Wednesday, October 29, 2014

October 29, 2014

Ah, well laid plans. Aren’t they a kick? If you’re anal like I am, nothing compares to the pleasure you derive from sitting down and making detailed plans. I have spreadsheets out the wazoo, for just about every major and most minor occurrences in my life.

I have a grocery list spreadsheet, which yes, I print out and attach to a clip board to take into the store with me every week. My mother gave me two non-negotiable laws for grocery shopping: never shop hungry, and never shop without a list.

I may have taken it a step further than she might have envisioned, organizing the list in the order of the grocery store aisles as I encounter them, although she would certainly approve of my entering the price I expect to pay per item on the sheet.

I make a list when I am going on a trip, for all the things I need to take with me especially my clothing. I actually plan ahead what I will wear on any given day of my excursion. This is particularly helpful when the trip is a conference, and there are day as well as evening events. No, it doesn’t matter that I don’t always stick to the plan exactly. I have the list, and I enjoyed the time spent in anticipation, making it.

I didn’t actually make a list for this week—what I planned to do and where I needed to go, or perhaps more to the point, what I didn’t plan to do and where I didn’t plan to go. I think, quite possibly, that was my mistake. Well that, and my general lack of specificity beforehand.

As talk circulated amongst the family about this vacation that the grandfather and his daughter were taking in the weeks leading up to their departure, general comments were made. I said that this would be a wonderful time for me, too, even though I wasn’t going. I expressed joy at the prospect of having the house to myself, without interruption, or service to others.

Perhaps I should have been more blunt. Perhaps I should have come right out and said, “please, do not hesitate to just leave me alone”. I guess I shouldn’t complain. It is, after all, nice to be needed, and I really do value any opportunity to serve others.

I contacted second daughter Sunday evening, because my beloved had purchased a cherry cheesecake on Saturday and had eaten only one piece. The rest was in the fridge and I wouldn’t eat it, and I know she loves that dessert. So I suggested that she pop by on her way home from work and take it home with her. She suggested instead that since Monday was her day off, she could stop in for a short visit, and she could grab it then. Great! She’s busy and I don’t get to see her enough, so of course I agreed.

About a half hour before she was due to arrive, she called. Could I possibly, pretty please make her eggs and cheese....and sausage....and toast? She’d been running around doing errands, and she was starving. How could I refuse?

Later that same day she texted me because she’d forgotten that she had volunteered to participate in a survey at work (on her day off) and would I mind taking her son (my youngest grandson) to his football game? At 8 o’clock that night? Since my daughter, who would normally do this for her was away, there really was no one else to do it. How could I refuse?

Then, yesterday around five-thirty, my 20 year old grandson—my daughter’s son—called. “Grandma, I have a huge favor to ask. I need to go to the variety store and get a couple of things. Can you come and get me and take me there?”

Yes, I do have trouble saying no—but I said it this time. He’s twenty and healthy and the store is less than a half mile from his house, and it was a glorious fall day. And, I’d just sat down to have my supper.

So I said no, and it only took me about an hour and a half to stop feeling guilty that I did. And at that point I began to wonder how long it would be until I wound up doing something else for someone else. Not long, as it turns out. I’ll be taking my young grandson—whose football season was over Monday—to his hockey practice, tonight.

Next year, I’m thinking of telling everyone that, while father and daughter are away on vacation, I’ll be on one, too. Yes! I’m going away, away, very far away....I’ll be booked on a week-long excursion on the ship of my imagination.

A place where the possibilities are endless, and there is no cell phone reception.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October 22, 2014

Yes, the temperature has dropped, and the forecast warns we could be in for a winter to rival the last one, as far as the cold is concerned. Already the winds of autumn are blowing, and boy, are they nippy. We’ve had rain the last few days, the icy-cold kind of rain that gives us a hint of what is to come. I may or may not have told you, but I consider October to be the first of our six months of winter. October to March inclusive is on average too cold, and too damp. And looking at it that way, by New Year’s Day we are at the halfway point, instead of just a couple of weeks in!

As the winds blow, and the rain falls, what could possibly be better, you might ask, than hopping on a plane and heading to the Caribbean for a week of sun, sand, and surf?

Let me answer that question for you: being the one who inherits the house all to herself when the other one flies south.

Each year, my husband takes our daughter on a week-long trip. It’s his way of saying thank you, because she gets up every day before the butt-crack of dawn and drives him to work. Our “second daughter” does this as well, on the days when she works the early day shift. Last year, she went with them and they all flew to Las Vegas. This year, she couldn’t get away, so it’s just the two of them.

He’d asked our daughter where she wanted to go and she confessed that she would really, really like to take a cruise. To give my beloved credit, he did look into it.

Now, I feel I must digress for just a moment. You see, while Mr. Ashbury and I have been married for forty-two years, we are not the same, in several interesting ways. To demonstrate one, in this case relevant difference between us, allow me to recount an episode that occurred over a decade ago, when our oldest son was getting married.

