Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wednesday's Words for July 26, 2017

This passed weekend, my husband—out of the blue, mind you—said something very un-David-like to me. He said, “I do believe I’ve become somewhat of a foodie.”

Unfortunately for my beloved, “smart ass” is not an affectation I’ve assumed; it’s the real me. I executed a quick glance down toward his “eight-and-a-half month” belly, but kept my mouth shut. Don’t look so surprised, I can keep my own counsel when the situation warrants. Sometimes. Maybe.

He, of course, saw where my gaze landed and laughed, so it could be argued, theoretically, that I didn’t really keep my own counsel at all. Whatever.

The truth is that, in the years since he quit smoking, my husband has put on a lot of weight and nearly all of it is in his middle. That doesn’t bother me, aesthetically speaking. My only concern is his health. He also has COPD. The extra weight doesn’t help his breathing. Especially for someone who was, up until fifteen years ago, a constant 129 to 132 pounds on a medium to slim frame.

His body wasn’t made for that extra weight…but I digress.

He has become a foodie, because, also since he quit smoking, food apparently tastes better than it used to. He began smoking when he was ten, a souvenir from a family visit to his maternal grandparents who owned a large farm in Alberta. Apparently, Gramps took young David out on the tractor on his beloved farm, showed him how to plow a field on that 320 acre spread—and then showed him how to roll a smoke from his “makins”, and what to do with said cigarette after it had been rolled.

David’s mother wasn’t very happy with her father, needless to say. She thought that once the family returned home to Ontario, David’s newly acquired habit would be history, but it wasn’t so. He finally quit smoking in 2002—at the age of 50—and in the wake of my heart surgery, which was when I, a ten-year smoker at that point, also quit.

So yes, I imagine food began to taste really good to him. I enjoy cooking, though I have tried to rein myself in lately. Instead of one day a week designated as a “no-cook” day, I now have two. But those other 5 days, I do my best to present well balanced, tasty, and sometimes innovative meals for us both. I do all I can to ensure the food I make is as healthy as possible.

I rarely buy “processed” meals; I tend to buy ‘fat free’ hams when we have ham, use very little butter and fry rarely, cut down on the salt, and I also use sucralose instead of sugar in desserts. Well, in most of my desserts.

 For his part, David blames me, squarely, for his weight gain. He maintains that if I didn’t cook such enjoyable meals, he wouldn’t eat so much. I point to his three family-sized bags of potato chips a week habit, and ask, “really?”

Otherwise, to know that he now considers himself a foodie is kind of a tribute to a stance I took when we came home from our weekend honeymoon all those years ago. It was in 1972, of course, and we began married life in a small apartment over a store in an older section of a nearby city. He had a job, though I didn’t, as I was expecting our first baby, though I did get a part-time summer job later that month that was easy for me—a seasonal, clerical position. So money wasn’t in great supply for us. And as we returned to our tiny apartment after our wedding, he decided to lay down the law when it came to eating. Probably thinking of the way his father ruled the roost, he announced: “I’m telling you right now, I eat roast beef, roast pork, potatoes, creamed corn, and canned peas.”

I, who had lost my father when I was only eight and a half, and only being really familiar with my mother ruling the roost, replied in kind: “And I’m telling you, we don’t have enough money to eat roast beef and roast pork every night. But don’t worry, I learned how to cook, and how to stretch a grocery dollar, so you won’t go hungry. But you will have to eat what I put in front of you.”

Talk about a stand-off! But we quickly compromised. He would try everything once, and if he didn’t like it, I wouldn’t expect him to eat it, and I wouldn’t make it again. The only thing I made in those early days that he really didn’t like, was liver. And that, he began to like not long after he quit smoking, and now he asks for it regularly.

Therefore, I take the fact that he now considers himself a foodie—and he really is one—as a very definite, “mission accomplished” for that first, post-honeymoon stance.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday's Words for July 19, 2017

What a wonderful weekend we had! And for us, another unique way to celebrate a wedding anniversary on Friday. It was number 45 this year—and they all said it would never last!

As I’d mentioned we would in my last essay, David and I attended an author/reader event, KallypsoCon 2017, this year held in the near-by city of Burlington, Ontario this past weekend. This is a relatively new event in the world of book conventions, created and organized by Kallypso Masters. Kally is a wonderful writer and an exceptional human being.

It’s also a relatively small book convention—purposefully so. This year there were eleven “featured authors” and 100 readers.

This convention will never “grow”, because the purpose is to give the readers who attend a chance to meet and interact with each one of the authors. It’s truly an intimate gathering compared to those that boast more than a thousand attendees, and are organized for the purpose of making money for the corporations that hold them.

Dinner on Friday night, which was the first official event, featured an author at all but one table. The one table without an author had the guest speakers for Saturday evening. Then, after dessert and before the fun and games in the next room, we participated in “speed dating”. Controlled by a “timer”, authors (and the guest speakers) rotated so that by the end of the session, every reader had met and spoken to each of the authors and the guests.

All the readers had to do was sit and wait for their favorite author to come by. That was a fun idea, and a great way to break the ice for everyone!

The games were another way allow the readers to get to know the authors better. The first game called “five fun facts”. Each author had earlier sent in to the organizer 5 facts about themselves. We took turns pulling a “fact” from the box and reading it aloud, and the audience had to guess which author the fact was about.

I can tell you that some of my fellow authors have lived damned interesting lives! They’ve climbed mountains and won dance competitions, lived in Japan for a year and a half, were on a rodeo team, and one has even ridden a camel in the Sahara and spent the night in a Bedouin camp!

 The next game left everyone in stitches. We were each given excerpts of someone else’s novels to read aloud (with names omitted), and the audience of readers had to guess who the author of the excerpt was. There was great emoting, and accompanying miming, and general hilarious Tom Foolery all around! And laughter…lots and lots and lots of laughter.

It’s hard to be anything but honest when you’re surrounded by and smothered in laughter.

What a genius way to kick off an event. What better way to make authors approachable than to have them ‘perform’ in such a friendly, relaxed atmosphere?

Saturday was filled with a Q&A session, a book signing, and another wonderful buffet dinner. In the evening, we had a presentation about BDSM by a couple living that lifestyle. What impressed me most about the evening’s program was the very real bond of love between the two. As an author, and one who has written stories featuring this interesting relationship dynamic, it’s invaluable to get real true info from people who really, truly know. Forget some of the books you may have read; this was the real deal.

Yes, we saw floggers and ropes—but the lion’s share of the information was on the relationship dynamic, itself. There is a power exchange in all relationships, whether you realize it or not. In lifestyle relationships, that exchange, and the boundaries, and the feelings, are constantly discussed because that is part of the deal. Communication is key, and in that one facet, the rest of us could learn a thing or two from them.

My favorite part of the weekend by far, of course, was meeting readers, exchanging hugs and conversation, and being inspired by the presence of those who share with me the desire to touch lives as we entertain.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday's Words for July 12, 2017

I’m busy getting ready for my one and only “author event” for 2017, which begins tomorrow. This will be the very first event of this sort that I have ever attended in my own country! One could even say that I’m not going to the event so much as the event is coming to me. Well, that is, one could (and did) if one wasn’t me. I would never make such an arrogant statement myself, unless I was employing extreme sarcasm.

Which I must confess, from time to time, I do.

KallypsoCon happens each year in a different location. Next year, for example, it will be held in Utah. But this year, it’s “KallypsoCon 2017: Canada Bound”. I’m looking forward to becoming reacquainted with some of the authors and readers who will be there, and also meeting new friends. There’s a definite energy to be had, spending time with those who are involved in the same vocation as I am. I don’t know if doctors or lawyers or teachers feel that way, when they attend events for their professions. I don’t know if this energizing is particular to a gathering of those involved in the creative arts. I suppose it depends on whether you look at your occupation as a job, or a calling.

