easy to install.

The day before we had that furnace breakdown and leak, there was a bill passed into law, here in the province of Ontario. Called the Hawkins-Gignac Act, it made mandatory the installation of carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in all homes, be they new construction, or old.

This law came into being thanks to the five year long advocacy and tireless efforts of one family, led by a man named John Gignac. Mr. Gignac had a very personal reason for taking up this cause.

On December 1, 2008, his niece, Laurie Gignac Hawkins, who was a constable with the Ontario Provincial Police, was found barely alive in her central Ontario home. Her husband, Richard, and their two children—Cassandra, 14 and Jordan, 12 had already died. Their deaths came as the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, caused by a blocked vent in the home’s gas fireplace.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that can kill. The only way it can be detected is with an approved CO alarm.

Laurie herself passed away eight days later. By all accounts she had been an officer who was a credit to the force and a woman who made a difference not only to the family who loved her, but in her community at large as well.

This tragic loss of life was preventable. The purchase and installation of an inexpensive device could have saved this family from perishing.

This is not, by the way, a Canadian phenomenon. According to the U. S. Center for Disease Control’s website, from 1999 to 2010, there were a total of 5,149 deaths from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States. These are unintentional deaths—and thus, deaths that could have been prevented.

Most of us have smoke detectors in our homes, and some of us think that means that we’re protected. But an ordinary smoke detector will not detect carbon monoxide.

 Carbon monoxide is a “four season” killer, as a lot of us have homes that are fuelled by combustible fuels—not just our furnaces in the cold weather, but our hot water heaters, and our kitchen stoves as well. In truth, it’s not just natural gas that can create CO, but all other fossil fuels as well.

If you don’t already have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, get one. They’re available at Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and even Amazon!

As Janet very rightly pointed out to me, a CO detector can be life saving—and the life it could save might be your own, your spouse’s, you children’s.