Our daughter came to me, and, knowing that we would give her brother and his wife a monetary gift, she wanted to know how much that would be. I replied that we were still in negotiations, and as one of us was generous and the other cheap, agreement had not yet been reached.

She laughed, raised her hand, and said, “I know, I know, let me guess which of you is the cheap one,” all the while looking at her father.

He prefers the term, “frugal”.

So, as you can probably infer, my daughter is not going to be taking her first ever cruise this month. I think that is just as well, and I’ve already told her that a cruise is more of a mother-daughter vacation. Instead, my husband was able to get a good package—all inclusive, including air, accommodations, and meals, for a very reasonable price.

They leave this coming Sunday, and will be back the following Sunday and are headed to the Caribbean.

And I, dear friends, I get my house to myself, with no interruptions, no scheduling, no fetching and carrying and I can guarantee you after the initial cleaning as the airport limo drives out sight, very little housework, as well. I have no plans to go anywhere, except perhaps to visit my son and his wife and go to bingo with them one night.

Yes, it is quite possible that I will get just a bit lonely...probably the day before my husband comes home. And that is fine, that is how it should be. That allows me the very best circumstance of all.

I’ll be happy to see him go, and happy to welcome him home.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 15, 2014

There can be no doubt left in anyone’s mind that summer has fled, and autumn has arrived. We’ve already had one night here in my area where the temperatures dipped down to the freezing mark. The news was filled with warnings about the impending, wide-spread frost.

That warning took me back to my childhood. We grew up in a rural community. My mother and father had purchased the “big house” next door to the “little house” that had been my first home. The lady in the big house had decided to sell, because she’d been widowed. She’d had enough of country living, and planned to move to the nearby small town.

My parents bought the house and kept the one they already had. The plan was to rent out the little one, and make a good portion of the mortgage payment that way. Sadly, the January following the summer this sale took place, my father died. So mom was left a single mother, with three kids, and an old farm house, that sat on three-quarters of an acre of land.

Not a lot of land, but certainly enough to have a good sized garden. I can’t give you the exact dimensions of it but it was large enough that the farmer down the road would come each spring on his tractor to plow and then disc the garden.

It was always full of food. She grew beans, beets, carrots and potatoes. There were rows of tomatoes, broccoli and cabbage. We had melons, and egg plant, and green peppers. The garden was longest, east to west, so the rows ran north to south, and the last two rows at the west end of the garden were always corn.

Did I mention the cucumbers? Man, I hated those things. I hated them because they were not harvested, for the most part, until we got that first frost warning.

Harvest day was a family effort. Being the youngest didn’t get me out of any work at all. While mom and my sister dug and picked, I got to scrub.(I believe my brother had escaped by this point. He’d married and moved off).

We had a metal twin laundry tub that got rolled outside for the occasion, and then filled by the garden hose. And every bean and pepper and potato and cucumber that was harvested, had to be scrubbed.

Holy mother of cold water, did I ever hate that job.

Inevitably, the water wasn’t just cold, it was ice cold—as was the wind that would come up and caress my poor wet little paws.

But that was only part of the reason I hated those cucumbers. The other was what she did with the majority of them after they’d been cleaned and dried.

I don’t see it much down in the U.S. but up here, if you order a burger at a restaurant, one of the condiments you nearly always have brought to the table is green pickle relish. And that is what my mother made with the majority of those cucumbers.

I was drafted each year to help her. Step one was: slice the cucumbers in half, length-wise, and, using a spoon, scoop the seeds out. There would be something like oh, a bushel or two of these green monsters for me to process.

I hated that part so much that I edited it from my memory so that the first time, as an adult, that I attempted to make the relish, I forgot to do it. Seriously. Seedy relish. Ugh.

Then I had to grind the cucumbers, using an old fashion manual crank-operated grinder. The rest, though, was all mom. She would add vinegar and sugar and a large “bouquet garni” that contained cloves and cinnamon and other pickling spices, and she would cook that relish for a few hours over several days. The very sharp and distinctive aroma that relish produced each fall, permeated our house, our clothing and, I’m certain, burned our olfactory senses for at least a month.

But that relish was far superior to anything you could buy in the store—and our pantry was always full, with the bounty of our garden, my mother’s frugality, and all of our family’s hard work.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October 8, 2014

The Ashbury family has grown by one. Our second great-grandchild, our first great-grandson, Archer William Anthony, has arrived. He’s the second child for our grandson David, (our daughter’s son). David gave his new baby “Anthony” for his third name to honor his late uncle, whom he loved, and who had been like a father to him.

I’ve said more than once that being a grandmother is my best role, ever. I’d have to lump great-grandmother-hood under that same umbrella, although with this next generation, I have to admit, there is a bit more of a distance between baby and me.

I can recall what fun it was for me when, at the ripe old age of thirty-seven, I’d tell people I was a granny. Their reactions were always so very interesting to watch. It goes almost without saying that at thirty-seven I was the same age as some new, first-time moms. I always believed there was something good to be said about having gotten such an early start with our family. I reasoned that as a young grandmother, I’d be more energetic, and better able to cope with the wee ones than a woman in her sixties or seventies.