I also love hearing from readers, because what I do for living is a particularly solitary endeavor. I don’t have an assistant at the moment, and while I do have some wonderful reader/friends who help me out with my reader’s group and with beta-reading my books, I tend not to “fish” for ideas or suggestions. My stories are my stories, products of my imagination, and so the tough stuff—coming up with the ideas, the plot twists, etc—that’s my responsibility. I’ve always believed that if I want people to plunk down their hard-earned money to buy one of my books, then I best be doing all the work and taking all the care involved in its creation.

I have participated in brainstorming sessions once or twice in the past, and I’ve found them very stimulating. Such encounters between writers is never one-sided, and as an author, I’ve given suggestions as well as received them. That’s a sort of authorly quid-pro-quo, and really, part of the professional process as far as I’m concerned.

What I don’t want to do, ever, is indulge in what I call “writing by committee”. I understand the motivation of those who do, and if that works for them, then more power to them. Some writers set themselves some really tough deadlines, where they have to produce new work on an accelerated schedule. The only way to do that is to have someone—or several people—taking over after the first draft has been etched, editing and polishing and getting it ready to send off. I’m not talking about editing here, which most of us experience; I’m talking about other people who take the author’s first draft, and produce the second. Now, I’m not knocking that process at all. Each of us has our own process, and to write in any way that ignores our intrinsic instincts and inner process is to betray the craft for which we breathe.

I’m pretty good at writing, at coming up with characters and crafting a tale about them. My writing speed has slowed some over the last couple of years, but I do the best I can. What I don’t excel at, what I’m not really very good at, is promotion. By nature, I’m a shy woman. If you’ve met me, you may dispute that. The truth is I’ve learned to be outgoing, but it takes a lot out of me. I would go to large conventions in the past, where I would meet hundreds of people, and stand in a room and “pimp” all the authors who were contracted with my publisher. I was delighted to do that, to give back to a company that took a chance on me. However, when I would return home, I’d be a wreck, energy-wise, for at least a week. To recover, I needed quiet, and I needed to just be me.

So, since I do suck so badly at promotion I’ve had to begin to think of that necessary activity in a different way. I’ve begun to think of it as socializing. I’m not touting my work, so much as I am taking a break from it to meet people who happen to like reading the same kind of books as I happen to write. I could never be cut-throat in my approach, either. I see other authors—in this case, the wonderful authors who will be appearing at this same event—as colleagues, not as competition.

I honestly believe there’s room enough for us all to succeed and to prosper. A few of these authors—Kallypso Masters (http://kallypsomasters.com ) Lexi Blake ( http://www.lexiblake.net), and Cherise Sinclair (http://cherisesinclair.com ) I’ve read and truly enjoyed. They have different styles, but share a talent and a bent for turning out wonderful, character-driven, page-turning books. The rest of the authors appearing, I’m sure I will read in the weeks and months to come. I’m always looking for new-to-me-authors to read.

This is a short event, from Thursday to Sunday, and within 40 minutes of home. I’m looking forward to being energized, and making new friends.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Wednesday's Words for July 5, 2017

Today would have been my mother’s 98th birthday, and my son, Anthony’s, 40th.

Anthony was born after my mother passed away. Actually, he was born the very next year. We commemorated the one-year anniversary of Mom’s death in April, and then he arrived, three months later, on her birthday. We have “Christmas in July” in this family, because my brother’s birthday is on the 1st, my mother’s, and then Anthony’s on the 5th, my daughter’s on the 13th, our wedding anniversary on the 14th and my birthday is on the 21st. July is a very busy month in the Ashbury household.

July is also the month we lost Anthony, on the 30th, in 2006. That makes this an emotional month, as well as a busy one. It’s no wonder that the beginning of July always gives a bigger meaning to the start of summer for me.

There can be no doubt that summer has indeed arrived. The temperatures are rising and the days are long. This is the last summer before my beloved retires. Originally—that is, after his last vacation time over Christmas—he’d said he didn’t want to take any vacation, since it would be his last year, and he would in fact be on vacation from November onward into infinity. That resolve didn’t last very long at all. He went back to work after the Christmas break the first week of January, and by the second week of January he was looking for a good excuse to take a week off. I have one “author event” this year, very close to home. I’ll be at KallypsoCon 2017 in Burlington, Ontario from July 13 – 16. That’s “just down the road” from us. David has booked that time off work, and he’ll be serving as my “assistant” during this author/reader convention. What does my assistant do, you may ask?

Well in this case, he becomes my “go to” man for whatever I may need, and also wherever I may need to go by being the power behind my wheelchair, if I need it. I can walk. I use a cane, but I am able to walk—but not for long distances or extended periods of time. Usually, when I attend conventions, I rent a scooter. However, I couldn’t see taking on the expense of one this time when we’re driving just down the road, in our own car, and I have the wheelchair in the trunk of my car, anyway.

There was a time when I would have abhorred using the device, as I know my mother did. That phase of my life—that martyrdom phase—has passed, thankfully. I walk as much as I can, and ask for help when I can’t. Asking for help has been one of the hardest things for me to learn how to do. Give help? No problem, I’m happy to. You need something? I am there, baby. Ah, but ask for help? Not so easy for me.

It wasn’t until I looked on that trait as a kind of unattractive pride that I began to change. I’m still not quite there, and my first instinct is to extend a hand rather than take one, but I am, after all, a work in progress.

I’m looking forward to this event, because I haven’t attended a convention for a few years now. I love meeting readers. They’re my focus, and while sometimes I may be a bit late answering the e-mails I receive from them, I do answer every single one. There might come a day when I can’t do that. But for now, I want my readers to feel free to email me, or send me a pm on Face Book. I will respond!

I’ve never attended this event before; it’s a fairly new one as conventions go, but wildly successful, usually selling out very quickly. The organizer, Kallypso Masters, (http://kallypsomasters.com ) is an author I’ve met and admired, a woman who is as warm and genuine as they come. She writes military romance and BDSM and possesses both talent and skill in generous proportions. Her stories are all page turners and definitely worth reading.

This convention is different in that there are limited numbers of authors, and readers. 11 authors, 130 readers, which allows for plenty of good, honest, interaction. I’ve been told that this is a stellar promotional opportunity. I know it is, but I suck at promo—at least what some people interpret as promo.

In my professional life, as far as I’m concerned, there are two things—writing, and readers. I love writing. I love interacting with readers. Whether the sales happen or not I tend to leave up to a higher power.

As I’ve said before, I don’t write for fame or fortune. I write to connect, to touch and hopefully, to uplift.

That’s just who I am.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wednesday's Words for June 28, 2017

When I was about ten years old, I decided to write a script for my favorite television show of the day. I was the youngest of three children, with a mother who by then was a single mother who worked full time to support us. My mom was not affectionate by nature. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times she hugged me in my life. I didn’t understand at the time, of course, that some people simply aren’t able to show affection, even with their own children. My daddy had been one to hug and snuggle and read stories to me. But he was gone.

One of my fondest and earliest memories is being tucked into my bed in the winter by my daddy, who took my sheet and two blankets out to the space heater that was in our living room. He warmed each one, one at a time, and then tucked them around me. I was about five and still in a crib. I shared this bedroom with my parents, and my sister, so until my parents got a three-quarter bed that I could share with her, the crib was all there was space for in that tiny room.

To this day, I get a wonderful, cherished feeling whenever, being chilly, I’m comforted by a warm blanket.

My father died when I was eight and a half, and by the age of ten, I missed him keenly. I’d already learned that I couldn’t talk to mom about daddy. She’d either refuse to talk about him, or end up in tears. In later years—when I was 16 or so—she could talk about him some, but not then, not when I was ten. Her loss was still too new. At the time, my brother was twenty, and totally into the woman he was dating, the woman he would marry the next year (they just celebrated their fifty-second wedding anniversary). And my sister was too busy with her many “boyfriends” to pay me much mind. And when she did pay attention to me, it often didn’t work out well for me at all.

So, there I was, a ten-year-old child, lonely, hurting, and inwardly raging that life was unfair. Why not, then, create my own world, one that could be fair? I lost myself in writing, from that time forward. I made the mistake of showing my sister, once, something I had written (I kept trying with her, for all of our lives. It never worked out, but at least I know that I did what I could). That day, the day that I, full of hope, showed her my great screenplay, was the day when I learned that I have a very thin skin and that ridicule is nearly the most painful thing in life to endure.

Her ridicule didn’t stop me from writing, however; it only stopped me from sharing that writing with others—until well after I was married, in fact. When times became particularly difficult to endure, all through my life, my writing was there, a sanctuary for me, a place where I could lose myself, forget reality, and simply be. My ability to write is the greatest gift I’ve ever received, next to my family.

It took my becoming an adult who had an early heart attack at the age of 48 to consider that the time was right for me to do more than just escape into my own stories. Now, as a woman who has survived, so far, nearly fifteen years post-triple by-pass, as one with more than 50 novels published, I can see how all things have worked together to bring me to where I am today. And I can how see those times that were the hardest to bear in fact have ended up being blessings to me.

Nobody likes emotional pain. Loss is hard, no matter our age, or who (or what) we lose. If our heart has been engaged in the relationship, the loss of that loved one, even that beloved pet, hurts. No, no one likes emotional pain, and yet to some degree we all experience it. For me, emotion pain became the foundation for the development of empathy. Empathy is crucial if one is to be an author of works that move or touch other people. It was never my goal to get rich writing.

It was never my goal to become famous, writing. Did I imagine the pleasure of maybe, someday, stepping into a book store and seeing my book up on the shelf? Oh, most certainly. But not because it meant either fame, or fortune.

That joy would stem from a logical conclusion. If my books were on the shelf in a book store, that meant people were reading them. And if people were reading my words, then I had to be touching lives and/or moving hearts.

I’ve heard some wonderful stories from readers that have brought me to tears, because they’ve shared with me how my words have done just that—how my words have helped them.

That is my goal. That is my mission. That is my ministry.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

RELEASE DAY: Hot Mess 5

HOT MESS 5

AVAILABLE NOW!

[Erotic Alternative Contemporary Romance, M/M, HEA]

Lany
There came a point where I began to believe life was perfect. I was married to the sexiest Italian ever trained to be a SWAT officer, I had two beautiful little girls, and more friends than I could count. And then my world fell out from beneath my feet, and I discovered that evil was alive and well and coming for me. I had two choices. I could hide in my panic room or spit in the devil's face.

I spit in the devil's face.

Salvador
Protecting my family from the evil in the world would be a whole lot easier if I wasn't married to Lany, but I wouldn't change a second of our life together, no matter what came our way. I just wished my gorgeous husband wasn't such a hot mess. When the devil arrived on our doorstep and threatened all I held dear, I did the only thing I could.

I spit in the devil's face.
 
Note: This book is written in the first-person point of view of both main characters.

http://www.bookstrand.com/book/hot-mess-5

Wednesday's Words for June 21, 2017

My, but aren’t we human beings difficult creatures? And aren’t we just filled with complaints? If it’s not too cold outside, it’s too hot. If it’s not too dry, why, then it’s too wet. We go from “I wish the air would move a little”, to “Oh dear Lord, that wind is going to sweep me away!”

Sometimes I wonder if our complaints about the weather are made because it gives us an outlet to bitch. You have to admit, that is one thing you can grumble about and that really, no one individual can feel they’re the target of your vitriol. If your nearest and dearest complain about the weather, well, that has nothing to do with you, does it? You can tell them to have at it without a care.

I think we need to complain, and I believe it’s a way for us to unleash our aggression. Ideally, that’s one of the benefits of the sports we put our young boys and girls into. Oh, sure, I’ve heard all the opinions about building team work, learning fair play, self discipline, and getting exercise. As a member of society who really wants society to work, I can agree with all those benefits. But it is essential for us, as we grow, to learn how to get rid of that aggression.

The problems arise, when we fail to remember one salient point about humanity. For all that we’re intellectual and sentient beings, for all that we consider ourselves civilized, we are also a part of the natural world. We’re animals, with animal instincts, and not all of those instincts, thanks to our origins, are refined or even polite.

I firmly believe if we do not give our young boys and girls, men and women, sufficient outlets for their natural animal-based aggression as they grow, we harm them, sometimes irreparably. In my opinion, aggression repressed is not aggression destroyed—it’s merely aggression delayed.

There are parallels between the natural world and people living in society because despite our best efforts to be civilized, despite our best efforts to believe we are above the natural world. I believe that when humans are forced from a young age to tamp down their natural aggression, it never goes away, it truly is simply delayed. Delaying aggression only builds pressure within. Eventually, pressure suppressed long enough is a pressure relieved by a cataclysmic explosion. We see this in nature, and we see this in us.

Just ask the folks living around Mount St. Helens. Or look at the people who are guilty of road rage incidents. Or, that very modern-day phrase, people known for “going postal”.

When I was a kid—and sorry, the older I become, the more I turn into one of those old-timey kind of folks always saying that, but I digress. When I was a kid, there would be fights in the school yard. Teachers would pull kids apart after a few punches were exchanged, and, (this is important) aggression expelled. If the cause was severe, there would be a meeting in the principal’s office, but otherwise, it was just a school yard fight. Sure as hell, no police would called, and no one stuck labels on anyone else for these childhood fisticuffs.

I understand the movement toward all the efforts to stop aggression (not talking about bullying here, that’s something else altogether), I understand the motive is to stem violence. But what we have to do is channel that need to blow, that need, yes, for violence, into something that uses the energy and emotions that combine to create that aggression in the first place.

I believe that this is a need as basic to humanity as food, water and air. I really believe that. I also believe we can ensure our kids learn to recognize it and then to relieve it in a healthy manner.

Simply telling kids it’s wrong to feel that way isn’t good enough, and it’s not the way to go.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wednesday's Words for June 14, 2017

Each Mother’s Day, I go to the floral department of my local grocery store and purchase three miniature rose bushes in pots for the girls. By the girls, of course, I mean my daughter, my second daughter, and my daughter-in-law. It’s a small tradition that I began years ago. You may have guessed I’m big on traditions. There’s so much uncertainty in life, it’s nice, I think, to have a few things one can count on.

The girls, for their part, individually chose to plant those rose bushes in their gardens, rather than keep them in the pots. Another tradition, and one that means the world to me.

Come Father’s Day, there’s just my oldest son, as well as my husband, to show appreciation for. Rather than a rose bush, I’ve tended to gift our son with other things instead. Most usually, it’s clothing. This year for the first time, I will give him a gift card. That seems to be my fall-back gift, lately. It isn’t that I don’t want to take the time to actually shop, although my stamina for that activity is much less than it used to be. It’s more my belief that it’s better all around if the person being gifted can choose their own gift.

I don’t recall celebrating any Father’s Days when I was a kid. I’m sure I did, with my siblings, but there is just no memory in my head of ever doing so. There never has been. When I was eight and a half, my father died, and after that devastating point in my life, the next fathers I knew were my husband and my father-in-law. In those days, the gifts were more of a token, as was the card. It seemed more important to give a nod of recognition to the fathers, on their day.