But my theory didn’t exactly pan out the way I expected. You see, I discovered one of the truths of life. Going back to dealing with a babe-in-arms after my own children had grown and gone was a lot more work than I’d anticipated – certainly more work than when I started out with my first-born all those years ago.

You may recall from past essays that my beloved and I, over the last few years, had been fairly involved in raising the two children of our late son. While their mother—our second daughter—first went to college to get her certificate and then got her position as a nurse at a hospital about twenty-five miles away, we took care of the two kids a lot. They’d be with us for the evening and overnight, when she had night shifts. And they’d be with us until after supper when she worked days. Making supper in those days was often a case of cooking for five. I sent their mother home with a plate of food as often as I could, to save her the time and the work of cooking for herself.

Now those two grandchildren are old enough to be left on their own. Of course, we and our daughter are close enough, just five minutes away, should they need us. But they manage very well all by themselves. Well, them, and their very big dog.

There won’t be any babysitting of the youngest members of the family, by the oldest. There are enough aunties and uncles and grannies and grandpas, all in the thirty to forty year age range, that we can leave that responsibility—and joy—to them.

From us, for this new generation, there will be hugs and kisses, songs and rocking, and, of course, candy and cookies and chocolate and gifts. We will listen to their tales of daring-do, smile with pleasure when they arrive, and do the same when they go home.

We’ll sit back and watch as our grandchildren—who are still babies to us—learn to become parents, and as our children discover the great good bliss of being grandparents.

I’m recalling an ongoing conversation we had with our son, Anthony. When our kids were growing up, we used to tell them that the family structure was very simple: there was “us” and there was “them”. This basic structure, we assured all our kids, permeated all aspects of life, as they or we knew it.

Sometimes they would want things, and we’d say, “well, if you were an us, it would be fine. But you’re a them, so it’s not.” Anthony, more than the other two, really, really wanted to be an “us”.

Just after his first child was born, we visited them at the hospital. He wore this big grin, not only because he because, he said, he’d realized that he’d finally made it! He was finally an “us”.

We had to disabuse him of that notion right away, of course. His father said, “Son, you’re still a ‘them’, and you will always and forever be a them. But it’s not all bad news, because, you see, that sweet little baby girl of yours in there? She’s an ‘us’.”

Ah, when you’re an “us”, life is truly good.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October 1, 2014

I hope I don’t offend anyone with the following essay. For the most part, I am addressing only certain people out there. The rest of you, please just bear with me.

Authors don’t make a lot of money. Some of us make a living, and are lucky and grateful to do so. But most of the authors who write and publish e-books are ordinary people, really. We’re not rich.

Do you know how it is I make my money? It’s not a mystery—it’s actually quite simple. People buy my books. The more people who pay to download my novels, the more money I get.

Yes, that’s right. People buy my books, with real money. Oh, yeah, I know they’re only e-books. Heck, an e-book can be stored on your pc, or on your iPhone, on your tablet or your e-reader.

And hey, if they’re on your pc, then you can copy and paste, right? Or upload to a file sharing group or site, or create a file sharing group or site yourself, using FaceBook or Dropbox, or any number of nifty tech sights, right?

Wrong. Oh, so very wrong! In fact it’s more than wrong it is actually criminal. The sharing of an e-book is theft. Authors say so; publishers say so; and considering the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that was approved by Congress and the Senate and signed into law by the President of the United States in 1998, the authorities say so. It is as much an act of theft, when you download a “free” copy of my book from one of those sites, as it would be if you opened my purse and took my wallet.

What I am having difficulty understanding is this: why do otherwise law-abiding people think it’s ok to steal an author’s intellectual property? Why do you think it’s acceptable to get free copies of books from these “sharing sites”, instead of paying for them?

I understand that these books cost money, and maybe you don’t have a lot of that, either. But that doesn’t make stealing them, right.

There are a lot of women who write romance, and erotic romance. Some of these women are single moms. Some are single women, with no one else to help support them. When you steal books from an author, you’re taking the milk away that her child needs. She can’t buy that new pair of sneakers to replace the worn out ones because you and your friends saw fit to read her books for free rather than paying for them.

You wouldn’t (I hope) steal candy from a baby—so don’t steal her groceries, either.

Maybe you don’t care. You want the books, you can’t afford them, so you take the books. Are you going to go to your local mall, next, and help yourself, without paying, to whatever is on display that you want? Why not? You’re already a thief. You already stole books. Why not steal makeup, or a sweater, jewelry, or a couple of CDs? Just tell the security guards when they apprehend you that, hey, “I wanted the necklace, I can’t afford it, so I just took it.” See how far that gets you, cupcake.

Ah, you say. You wouldn’t do that! That’s against the law!

Yes, it is. And so, too, is either downloading free e-books from a sharing site, or uploading them to a sharing site. It doesn’t matter that you upload the book you paid for so that others may enjoy it free. You are still breaking the law, and beggaring authors.

Please, stop. And if you didn’t know this was illegal, well, now you do. So I’ll say to you agiain, please, stop. And tell your friends to stop, too.