Fathers play a vital role in the lives of their children. They are the bulwarks, the guardians, the ones we look to in times of trouble, or fear. Fathers, in the ideal state, never tremble, never show uncertainty or dread to their families. We cling to them, our fathers, and receive our sense of security from being able to do so.

What an enormous burden we lay upon the shoulders of our fathers!

In this day and age, it is sad to say, the role of father is being redefined. I say sad to say, because so many younger fathers think their job is done after the procreation moment. However, for those who choose to go beyond procreation, choose to become fathers to their children, that role no longer has a single sense to it, in that individual families, individual fathers, seek their own definitions. In some families, for example, the women remain working outside the home and the fathers stay home and take care of the house and the child until the child hits school age. That is different from all that I knew—although my mother did work outside the home when I was little and my father did cook and clean and do laundry sometimes. But just because the role of the father is different than what I knew, that really doesn’t make it less.

People should have the freedom to define themselves. What remains steadfast, in my opinion, is the general principle of parenting. If you are bringing children into the world, then as adults, whether you’re the mother or the father it is your responsibility to care for that child, to nurture, to protect, and to equip that child with the tools he or she will need to become a productive, happy adult.

That is a tall order for anyone to fill. It requires taking one’s eyes off one’s self, and keeping them firmly fixed on someone else. Someone smaller, weaker, and needier than you.

A tall order, indeed. So, to the fathers out there, I say Happy Father’s Day. We honor you for your service and encourage you in your mission. It’s not an easy one, but then the truth is that nothing worthwhile ever is.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wednesday's Words for June 7, 2017

I’ve come to a greater appreciation that it’s the quality of a moment, and not it’s duration, that is the most important aspect of any event.

Remember how I waxed near poetical about anticipating the day when I would be able to take in the aroma of my lilacs and lilies-of-the-valley at the same time? That was a moment I’ve been anticipating since I panted both the lilac bushes, and the lily bulbs at the front of my house.

Lilac bushes don’t seem to grow quickly, at least not compared to other flowering shrubs. They take time. Lots of time. I wish I could remember exactly how many years ago I panted mine, but it has to have been at least 4 years ago. They’ve only grown a few inches in height in that time, and have gained a bit of girth. Every spring, I count the appearance of those tiny green buds as the bushes/trees proclaim new life, a victory. Last winter wasn’t as harsh, here, as the winter before. That doesn’t mean I was any less on pins and needles, waiting to see those buds. I really don’t take their survival for granted.

What I didn’t know was that this spring’s blossoms would finally reach the point of being bountiful enough to release a good amount of fragrance into the air. And yes! I was finally able to inhale both scents at the same time. I didn’t know it was going to be this year. But, as I am prone to do, I’d hoped.

It was a wonderful handful of mornings. Not a full week, more like four days. Yes, I’ve been waiting for years and I got about four days during which those two aromas mingled.

I wonder if that’s a metaphor for life, in general. Do you suppose that a lot of things are that way, that the anticipation appears to outweigh the actual event? I know many would say it’s so. I hope I am never among those that do.

You see, I count anticipation as part of the event. I’ve always done that. I enjoy planning for a trip, working out what clothing I’m going to take, what sights I want to see, even what I might like to bring back for my grandchildren as gifts. To me, that has always been a part of the experience of vacation. That way, the “trip” if you will, isn’t only the week or so of the actual time away from home, but includes the months leading up to it.

Similarly, the years that I’ve spent hoping for, and waiting for, that sense of scent (pardon my pun) had as its crescendo, the few mornings recently past, when I stepped onto my porch, inhaled deeply, and received as my reward an emotional homecoming of sorts. But the anticipation of that first day, that first moment, that first breath—well, that was as much a part of the experience, don’t you think?

We live in an instant society, when we expect everything to be fast. I’m guilty of that myself. Patience? I pray for it every day but many days sadly go without that admirable quantity. You should see me at my computer some days. I open one browser, click on the site I want that’s in my bookmarks—and if it’s not opening in five seconds, I’ll close that browser and open another. Nope, sometimes, there’s no patience here.

But that saying, patience has its rewards? It’s true, if you make anticipation a part of the event or experience you’re aiming for.

That almost seems counter to what I said last week about not wishing away time, but it’s not. It’s more like savoring your time. I try to savor each day, to find something to appreciate and be thankful for.

Because, at the end of my time here on earth, I don’t want to regret that I was in too much of a hurry to look forward to and embrace the small miracles of life.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wednesday's Words for May 31, 2017

What the heck happened to May? Here it is the last day of the month, which means tomorrow is the beginning of June. Once June is over, that’s half of the year gone! Poof!

For a long while now, I have wished there was a way to bring back that sense of time I had in childhood—that sense that the days and weeks and months took what seemed like forever to pass. I wasn’t sure how that could be done, exactly, but that has been one of the things I sometimes muse on when I take my daily “legs up” rest. I need to put my legs up for a bit each day because of my arthritis. This rest period is also a time when I just relax in my electric recliner, and let my mind wander. Sometimes I drift off, sometimes I don’t. It’s usually past midday at this point and I’m usually slightly annoyed with myself for how little I’ve accomplished at that point. And being annoyed brings other petty peeves to mind—like how the older I get, the faster time seems to fly. So, having mused on the situation, I came up with a bit of a solution, and I think it’s working.

First, I haven’t read ahead as to what the summer is predicted to be like, weather-wise this year. I’d just as soon let that come on its own without any guesses from me. In fact, aside from any engagements that might be on my calendar, I try very hard not to anticipate ahead too much, period. The trouble with ‘counting’ down the days, in my opinion, is that you can end up wishing away your time.

Time is far too precious for that.

This is a concept I’ve meant to share with my beloved. However, he’s told me on more than one occasion lately that his “ways” are set. He says 64 is too old to change. I’m not sure I agree with that. But we’ve been married long enough now—forty-five years in July—that I try to respect his points of view—even if I don’t share them.

The other way I thought of to slow time is to simply appreciate and be grateful for each new dawn. I do take a moment to give thanks each morning, because I’m still alive. I imagine anyone who’s had a brush with their own mortality is very conscious that each new day is a gift.

I’ve enjoyed, this spring, taking note each day as to the way the trees have come back to life. In years past, I was so busy doing, I didn’t take the time to just be. Hence, each spring I would be shocked at the speed with which the trees seemed to go from bare twigs to full leaf. This year I paid attention more and I saw, because I did that, the incremental, though constant changes from day to day. Little buds that grew to become an aura of light green that gradually darkened and expanded to young leaf and finally to full leaf. That process took a few weeks! It wasn’t as fast as I’d imagined. Imagine that!

You see, it occurred to me that while our perception of time may be fast or slow, time itself lives beyond our human perspective. It moves at a constant rate, and has since it began. That fact cannot be altered, but our perceptions of its passing can be.

I suppose it all comes back to that mantra of mine you all have read many times before—everything in life is a choice.

I think more people should embrace that concept, and take the time to see how very true it is. There is always a choice, and you, the individual are truly in the driver’s seat—oh, maybe not so much for things that do happen to you beyond your control.

But you’re most certainly completely in charge of how you react to those them.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wednesday's Words for May 24, 2017

I think I’m at that place I never believed I would ever be: feeling a little as if the world is moving too fast for me and leaving me confused and unsettled as a result. The changes in technology notwithstanding, up until last November, I really thought I was doing all right—for an older broad.

I don’t try to keep up with every bit of technology as it evolves. That would really be futile, because whether I like it or not, the truth is that as we age, our reactions and thinking processes do slow down some. It’s normal. Maybe if the natural life span for human beings could aspire to two centuries instead of only one, then things might be different and I might just now be coming into my prime. But they’re not, and I’m not. When you couple being over sixty with the reality that my health is not the very best, well, it’s only to be expected that I begin to react as if I’m…older.

That said, I haven’t focused so much on the visual arts, or on all the cool apps a person can get for their smart phone, though I do have the ones I want, and have learned to use them. I focused instead on the skills needed to serve my vocation, writing. I have a lap top for travel, and a pc at home here, with a tower, a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse. I have a wireless printer beside me, and my Internet access is also wireless. I have a cell phone that I use to text, to call, and to play a game or two while I’m waiting at the doctor’s office. My cell phone is also my alarm clock and my camera, and I can take pictures that then get loaded onto my computer. I can even send these pictures to friends, or post them on Face Book. I’ve also got my banking app on my phone, though seriously, I’d rather not use it. I much prefer using my desktop for that.

We have a wonderful television we got just a few years ago that can be used to connect to the Internet, but no, that’s too much for me and we don’t use it for that, in any event. Actually, the entire television is too much for me. Fortunately, Mr. Ashbury is quite adept at using it. And since I can operate it sufficiently to tune in breaking news during the day, or to replay a recorded program in the early afternoon when I am having my “legs up” time, I’m content. We won’t talk about the blue ray DVD. Yeah, my daughter is going to have to come by and show me how to use that thing, all over again.

But despite all that, which I consider normal and acceptable, more and more I’m feeling as if this world is just moving too fast for me, and for once it’s not the technological changes that are the cause of this sense, but the societal ones. And maybe it’s not too fast, so much as life seems to be moving entirely in the wrong direction.

I have to tell you, I didn’t see these changes coming. In fact, a year ago I would have sworn—no, I did swear—that it would never happen. Such a large number of the people on my continent would not choose lying over honesty, meanness over fairness and compassion, xenophobia over intellectual curiosity, or hatred over love.

I never thought it would happen and yet I see this happening all around me, and I’m completely at sea. It’s almost as if all the morality, all the truth, with which I was raised, with which we all were raised, has been erased from the collective consciousness of human kind. And yet, as I think on it, I begin to wonder. Am I really being lost in these changes…or is my vision simply being skewed by smoke and mirrors?

As a teenager growing up in the 60s and 70s of the last century, I was taught to examine what was presented for my consumption against a set of tenets I needed to decide upon and then adopt as my own, in order to judge whether or not I was being sold—well, snake oil. As a child, I was taught that there were certain immutable moral laws by which we humans lived. Those morals didn’t change based on circumstances or time, or anything else. They held fast, were solid, and could not be brushed aside ever. In other words, as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be. Yes, there are truths that fall into that category—etched in stone.

Since the dawn of time, human kind has known that there are two great forces struggling for domination over the hearts and minds of the people: good and evil. And the truth is, that while evil may get ahead for a time, and even seem to be winning, there is one thing evil is simply not capable of doing: and that is becoming the good.

In this struggle, Good will never use evil in order to win. Anyone who thinks that it will, has been seduced by the evil. Think about that for a moment, because there are some truths in the universe, and that is one. Evil is evil, period. Lying is lying, period. Hate is hate, and racism is racism, period. And Good will never use evil in order to win.

Evil, on the other hand, has no such restrictions.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday's Words for May 17, 2017

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day here in North America. I specify the location, because I know that in the United Kingdom the occasion is also celebrated, but quite a bit earlier—this year, it was on March 11th.

When I was a child, I didn’t always have any money to buy my mother something for Mother’s Day. I usually made the card for her, although once in a while, I bought one. Sometimes I managed to get Mother a fancy tea cup and saucer set (they had them at our local Kresge’s store, and at a very affordable price). Those times I couldn’t buy her one of those cups, I would go out to the garden and pick her a bouquet of her own flowers. She always claimed that as long as she was “remembered”—that meant a card when I lived with her, and at least a phone call but preferably a visit once I was older and out of the house, she was happy.

One of the biggest sins a child could commit in my mother’s eyes (and here the word child refers to adult children) was forgetting either Mother’s Day, or her birthday. I’m sad to say that one birthday did go by without my calling her, or even remembering the day. All these years later, I don’t remember the circumstances, only the result. I think I was more upset about my transgression than she was.

I find, as I get older, there are some ways that I’m becoming more and more like my mother. And this stance of “you don’t have to buy me anything, just remember me” is one of those ways. Flowers and cards are lovely—I have a drawer full of cards that I’ve been given over the years as I never throw them away—but the time my kids spend with me, either on the phone or in person, is truly the best gift of all.

This past Mother’s Day, my son Christopher and daughter Jennifer both came to visit me, as did my “second daughter”, Sonja. I enjoyed visiting with my son and his wife in the morning, and the girls in the afternoon. They all brought cards and hanging baskets of flowers for the porch. My great-granddaughter, when she visited the next day with her nanny, picked me a tulip from my own garden. I considered myself very blessed just for all those visits alone.

You can be sure, I cherish that tulip, even more than those lovely hanging baskets.

The traditions we honor in our families are important. They form the legacy that we, through our observance of them, hand down to the next generation. My parents have been gone many years now, and yet some of the things they did for us and the way in which they did them, found expression in my own family as I was raising my kids. For example, all of my kids got giant oranges in their stockings for Christmas, as did their children—and as did I, when I was little.

That’s not to say the traditions we pass down mean the same now as they did then. These days, large oranges in December are not such a luxury as once they were. There were Christmas mornings when we wanted to eat those oranges first, before even the candy and the wonderful full breakfasts our mother made. Those big oranges were juicy and sweet, and we didn’t even have to share them!

I hope those of you who are mothers were blessed to spend time with your children last Sunday. And I hope the traditions you’re building in your families blossom into loving legacies.

They’re a true and beautiful way to keep those long gone from this earth, close to your heart, and a way for your children and grandchildren to remember you.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Saturday, May 13, 2017

LAST DAY! 2 ROMANTIC SUSPENSE NOVELS JUST $3.00! Mothers Day/HolidayReading!



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wednesday's Words for May 10, 2017

Just in case you were wondering (and I am sure you were) today marks 196 days until my beloved hangs up his hard hat, parks his safety boots, and turns in his final punch-card. Only 196 days to go, and I am nowhere near ready for the change that is headed in my direction at the speed of light.

I’ve been giving the matter a great deal of thought, as you can imagine. This is going to be a huge adjustment for both of us, and completely different than the one we’d imagined it would be, just a decade ago.

Ten years ago, my husband still loved his job, and really didn’t want to think about retiring at 65. He felt certain, in fact, that all things being equal, he’d still be happy to work at 70 or even 75, that they would have to drag him away from his truck, kicking and screaming.

The fact that he no longer loves his job, and the added complications that COPD have brought to his life changed things, of course. And while his bosses have known for several months that his retirement was coming up, it has come to light that they’re a little reluctant to see him go.

He’s still the go-to man when something in the production line goes wrong and no one can figure out how to fix it. They’ll ask him to supervise the repairs which he is happy to do. He just can’t do that work himself anymore as it usually involves a lot of climbing up and down stairs, and we’re talking a few dozen feet in the air. His boss told him they didn’t know what they were going to do without him. Who was going to train the younger ones coming on staff, in the proper way to do things? Last year the company hired several new employees, and David spent some time training every one of them.

There was a time he would have been persuaded to put off retiring. As they continued to try and convince him to do just that, he told them point blank: if they wanted him to stay that badly, they could provide him transportation back and forth, to and from work.

He doesn’t have a driver’s license, and hasn’t for more than thirty-five years, a consequence of his misspent youth. The long daily treks are too hard on me, and our daughter, who has been driving him every day for the last several years, has had enough. The distance is about 25 miles one way, so for my daughter or myself to chauffeur him, that’s 100 miles a day. Personally, I don’t believe they’ll take him up on his offer and that’s really just as well.

My husband, in his career, has left his mark. He has trained several men who are now supervisors—some at his own site (the boss directly below the plant manager being one), and some at other sites throughout the province.

The main crushing plant that he built himself, beginning some thirty years ago, has mostly been replaced now, but it did the job for a couple of decades. And while all the equipment in the production line is relatively new, the principles of how to turn big limestone rocks into various gravel products remains the same. In this day and age, more than ever, you have the case of people with a lot of book knowledge but no practical experience designing systems that never seem work, straight out of the gate.

But that’s the way it’s always been, isn’t it?

So here we are, counting down the days to something that not so long ago, really, seemed way, way off in the distant future. It’s funny how that works, but I know it’s a common thing. So common, in fact, that John Lennon once included that very observation in a song.

Life really is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wednesday's Words for May 3, 2017

It’s finally May! This is my favorite month of the year, because usually, by May, the winter is past, and the flowers are blooming. Usually, by May, the aroma of freshly mown grass is mixing with the scent of those flowers in the air. Laundry can be seen flapping happily in the breeze, and the hope for new beginnings that seems to always dwell within my heart is alive and thriving with anticipation.

Yes, I’ve qualified all of the above with the word “usually” because we all know nature can and will have its own persnickety way. This must have been so when I was a child, too, because my mother adhered to what at that time was an old saw—that you didn’t plant your garden until the Victoria Day weekend, the weekend closest to the 24th of the month of May. This wasn’t just an adage, it was an acknowledged fact. I also reference the seed packets that we used to get. That caution on the back that warned not to plant until “all danger of frost was past” meant near the end of May, according to my mom.

In May, the days become noticeably longer. What May also use to represent to me was the end of the television viewing season. New seasons of returning shows and brand new shows began in the fall, and ended in May—freeing me from the addictive pull of the “idiot box”, allowing me lots of time to do yard work.

The television season seems to be constant now, but I still adhere to my own, admittedly old fashioned notions. All of the series I watch are on the same American networks from my youth—ABC, NBC and CBS. I really don’t do the cable programs, although my beloved certainly does. Being an author of romance, I probably shouldn’t admit I’ve never watched “Outlander”, but it’s true, and I have no logical explanation for that. My husband loves that show, and he’s also a huge fan of Game of Thrones. That one I can tell you without reservation I will never watch. I tend not to view anything with blood or violence.

When I’m not watching the handful of television programs I enjoy (mostly dramas or a couple that are considered reality shows. We won’t even talk about so-called comedies these days) I’m at my computer, writing, or at least pretending to be, or I’m reading a book. My beloved is happy to don his wireless headphones, so I can escape the noise of the box while I work or read. Yes, that does put us in separate rooms for a good part of each evening, with the added conversational hindrance that he’s wearing those headphones with the volume on high. Shouting from here to there gets me nowhere. But hey, that’s what cell phones and text messaging are for, right?

May is the month when I can leave the doors to my house open for a bit each day. Sadly, those doors lack screens of any kind, so as soon as the bugs begin to emerge, the doors remain closed. But at least I usually have a few days when I can air the house out from the long winter. I do have a couple of windows that still have their screens, and that helps, too.

May isn’t the month when the ants show up, usually. That’s April, and I was actually getting worried because April was nearly done and I hadn’t seen a single one. Silly, right? I was worried about not having the usual ant problem. But in these times of climate change and evolving (or maybe devolving) natural occurrences, no ants by mid April is different. If the ants can’t survive, what chance do we have? But whew, I can report seeing, and disposing of my first ant of the season on April 27th.

Curiously the little bugger was on my writing desk, not in the kitchen. Hmm, that’s still different. Maybe I should have stayed worried? Naw. Worrying is for those who don’t have any vision, who don’t have any courage…and who don’t have any hope.

I may not have a comprehensive vision, and I doubt I’m particularly brave. But hope? Yeah, I’ve got lots and lots of that commodity.

So much so, that I spend my life doing what I can, fostering that quality in others.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wednesday's Words for April 26, 2017

I have a very low threshold when it comes to being content. It really doesn’t take a lot for me to consider myself to be reasonably satisfied in life. I suppose that’s a natural outcome from having lived a life where nothing much was guaranteed. You know how the so-call experts say that most families are only a couple of paychecks away from financial disaster? That was us for most of our years raising our kids. I’ll be honest with you: we got through it, but I sure as heck wouldn’t want to do it all over again.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about when it comes to my state of mind: I’ve often told family and friends that as long as I have enough coffee and bathroom supplies, I am content. Yes, that seems like fairly low expectations. But I can easily imagine how many people don’t have even that much. I’m grateful for the path I’m on, a path that has spared me from extreme hardship. I was born into a nation that hasn’t had armed conflict within its borders for over a hundred years. Not only that, but this is a land of relative prosperity. I never went without a meal, as a child. Maybe missed a few as a parent raising small children, but my kids never went without a meal, either. Nor did they ever suffer a “poor” Christmas or birthday, even when we were just a couple of paychecks away from financial disaster. As much as I know my life could be “better”, financially speaking, I am far more aware that my circumstances could always be much, much worse.

Gratitude and a positive attitude are so important in life, and I wish I could convey to everyone, just how crucial they really are. Those two things are vital to your mental health, I believe that with all my heart. As bad as things can get, and trust me, they get bad for everyone from time to time, if you stay grateful, if you maintain a positive attitude, the sharpest edges of the travails you’re traversing will be dulled. As long as you can keep your spirits up, then the muck you’re walking through stays on the bottom of your boots and doesn’t splash all over you and those close to you.

Now please, I don’t want to hear anyone tell me I don’t understand what it’s like; that I couldn’t possibly know what it is to experience (fill in the blank). I do understand. I’ve experienced times of great want, and times of great personal tragedy. My life has not been all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, to paraphrase a song from my youth. But no one’s is, and if you can understand that, then that right there is a huge bonus. That’s the first step. You can tell yourself, “ah, ok, it’s not the cosmos crapping just on me. This sort of thing happens to everyone”. The second step is to understand that hard times really do not come to stay, they truly do come to pass. So wash your face, brush your hair, put on a smile as you don your jeans and tee—and get to living through the day you’ve been given. 

We’re all in this together. Maybe we have differences, but that’s ok. In any given group, not all of the people agree about all of the stuff. That’s what makes life interesting. We were blessed with the great good gift of free will, and that gift absolutely guarantees diversity.

But we, all of us, are in this together. So don’t worry. When the water starts rising in your boat, know that you’re not alone grabbing that pail and bailing. Just take a look around the harbor. We’re all working right along side of you to stem the flood.

We were never intended to live our lives in isolation, but to band together in community. And just as hard times are easier to get through when shared, so, too, is joy multiplied that exact same way. 

That’s truly the way we were made.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Medieval Dragons and a Dragon with a Difference. Lindsay Townsend

Painting by C. J. Begas, 1828 (public
domain image from Wikimedia Commons)
Medieval people believed in dragons. In the east, dragons were seen as powerful, imperial, and signs of good fortune and plenty, but in the west they were often linked to Satan, the devil, "The Old Serpent", and regarded as trouble.

Sometimes such creatures are called dragons, at other times they are worms or wyrms, armed with poison like a snake. The hero Beowulf fights a dragon who lives in a mound and guards a treasure hoard. The Vikings believed in dragons that were more like serpents, so in the Poetic Edda we learn how Sigurðr killed the dragon Fafnir, who behaves very much like a snake.

Sigurðr and Reginn went up onto Gnita-heath and there found Fafnir’s track, where he slithered  to the water. Sigurðr dug a pit there in the path and went into it. And when Fafnir slithered away from the gold, he breathed forth venom, and it fell down onto Sigurðr’s head. And when Fafnir slithered over the pit, Sigurðr stabbed him in the heart with his sword. Fafnir shook himself and lashed about with his head and tail.


In Viking art dragons appear lithe and sinuous, coiling about. However ominous, they were popular in stories, suitable opponents for warriors in tales.

The appearance of dragons in the Middle Ages usually foretold disaster. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 793 tells of the first Viking raid on Lindisfarne, Northumberland, and the omens that preceded it: ‘Here were dreadful forewarnings come over the land of Northumbria, and woefully terrified the people: these were amazing sheets of lightning and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky.’ 


In keeping with the heroic warrior theme but now in a Christian context, several saints battle with dragons in medieval tales. There is the famous Saint George and the Dragon (a dragon lays waste to the countryside and is offered sheep, youths and maidens as sacrifices. When the situation becomes so desperate that the king's daughter is offered, the knight George appears and vanquishes the beast.) In the ultimate show-down of good verses evil, the archangel Michael battles the great dragon Lucifer in the Book of Revelations. a text often illustrated by medieval artists.

For my own story of 'The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon,' I took these ideas of might, power, battle, knight heroes, sacrificial maidens and gold and gave them a twist. I hope my readers enjoy the results.

The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon on Amazon

The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon on Amazon UK

The two book series on Bookstrand




More on my blog

Lindsay Townsend



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday's Words for April 19, 2017

Do you ever “cruise” YouTube? I’m going to confess that I do—a lot. Not only that, sometimes I do it when I’m supposed to be doing something else, usually writing. It really is a giant time suck, and I think the challenge of watching just one video should sit right up there along side that decades-old challenge of eating just one potato chip. I’m sure the more serious minded and the more sober of character among us likely have no trouble at all giving YouTube a pass. I’ve never claimed to be either of those things—serious minded or sober of character. I am, after all an author. We tend to be neurotic and full of whimsy by nature.

Lately, I’m an author who should put more time BICFOK (butt in chair, fingers on keyboard) than I do. So far, I haven’t been challenged on this YouTube cruising habit of mine—truly a time wasting habit—but if I am, I have my “explanation” ready, and in this, I’m blessed. You see, I’m a writer, therefore everything I do can be considered research.

There is some truth to that, in fact. If I could ask for something “more” for myself it really would be more self-discipline. I really do need more of that elusive quality. I try not to beat myself up about things. I’m in my sixties, after all, and I’ve spent most of my life “taking care of business” as it were. I’ve worked outside the home, kept the home, and raised my kids, all at the same time. I’ve seen 51 novels published since my first book came out in 2007. That’s an average of 5 novels a year, which isn’t too bad a record at all.

And still, I do beat myself up over this time-wasting part of my character. I’m not certain I know how to curb it, either. And just when I think I do, I see something on YouTube that is not only compelling, it underscores themes which for better or worse find expression in my novels. If you think my erotic romance novels are only about sex, I would suggest you read one. They have sex in them, yes, but that’s not what they’re about. They’re about people, and relationships and life.

But I digress. I wanted to tell you about a video I watched a couple of months ago on YouTube. (Another digression here for those who aren’t so familiar with this medium. If you see something you really like on YouTube, bookmark it. Otherwise, finding it again can be an exercise in frustration and futility.) This particular video I wanted to tell you about was part of a documentary on a senior citizen’s center, highlighting the effect the programs there had on the lives of those who participated, people who might otherwise just stay home alone all the time. This one woman couldn’t say enough about what a change the center had brought to her life. Her being able to attend that program gave her something to look forward to. The program ran weekdays, and she went every single day it was available.

One of the workers at the center asked her what she did with her time the other two days of the week, Saturday and Sunday, when there was no program running. She admitted to this worker that if she didn’t have something to keep her busy, she might possibly go mad.

So, she’d found an activity she could do, right there at home. The filmmaker’s cameras recorded her industry. Apparently, there was a huge amount of “junk mail” that came to her house through the week. On the weekends, then, she’d sit on her sofa, with that pile of junk mail on one side of her, and a garbage bag on the other. And what she did to keep busy was to open each piece of mail, and then proceed to tear each page of it into small pieces, which she then deposited into the garbage bag. This wasn’t by any means a speedy process for her. This lady didn’t move very quickly and it took her time to reduce full pages of paper to small bits.

I don’t think I can adequately explain to you why this affected me so deeply. On the one hand, I was beyond sad that there didn’t seem to be any family about to visit her, and that her “living” moments appeared to be relegated only to the days and hours the senior’s center was open. On the other hand, I was in awe of her positive attitude. It didn’t matter if what she’d chosen to do with her time was to a great purpose, or not; it only mattered that what she chose to do kept her busy.

A lot of my stories touch on the resiliency of the human spirit. I tend to look at the cup as being half full instead of half empty. And while many believe that hard times only bring out the worst in people, I tend to think that there are at least as many who shine in those circumstances, as those who don’t.

That wise old counselor, Anonymous, really had it right. He said, and it is true: Life really is five percent what happens to you, and ninety-five percent how you handle it.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday's Words for April 12, 2017

Anger and hate. These two emotions seem to be everywhere, filling the air around us with an invisible smog, a choking, cloying miasma with the power to destroy everything good, everything righteous, and everything beautiful. Can you see it? Can you feel it?

It seems that discourse today is all about “sides”, a kind of us-versus-them mentality that has developed into a scorched earth, take no prisoners kind of battle. It’s no longer just a matter that people are on two sides of an intellectual divide, with fervent belief in their own interpretation of the facts.

It’s that there are two opposing sets of facts, period. And for all I know, even more than two. All you appear to need to “create” reality is a loud voice, dogged persistence, and internet bots.

This is all my perception, I will gladly admit this, but I know I’m not alone in my interpretation of what is happening in the world around us. It’s extremely wearing, isn’t it? The word “compromise” has not only been struck from the lexicon of daily social interaction: I greatly fear it is being expunged from our very memories.

I’ve been totally upfront in these essays, letting my readers know where I stand, faith-wise. I don’t, as a rule, proselytize. And perhaps it’s because of my faith that I feel this darkness, this hate and anger spreading throughout the land so very deeply. You see, I’ve come to realize the worst perpetrators of this sickness are those who claim to cling to the very faith that is so dear to me, and at the core of my own beliefs.

What I can see, and what I believe, is their actions and their stated beliefs are at odds with Christianity, as I know it.

I’m not going to preach religion in this essay. I’m trying only to reveal my own intellectual and spiritual struggles with the world around me. And what I see are a whole lot of people whose actions do not reflect the meaning of the words they use to justify those actions. It all comes down to one thing, for me, and that’s having the fruit on the tree. You can’t say you belong to Christ if you are exhibiting behavior that is not Christ-like. This is not judgement; this is called spiritual discernment.

There are many in every faith who hold to good, positive practices and behaviors—behaviors like kindness, generosity, caring, and love. There are those who eschew religious faith completely who are kind, generous, caring and loving individuals. People who spread love, not hate. Christians do not have a monopoly on these qualities. No one religion does.

I suppose at the core it comes down to the fact that we are sometimes confusing two separate nouns representing two separate things: religion, and faith. The first is of man, the second is of God.

I know there is a purpose to the turmoil we’re all witnessing because I know who ultimately is in control. I also know I’m not the only one getting world-weary of the nastiness. I have no great idea or grand plan to combat the plague that is consuming so many in this world today.

All I can do is to say to you, this is what I think it is, and this is how it affects me, so that those who feel the same way know they are not alone. Sometimes, realizing you’re not alone can be a tremendous boon.

There is one more thing I can do. I can re-affirm my own faith, my own values, and repeat as my own mantra that hard times really don’t come to stay.

They truly come to pass.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesday's Words for April 5, 2017

Now that we’ve gotten through winter, lost an hour’s cherished sleep, and been April fooled, it’s time to begin to consider the serious matter of gardening. While it’s true that I can no longer get down into the dirt myself, that doesn’t in anyway detract from the joy I receive planning what blooms we’ll have this year around the house.

For myself, I’ve given up on the veggies. The proper place for them is in a nice-sized dinner garden at the very least, and there’s only one place here for us to reasonably put one. There is room at the top of our backyard, but that climb is too steep for me. David continues to experiment with growing veggies in pots. We’ve also heard of a raised “table garden” but we haven’t found one yet. My beloved is considering building one himself. We’ll have to wait and see. He’s in charge of any veggie experiments as I begin to plan for the flowers.

One of my favorite flowers to get from a nursery and plant each spring are pansies. Around here, they’re only available in the very early spring, so I’ll likely be hunting them down within the next couple of weeks. I like to buy a veritable profusion of them, and then put them in the three rectangular planters I have, that will then hang from the front porch railing. They get morning sun there, and with watering, and care, they often fill out those planters beautifully.

My favorite perennial spring blooms are narcissi (the white ones with the yellow and red lines encircling the cup) and lily-of-the-valley. I’m also a big fan of lilacs, daffodils and tulips. It was a couple of years ago, now, that I finally got my hands on a pair of lilac trees. They’re planted, one at each of the two front corners of my house, where the one gets sun until about eleven-thirty each morning, and the other through most of the day. They haven’t grown a great deal in size yet, but they have survived the winters, so far. Near the base of the lilac tree planted on the north-east corner, the one that is shaded half the day, there are several lilies-of-the-valley that my son brought for me when he thinned out his own patch a couple of years ago. I look forward, with great anticipation, to the day when both the lilacs and the lilies scent the air at the same time. I remember that combined aroma from my childhood. It’s heavenly.

We have perennials lining the short walkway, from curb to stairs, and along the front of the house from the north-east corner to the walnut tree that anchors the south-east corner of the porch. Among those are two peony bushes—another favorite. Some flowers are pretty, and some smell divine—its those that have both of those qualities I tend to like the most.

Last year, we finally planted some gladioli in the back yard, at the back of the narrow garden along the fence. We had greenery last year, but no blooms. My fingers are crossed for this year. We have one “tub” garden, as well, next to the south backyard gate. This we’ve filled each summer with petunias, and whatever other annuals we have left over from planting in our various gardens and pots. The tub is a repurposed, oversized round garbage bin made of black plastic. It stands about four feet high. The flowers in this tend to be the most productive in the yard, likely because the bin started out as a composting bin.

A few years back, we purchased a gazebo and some outdoor carpeting, and transformed our back yard into a pleasant place to sit when weather permits. This year, we need to replace the carpet and the canvas of the gazebo. I’m not confident we’ll get that one done. Much depends these days on how much energy we have, and whether or not the weather cooperates. A new outdoor grill would be nice, too, as ours is nearly done. It’s good to have a list of what you’d like to do, isn’t it? At least having goals keeps your mind, and your spirit, active.

This is one of the things I cherish most about spring, and why it’s my favorite season. It tends to be the time of year when we think about new beginnings, and fresh starts.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wednesday's Words for March 29, 2017

We have a dog, who is actually more than just a pet. He’s the baby of our family, the very apple of his daddy’s eye, and is more spoiled than any of our other children, who were born without fur, ever were.

Our baby is a member of the hybrid breed known as Morkie. He’s a cross between a Maltese and a Yorkie, and he turned four years old this past Christmas Day. He weighs all of seven and a half pounds. We became his forever family when he was eight weeks old. My beloved fell in love with him from a photo my daughter brought over that she’d printed from the internet, from a site here in Canada called Kijiji (which is comparable to Craig’s List).

Three months prior, we’d lost our beloved dog, Rochie (short for ferocious, which he never was), a ninety-pound lab-cross. Rochie was eleven. He’d suffered a stroke overnight, and the only humane thing to do was relieve his suffering, as he couldn’t walk and seemed completely confused and disoriented. David really loved Rochie, his best friend who he’d raised from a pup that had belonged to one of our grandsons. In the months following his loss, David seemed a little subdued. Our daughter informed me her father was lonely when I returned, in early February of that year, from a week away. She told me, admonished me, really, that Daddy must have another dog. I was unconvinced. This led to her bringing that picture and showing her daddy, and asking him if he would like to have “this cute little puppy”. And her daddy, who had previously admonished me in no uncertain terms that there would be no more pets in the Ashbury household? Yeah, he caved like a house of cards.

For the doggie daddy, it was love at first sight. David really wanted the dog, and I’m not one to say no when my beloved wants something. Mr. Tuffy represents a couple of notable firsts for our family. He’s the first dog for which we paid money—and a lot of money, at that. He’s also the first small dog we’ve ever owned.

When he arrived here, we both fell in love with him. He was his daddy’s baby first and foremost, and while it had been agreed that the puppy would sleep in his crate (which was actually a baby’s play pen) beside the bed each night, almost right from the beginning, and unbeknownst to me at the time, David snuck him into the bed with us.

Yeah, that whole pretense of using the playpen only lasted until that day a couple of months later, in May when our daughter arrived to babysit him while we went to a writer’s event in the U.S.

Mr. Tuffy has earned his place as a beloved member of the family. He is, in reality, at the center of life here in the Ashbury household. He will eat dog kibble, but only as a side dish. Otherwise, his diet consists of chicken, pork, beef, liver—and even lamb. Hamburger, not so much. I shouldn’t say even lamb, because it is one of his favorites. Mr. Tuffy has a wardrobe filled with sweaters and jackets. He actually has more sweaters than I do. He has a box of toys in the living room. He sleeps on our bed at night, as I said, and during the day, one may often find him perched on my desk, between my tower and my monitor.

He also has his own “bed”, of course, and that is on the floor beside my desk—his second favorite daytime resting place. In this bed is a “blanket”, and several bones. He loves his bones. We refer to his bed as his bone-bed, and he’s in it for at least one nap every day—unless, of course, the cat decides she wants the bed, instead.

The cat has a habit of stealing his sleeping spots and has stolen every one except for the one which is our bed. On the rare occasions that the cat demands to sleep on the bed at night, her preferred (and only) spot is just above my pillow making it easy for me, her servant, to slip a hand under her and one on top of her as I try to go to sleep—and for her to bat me with her paw if I don’t.

Mr. Tuffy also has issues, the main one being extreme separation anxiety. This has been an issue that developed gradually and unexpectedly when he was about two, and has been ongoing. The vet has said we could medicate him, but neither of us has any desire to do that. Instead, we do what families do when one of their members develops “issues”. We simply cope. Mr. Tuffy is no longer left alone, ever. If we have to go out to a place where he cannot come, we take him to the one other place in this world where he will feel ok—our daughter’s house. She has Chihuahuas who have been his buddies since day one. And, considering the role she played in making sure we had Mr. Tuffy as her baby brother in the first place, it’s only fitting her house is plan B for us and for him.

I’ve known people in my lifetime who would have considered this kind of a problem to be a deal-breaker. I’ve known people who’ve decided after the fact that pets weren’t really for them, and have removed them from their families. But that’s not us. We take our obligations seriously. In our view, once you adopt a pet, that pet is yours—in much the same way that a baby born to you or adopted by you is yours—forever.

So yes, this is Mr. Tuffy’s forever home, and we will likely continue to spoil him, and deal with any future issues he may develop which, really, is no chore for us at all.

Giving in love, whether to a pet, a person, or a purpose is one of life’s greatest callings and purest joys.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury