Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Wednesday's Words for August 8, 2018

So many people today are broken. Sometimes, you can see that brokenness right there in front of you. It’s not hidden, but in plain sight. Some people see it and turn away, just in case it’s contagious. And some people have become adept at dismissing the condition from their conscious thoughts.

It doesn’t affect me, so I refuse to acknowledge its existence.

But there are more people who are broken than even the most empathic eye can see. Just as some people have trained themselves not to see the brokenness of others, other people have learned how to hide their own tattered condition from the world—not only from strangers, but, and likely most especially, from family and friends as well.

When you have a loved one who goes through horrendous circumstances, sometimes all you can do is simply be there for them. Be the shoulder that supports a head, the ear that listens to a heart that’s breaking, and the arms that hold body and soul together, allowing a moment of rest. You don’t always have to have answers. Most times, even when we’re the most broken, the only place answers can be found is within ourselves. You don’t hold my answers, only I do. I don’t have your answers—I can only support you while you search for your own.

Until we’re strong enough to take up the search for those answers, we need comfort and caring and to know that we’re not alone. We need to know someone else has been through this. And we need to know, that no matter how destroyed we feel ourselves to be, we matter.

People matter. In fact, if people don’t matter to you, then everything else that does matter to you is as worthless as ten-year-old mouse defiled hay.

I believe with all my heart that the main reason we are here, on this earth, is to help others. That doesn’t mean you must live 24/7 for other people. It does mean that when those moments happen, when those people come into your life, then you need to take care of them in the way that, if you look inside yourself, you understand you’re expected to do.

You see a homeless person on the street, and you feel the urge to feed them? Feed them. It’s nearly Christmas, and you feel the need to buy food or toys and give them to someone who needs them? Buy them.

The person in your office whom you don’t really care for is having a horrible time—take them for a cup of coffee or tea, and just listen.

Most of what we’re called to do to help our neighbors, whom we are supposed to love as ourselves, doesn’t cost us anything but time and a bit of compassion. And the wonderful thing about compassion is this: the more you give away, the more your human heart manufactures for you to give away.

The side effects of this process include but are not limited to: an easing of your own sorrows, a sense of achievement, an insight that you’ve done something good and righteous, a lighter step, and a heart more filled with love.

These days in which we find ourselves are rife with anger, sadness, and a sense of being adrift, of having lost our way. We feel the very foundations of our society—honesty, decency, compassion, and fairness—being battered by the forces of pure evil.

This is nothing new in human history, though it may be new to us as individuals. And the only cure, the only way to beat back the dark is to invite in the light—to bring our better angels to the fore and follow their prodding.

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Wednesday's Words for August 1, 2018

Our gardens are not doing too badly this year. The ones in the back yard are especially thriving. We even have a kind of taking-over-everything in its path vine thing happening. Judging by the leaves and the flowers, it appears to be of the morning glory family. It’s very pretty and the flowers are white with a purple center.

And it was lush and beautiful, growing out of the old barrel as it does, spreading along the side fence. I say “was” because we discovered, on this past Saturday that some critter or other had been using that growth as an all-you-can-eat buffet. I’m not sure what was having a feast there—the candidates are squirrels, chippies, rabbits or caterpillars—but it damn near did all but lick the platter clean on an entire section of the vine.

The old barrel is just that—an old large, plastic barrel that we were using as a compost container. In the first few years of living in this house, my beloved used that barrel as a garbage can. And for the first few years, the collectors each week happily dumped its contents into their trucks.

Enter new regulations, and we discovered on a day when that barrel was about half full, that it no longer qualified as an acceptable receptacle. I had thought David had emptied the contents into another can that did meet regs.

Imagine rolling-eyes emoji here.

At about the same time as we discovered the unacceptability of the old barrel, I had mentioned to David that we really should have a compost container. He said, “You bet!” And since he duly took my compost deposits—all fruit and veggie rinds and coffee grains, opened tea bags and egg shells and such—each week without any comment, I assumed we had a composter.

And we did. Yes, that old gray barrel had been transformed as if by magic into a composter—and, I might add, no, it was not emptied first. Maybe I should suggest imagining another rolling-eyes emoji here?

About four years ago, after my beloved, having added some soil here and there, the compost barrel was full. It stood where it is now, in anticipation of his using the contents of that by now full of rich composted soil on the gardens, when we discovered that we had something growing in it. Weeds, I thought. Let’s just wait and see, he said.

And thus, began the takeover of the vine. We’re pretty sure it’s not necessarily a “weed”, because it has those pretty white flowers with the purple centers. The leaves and the flowers are both very similar in shape to the morning glory plants at the front of our house, as well as the moon flower plant that we put in this spring. We figure we have some birds to thank for this vine ending up in the compost barrel.

Each year, the vine comes back. We don’t cut or feed it, but it does seem kind of nice. Except not at the moment, when it’s somewhat chewed and mangled. My husband thinks it really could be chipmunks or squirrels, because seriously, it looks like something just chewed all the leaves off in one area, but the munchers left the stem part. We had the same thing happen in the very early spring to one of our cedar trees. Up overhead, several feet up, you could see a round, gnawed-away part of the tree’s foliage.

If the destruction had happened to one of my roses (which are not in this part of the yard) or to other plants that we purchased at the garden center, I’d be more than a little miffed. As it is, if it is one of nature’s little creatures availing itself of the buffet offering, how can I really complain?

Come winter we purchase peanuts and sunflower seeds to feed the squirrels and chippies, even going so far as to have a separate feeder for those rodents. We have a bird feeder too, and purchase bird seed for it. How can we complain if those same creatures then avail themselves of whatever they find here the rest of the year? Likely as far as they’re concerned, this isn’t a house where humans live.

It’s a twenty-four-hour restaurant, an all-you-can-eat salad bar. I’m okay with that. Just as long as they continue to leave my roses alone. If you take a little hike over to my blog page, you’ll see a picture of the vine, pre-munching: http://wednesdayswordsbymorgan.blogspot.com/2018/08/august-1-2018-our-gardens-are-not-doing.html


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

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wednesday's Words for July 25, 2018

I have to say, they sure aren’t making it easy, these days, to stay positive, are they? Between the weather which we’ve been getting lately, and newscasts with all the hair-on-fire headlines, doom and gloom and gloom and doom abound.

My beloved tells me he thinks we’ve passed the tipping point for the climate—that we’ve now crossed the threshold with Mother Nature, and the best we can do is to slow it down by the tiny increments available to us and then watch the consequences in the weather of failing to respond adequately to the crisis of global warming.

As for the headlines? Well, thanks to the constant barrage of news headlines, hand wringing, along with name calling and blame hurling have become the new national past times, in both our countries. Staying upbeat is becoming passé, as is using common sense and practicing the golden rule.

There are times when I am wondering if it’s the gold-plated rule, and if that gold plate wasn’t maybe fool’s gold, based on how many people seem to be ignoring it anymore. There was a time in life when I heard that golden rule spoken every single day—by a well-known radio personality in our neck of the woods.

Paul Hanover was with a radio station in Hamilton, Ontario and was so well known for his morning show, he was dubbed the “Mayor of the Morning”. Hanover ended every one of his broadcasts this way: “And remember, do as you would be did by.”

That simple, common, and yes, Biblical principle doesn’t seem to be a lot to set as a daily goal, does it? You wouldn’t think it would be difficult to accomplish, would you?

And yet, sadly, it is becoming out of date. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you has truly, and for the most part, turned into “do unto others before they do it unto you”, which is not the same thing at all.

We seem to be having an emotional crisis lately, and I am beginning to believe it’s a natural outgrowth of the twenty-four-hour news cycle. No, I am not blaming the media—or rather, not only the media. As it turns out there is plenty of blame to go around.

You could blame the media in that originally the “news” on television began as the evening news, and was, yes, in the evening, a half-hour presentation which was commercial free—a public service offered by the major networks. “Breaking News” used to be a banner you saw rarely—primarily when something truly newsworthy, or truly horrible happened. Today, it’s a banner seen almost daily.

When newscasts became just another way for the networks to make money, well, I guess we could say we should have known it would all go to hell.

You can blame those who seek to make news—those who have an almost atavistic need to draw attention to themselves on a constant, continuous basis. Anyone who seeks fame and notoriety by getting their name out there, by dominating the news cycle, anyone with a cause, can go ahead and do the outrageous or the unseemly, and be certain that someone somewhere will have a cellphone with a camera, and bam—instant news headline and hair-on-fire moment.

And you can blame us, the consumer of that twenty-four-hour news cycle. In fact, I believe you can blame us the most. They’ve taken advantage of one of the worst aspects human nature, that same instinct that has us slowing on the highway to get a good look at a horrific accident or stopping on a hill to watch an oncoming train wreck. Before we know it, we’re addicted to the news, wanting to see what happens next.

The problem is—and maybe the purpose is—it can wear us out so we become desensitized to current events. To make us feel so awful, that we don’t care who does what to whom, we just want peace. Those are real consequences to living in these times, and they are dangerous. Very dangerous. That kind of horrible feeling/desensitization is the purpose of disinformation campaigns, to prevent people from keeping vigil on whatever it is the instigator of the “newsworthy” events is aiming to accomplish. The good old misdirection of the snake oil salesmen of the world…and they’re making headway, damn it.

Maybe we should form moderate sized mental/emotional, virtual “settlements”, just like in pioneer times. Folks congregated together then for protection and survival, and maybe we need to revisit that strategy. We could form groups, make a duty roster, and take turns keeping an eye on “breaking news”, and if it’s really bad, if it involves getting ready to duck and cover, then the one on duty could alert the rest of us. Other wise, the one on duty would monitor and the rest of us could just forget there is anything to monitor. And if it does get that bad, and we do get that notification?

Well, then we can put away our coloring books and our pencil crayons, and brace for impact.

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wednesday's Words for July 18, 2018

Y’all might find this hard to believe, but I have the darnedest time keeping friends. I really don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I sure wish someone would tell me. If I knew what it was, I might actually stop doing it. Then again, I might not. I suppose it depends on what the truth is.

My beloved gets annoyed with me, because, he says, I don’t put up even the simplest of barriers to protect myself. He’s right, of course. I meet new people, and I am completely open to them, taking them at face value unless, of course, I see direct evidence that I shouldn’t.

It never occurs to me that some people may only be interested in me for what I can do for them because, well, I don’t behave that way myself. I suppose in a way I represent the flip side of a coin we’ve all become way too familiar with. We all know people who are liars. And liars, more often than not, truly believe that everybody lies because they do. The same with people who will cheat the system, trying to grab a little something more for themselves they maybe shouldn’t have. “Everybody does it,” they haplessly proclaim, as they stuff their pockets with their ill-gotten gains.

So I guess I’m one of the folks on the opposite end of that spectrum. Despite having been figuratively kicked in the teeth by those I’ve believed in and believed, in the past, to be my friends, I go ahead and eagerly take on new friends. I don’t even consider that these new friends might do me dirt, because I wouldn’t do that to anyone and—more truth—I choose to not even consider it.

That’s right, I choose not to believe that the people I befriend are anything but what they appear to be. Because if I acted suspicious, if I narrowed my gaze on them, looking and waiting for the first sign they’re insincere, that would make me a cynical person.

Given the choice between being naïve and hurt or being cynical and pain free, I will choose naïve every time.

One of the things I have trouble doing in life is asking other people for anything. Seriously, I’m the first one to offer to help, if I can. If you’re my friend, and I see you have a need, if that’s something I can help with, hey, I’m there. Why? I guess because I believe that’s what friends are for, especially if it’s me doing the giving.

I have on occasion been met with suspicion myself. That always confuses me, and if that suspicion is nasty in nature, hell, I don’t even get mad. I just get hurt. Hurt is a lot more difficult to cope with than anger. Anger by it’s very nature burns off the chaff of the experience—the right amount of anger and it’s a one-time cleansing, without a refueling stop.

Hurt? About the only thing I know to do in response to feeling hurt is to batten down the emotional hatches for a while and let the pain slowly work its way through, and hopefully out.

Anger would be a healthier response. But just like that thick skin everyone has always been after me to grow, I don’t really believe changing my response from hurt to anger is in my DNA.

Friends have always meant more to me than they really should. I know that. I’ve often quoted that wise saw: people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I believe that with all my heart. I’ve experienced it time and again. I can look back over my life and see the people who’ve touched me who, I thought at the time, I touched in return and would be forever friends—but who are now at this point long gone.

I just wish people wore signs. Then I would know, if they’re here for a reason, or a season, or a lifetime.

The most likely truth is that they do wear those signs—I just don’t know how to see them.

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wednesday's Words for July 11, 2018

What an amazing, miraculous, happy-ending story!

We became alerted to the drama taking place on the other side of the world, in Thailand more than two weeks ago. Twelve boys and their soccer coach had gone exploring in a cave complex in the northern part of that country. A flash flood from seasonal monsoon rains had hit the area, trapping them, and even while rescuers were being assembled, fears ran high that the missing team had drowned.

As I watched this emergency unfolding on our television screen, I was taken back to the Copiapó mining accident in Chile in 2010. That emergency involved grown men, not boys. Thirty-three, in fact, who were rescued after an astounding sixty-nine days trapped underground. Despite the differences, at their core, that accident eight years ago and this emergency just past, are similar.

In both instances not only were the attention, the hearts and prayers of the entire world engaged, but so too were the resources, experts and rescue personnel. For a time, in both instances, the world was united in hope.

The effort to affect a rescue once the children were found to be alive—and oh, what a moment that was!—was an international endeavor. People came together, worked together, prayed together with little in common except for one major thing: these were children at risk of dying.

 As we’ve recently learned, nothing draws the involvement and cooperation of complete strangers like a threat to children, any children, all children, can do. I believe that’s because in a very real sense children in dire need belong to us all—whether they’re trapped in caves underground or trapped in a heartless bureaucracy.

As the days passed we all watched and prayed and hoped for the best but feared the worst. These were young boys, whose entire time in the dank and the dark spanned eighteen days and nights. From June 23rd, when the team was discovered to have entered the caves, until July 2nd when British divers found them to be alive, we tuned in, and hoped, and prayed despite our fear. The parents of these boys gathered at the site, camping out, joining together to support one another, share stories and pictures of their sons, and to await their return.

Anyone who is a parent identified with those moms and dads, clinging to each other and to hope, as the days passed. Their hope was first rewarded when their sons were found to be alive. They had images then, and a few words from their boys, and the chance to send a few words back, a down payment for the time, the certain-to-come time, when they would be able to actually hold and hug their babies again. It would happen, I imagine they said to themselves, and to anyone who could hear them, over and over again. They will be saved. It will happen.

Experts debated on the best way to execute a rescue. All sorts of ideas were floated, from bringing them out in scuba gear, to leaving them for a few more weeks, until the monsoon season passed.

But oxygen was running low, and the threat of more rain was running high. One brave Thai navy SEAL, Saman Gunan, who had volunteered to help, died during the operation.

Though it was a very dangerous plan—most of the boys could not even swim—the decision was finally made to bring them out, one by one, through the dark and chilled waters flooding the narrow nearly two-mile-long path.

They didn’t announce that the method of rescue had been decided, or that a team of divers had been dispatched to begin. They only announced, on July 8th, that the first four boys had been brought safely out of the danger zone after an eleven-hour long effort.

Amid the cheers and jubilation, organizers announced the teams would rest and return for more in a day or so. Speculation was this rescue could take up to five days. But in truth, they worked much faster than that. The next day, four more boys emerged. And yesterday, the remaining boys and their coach were led to safety.

Other divers re-entered the cave, intending to retrieve their equipment; they had to abandon that effort when the caves began to take in more water after the main pump they’d been using to keep the water level as low as possible, quit. As it turned out, there hadn’t been a moment to spare.

With so much negative news lately, this event drew us together, and drew us in. Our hearts ached for the parents waiting, waiting, to be reunited with their children. And we were inspired by the bravery of those children. They weren’t seen to be crying, or unruly. They were smiling and calm, proving that sometimes you don’t need to be the biggest or the strongest or the best.

You just need to be pure of heart, and to have faith.

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Wednesday's Words for July 4, 2018

On Sunday we celebrated Canada Day, and today is the Fourth of July! We celebrate our national birthday here in Canada in much the same way as you Americans celebrate Independence Day. There are picnics and parades, a lot of flags waving in the breeze, and there are fireworks at night.

We here in Canada, just like you in the United States, began existence as colonies of Great Britain. However, our two countries came into being in vastly different ways, and in different centuries, and those earliest of roots have set the course for our disparate destinies and unique national personalities. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I’ve boiled our main differences down to a few sentences. This was not done to try and ridicule or denigrate, but only to understand.

Canada became a nation through an act of British Parliament (The British North America Act of 1867). The United States became a nation through the American Revolution, which began in 1775 with “the shot heard round the world” and reinforced a year later when patriots created and enacted the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution of the United States, and fought a war for the right to be one nation, under God.

As a result, Americans hold fast to the second amendment of their Constitution, and we Canadians hold fast to being polite and diplomatic.

I think that main difference is why, as a student in both high school and later, university, it was the study of American history I was drawn to pursue. Seizing the moment and making something happen was so much more exciting to me than talking something into existence.

For those of you who’ve been kind enough to read these essays over the years you know I hold the United States in high esteem, and many of my best friends are in fact Americans. This will never change, and because this is so, I keep abreast of current events below the 49th parallel.

Ronald Reagan, the great American president, referred to the United States as a “shining city on the hill”. In his farewell address to the nation, he said in part, “I've spoken of the Shining City all my political life. …In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still.”

It is still all of that, your nation, even if a bit of smog at the moment is making our view of that shine a little less than it was. The United States was molded by the framers of the Constitution to be a country that would endure. In their time, these brave patriots had broken away from a ruler they deemed a despot; therefore, protecting against having a despot within their newly minted borders anytime in the future clearly was a central focus for them as they crafted that most amazing of documents, the Constitution of the United States. The checks and balances built into that document’s structure guarantees that yours is a nation of laws, and not of men, and that the nation itself is greater than any one person or group of persons, and that it will endure long after all who are alive now have turned to dust—provided, of course, that the majority of America’s citizens work together and work hard to keep it so.

Freedom is a gem more precious than diamonds or rubies. People who are free represent the most cherished and sought after state of being in human existence. How could personal freedom not be one of the highest human ideals? God Himself created us with free will—the right to choose our own destiny—the right to choose between good and evil, and the ability to do so.

There are many nations whose citizenry do not have personal freedom, or who’ve had it but traded it away, either wittingly or unwittingly, for a gilded cage. That makes us—the citizens of Canada and the United States—two very special peoples. But this freedom we have isn’t free.

It has never been free.

Men and women have died, first seizing and then protecting this right of ours. They’ve fought wars, and some have paid the ultimate price, to guard our blessed heritage of freedom.

As we celebrate our nations birthdays let us remember the purpose to which we were originally called, the sacrifices made on our behalves, and the responsibility we have to guard not only our own rights and freedoms, but to work to establish and then to guard the rights and freedoms of all our fellow citizens, not just here in North America, but all over the world.

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wednesday's Words for June 27, 2018

On Saturday, June 23, I once more did that thing that likely would have made my mother curse, if she’d been here to see it. I turned off the air conditioning (again) and turned on the heat (yes, again). And I’ve come to the conclusion that my inner curmudgeon isn’t only not so inner anymore, she’s taking over my mind and worse, much worse, my mouth!

I was sitting in my office, early in the morning. David was still asleep. He tends to roll into bed sometime after two a.m., so it’s not surprising that he’s not up with the sun. Neither am I, for that matter. I aim for six-thirty, unless I’m extra tired, and then it’s seven-thirty. Saturday, it was the latter. As I looked out my office window, which is behind my monitor, I couldn’t help but notice the overcast skies and wet glass. As I began my daily routine, the sound of rain played a lovely background symphony. My blanket was on my lap yet even so I…. shivered.

I turned on the electric fireplace I have here in the office, which since I rearranged some of the furniture in the last couple of weeks, no longer blows in my direction. Fortunately, there is a fan on a stand in this room, too. I put the fan on low, aimed at the electric fireplace, and that helped. But I wouldn’t be spending my entire day in the office and I wasn’t the only one in the house.

Perception is everything. In January, if the temperature soared to sixty-three, we’d throw open the windows and step outside in shirtsleeves. At the end of June after steadily warm (and at times too warm) temperatures, sixty-three feels chilly. Sixty-three and rainy makes it feel twenty degrees colder.

So yes, I turned on the furnace. It’s only set for seventy, but most important, the bit of heat from the vents should defeat the damp. And, with the system controlled digitally, I need only press a couple buttons to turn off one (a/c) and turn on the other (heat).

Where my burgeoning curmudgeon comes in? I think it was when she grumbled all the way to the system controls, words that sounded like, “I’m too damn old and been through too damn much to be so fricking cold and shivering in my own damn home in the last days of June.”

I’ve noticed a tendency—or perhaps I should characterize it as a growing compulsion—to speak aloud such mutterings. When I’m alone, or even with my husband, this is not a problem. In the past when I would be alone, I have often spoken aloud, explaining to anyone who did happen upon me and heard me that I’m a writer, and I’m testing out dialogue. Some folks actually believed that. As far as my husband is concerned, he usually just chuckles, especially if some poor sap on the television news is the target of those mumblings. And if he’s the target? Well, he is mostly deaf, and his hearing aids don’t always work well—especially if he’s tuning out the world—or his wife.

I recall the older people often saying, when I was much younger, that the temperature fluctuating so much will cause a body to come down with…well, something. I’m not sure if that belief has any real basis in fact. Just lately, I’m trying to be careful and make sure that what comes out of my mouth, or off my keyboard, is the truth, and not false.

I don’t know about all y’all, but I am so darn sick of hearing falsehoods—aka lies.

As I was finishing up writing these words, I decided to check the web site I have stored in my “favorites” for a weather update. At the top of the page were these words: “Enjoy these comfortable temps in Ontario, extended heat wave (those three words in all caps) is coming. Plus (all caps) a strong (all caps) storm threat.” The temperature at the time was 57.

I’m trying to figure out if there was ever a time in my life when I thought 57 degrees was a comfortable temp. There might have been, but I don’t remember a specific moment, which tells me it was likely more than a few years ago.

And that lack of recall is probably just as well.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday's Words for June 20, 2018

As you may recall, four years ago, after much debate and back and forth between us discussing our two options, we decided to give our back yard—the part of it that is immediately accessible to us—a face-lift. Originally, we thought we’d get a small on-ground pool installed, but aside from the hassle of the red tape with the town, we realized that doing so would take the entire back yard away from the dog. So instead, we bought ourselves a gazebo, some outdoor carpeting, and a patio set consisting of a table with four chairs, and called it done.

At the end of that first season, when we were close to getting snow, my beloved disassembled the arrangement, and stored everything in the outside shed that he’d just built. Also spending time over the winter months in that shed, as it turned out, were some chippies—chipmunks to those of you less familiar with the cute little critters. Now, to give those tiny rodents their due, they never chewed the canopy of the gazebo—just the ends of the “screens”, that part of the screens that touched the ground when the gazebo was erected. And since, when David put the gazebo back up the following spring after we bought it, we could no long technically use those screens, because they no longer met so they could not be zipped up, well, that wasn’t a real problem for us. (A slight digression here—he admits he may have had challenges recalling just how the metal frame went together, and sort of winged it, making the structure just a teeny weeny little bit not quite as it was.) The screens continued to hang bunched together in the corners of the gazebo, and the tattered ends weren’t particularly noticeable.

However, we decided as we took the canopy down last November, that this year, 2018, we’d get a new gazebo. In the fall, we thought, when such things might go on sale. But thanks to the skewed sense of seasons as calculated by the retail community in our country, we found a clear-out sale in May, and ordered our new back yard shelter. This one is a bit bigger than the first, a bit fancier, and cost about the same as the first one did four years ago. It is also a nice, bright, cheerful, sun-courting red! And, (this is really the cherry on the cake), it arrived last Thursday, in time to be erected for our Father’s Day barbecue supper that we’d decided to hold.

Armed with the invaluable munition of experience, David began to erect the new gazebo on Thursday about noon, taking his time, determined to get it right. He’d already decided that in the fall, when he takes it down to store, it will be stored in the house—upstairs, in fact, where there are (knock on wood) no chipmunks, and where there is no possibility of theft. He will also only take down the canopy and the side panels. The metal structure, he will leave standing. Our back yard is somewhat sheltered, and the metal structure of the last one weathered three winters just fine.

Neither of us are overly active these days, and our dog is so small that the remaining yard really is sufficient for him to exercise in. He does get a walk each day, and as a bonus, he has a “run”—aka our front porch which spans the width of the house and upon which he runs back and forth whenever there is a person or a dog walking down the street. And by whenever, I of course mean at least ten, possibly fifteen or even twenty times a day. Every single day.

Mr. Tuffy believes himself a guard dog, thinks he’s a BIG guard dog, and takes his responsibilities very, very seriously. And we love him for it.

We had our little family party last Saturday, with our oldest and his wife, and one of his three children—the other two, sadly, had to work. I was so pleased they came, and we all enjoyed a good meal. It was special having them come, and for me, that’s the best part of any holiday—the time I get to spend with my family, whether that family is by blood or by tradition—and with friends.

I hope the fathers reading this enjoyed a day last Sunday of spending time with your kids, grandkids, and loved ones. I hope there was lots of love and laughter—and, of course, food!

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wednesday's Words for June 13, 2018

We’re nearly at the half-way mark for 2018. So far, I’m not sure what to make of this year. The last couple of weeks have been particularly notable because the actions of two celebrities have brought the subject of suicide into the spotlight once more.

We think we make progress, we humans. We continue on with our various social experiments as the decades roll past. We divest ourselves of the concept of division by class, with most of us moving toward an attitude of inclusion. Some have said that the technology of this modern age has worked to keep people apart. Others claim just the opposite—that thanks to the Internet and social media, people who were uncomfortable or had challenges mingling with their fellow humans, face to face, feel freed now, with the various forms of online “gatherings” to open their metaphorical arms and minds to their fellow persons.

And yet at the heart of it all, regardless of the strides we’ve made or the modernity of our times, we remain singularly individual beings. We appear to live in a “herd” with our cities and our towns and our villages, with our high rise apartments that house thousands of souls at one address, but in fact we are, at the end of the day, alone inside these shells we call bodies, alone and far too often, we are lonely.

This state of loneliness is, for some, a difficult state in which to exist. Our bodies may decree that we’re separate entities, but I don’t believe we were made to be isolated. Indeed, people invest a lot in the quest to seek connections with other people and sometimes fail utterly to make ones that last. Most of us aren’t very good at judging the difference between “a reason, a season, or a lifetime” when it comes to allowing people into our lives—into our hearts. Because we are individuals and different, each of us, all of us, one from the next, there are any number of ways we react to this situation we can find ourselves in, to this, for some, crippling loneliness. We can appear, on the outside, to have it all including the proverbial gold rings of human existence—fame and fortune. And yet, on the inside of our hearts and our minds and our souls, there is a hunger, a need, a desolation, and eventually, there can be a hopelessness.

I don’t claim to hold a degree in psychology, but I believe with all my heart that at the base of every suicide, and every suicide attempt, is a sense of being trapped in a state of hopelessness.

Hopelessness sprouts not only in the lonely, but in the hearts of those coping with difficult life circumstances. People lose jobs, relationships, fortunes and loved ones. They can be abused, mistreated, and stripped by others of their dignity. We get in these very tough times, and we think—we come to believe—that no one, ever has gone through this. No one knows the pain, the heartache, the weariness—the hopelessness that we feel.

This is a situation so pervasive, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised to learn the number of people inflicted with this feeling is nearing epidemic proportions.

If only we could get through those who are in these emotional and mental quagmires that they’re not alone. They’re not the only ones going through those rough patches. I can guarantee you that whatever it is any one individual is experiencing, they’re not the first and not the only person to be dealing with that exact circumstance. We can think we are and believe we are, but we are not.

Help is available, but one has to reach for it. Perhaps you have a friend, an acquaintance, a relative that you feel may be in dangerous straits, emotionally. Or maybe it’s you who’re in that place. Maybe you feel as if there is nothing left for you but the end.

There is help, and I urge you to reach for it. I urge you to tell others who you may feel are too close to the edge. There’s no shame in that, in reaching out and asking for help. And no shame in providing the information below to a friend, and acquaintance, a relative. Or maybe, it’s information you can use yourself. There are thousands of professionals and volunteers dedicated to the cause of suicide prevention. Here are some links:

In the United States: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call 1-800-273-8255

In Canada: https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/ the website has a link to each provincial center.

In the UK: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/

People are waiting to help. Hopelessness doesn’t have to be terminal. Some decisions, once taken, cannot be undone.

I urge you, for you, for your loved ones. Reach out. Get help.

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wednesday's Words for June 6, 2018

I’ve been trying my hand at some new recipes over the last few weeks. I enjoy cooking, and even though I’ve cut back on the number of meals I make for us each week, I try to change things up. I also believe that just as playing a couple of games each day helps to keep certain of my synapses firing well, so, too, trying out new recipes keeps another part of my brain thriving.

I sat down and calculated it out. Well, maybe calculation implies a heavier reliance on logic and mathematics and than I actually employed. I suppose the closer truth is that I performed a combination of calculation and guessing. Here then, are the results of my guessulations (guessing/calculations): I will have been a wife for 46 years on July 14th. Since number 46 isn’t yet completed, I used 45 years as my base, figuring on 11 leap years in that time. This gave me 16,436 days. Allowing for times when we might have eaten out, ordered in, or gone to someone else’s house for supper, I took off 14 days per year. Now, for most of our married life, we rarely went out and didn’t take more than a scant handful of vacations until I became published, in 2007. So I don’t think I’ve allowed for too few times not cooking. Taking out those two weeks per year, leaves me 15,806 days. Let’s make allowances for a possibly faulty memory and therefore possibly skewed perceptions and cut that back to 14,000 days. That’s still a lot of suppers that I have created in my lifetime! Even the most enthusiastic chef would get tired of preparing the same meals over and over and over again.

Which, of course, I have, mainly because there aren’t that many varieties of meat to center our supper around. Beef, pork, poultry, lamb, and only very occasionally—because my husband really doesn’t care for it—fish.

I always was one for trying new things. When we married—in fact, on the very afternoon when we got home to our small apartment after our weekend-long honeymoon—my beloved told me he eats roast beef, roast pork, mashed potatoes, creamed corn and canned peas. [Imagine shocked face emoji inserted here.] After I got over that shock, I told him that since he didn’t make enough money to buy only roast beef and roast pork, he’d have to eat what I could prepare based on our grocery budget. We compromised. I’d make it, he’d try it, and if he really didn’t like it, I wouldn’t make it again. In those early days the only thing he didn’t like was liver, which now is one of his favorite meals.

That whole give-it-an-honest-try mindset worked very well for us, to the point that he eagerly looks forward to each new concoction I set before him. He’ll tell you that I have had very few fails over the years. I think I’ve had more, because he liked some of the things I’ve made that I didn’t.

Now that I have more time, I have more freedom to let my adventurous spirit peruse new recipes—primarily ones I see on my friends’ Face Book walls. Recently I’ve made potato crusted quiche, potato and leek soup, Colcannon soup, French toast bake, and cashew shrimp. Not all at the same meal, of course. Sometimes I have to look up baking equivalents. Sometimes I have to hunt up ingredients that I don’t have and sometimes, that means ordering an ingredient online because not even the local grocery stores have what I need.

My beloved and I were talking, as we often do, about how things used to be, and we both remembered fondly the gravy that I used to be able to make from hamburgers. There would be an option on the menus of the local restaurants back in the day called “hot hamburger”. Basically, this was a hamburger patty with gravy all over it. No condiments necessary, just the bun, the meat, the gravy inside and outside the bun, and a fork and knife with which to eat it. Kind of like SOS but with a hamburger patty. And at my table, usually served with a veggie instead of fries, of course.

I have noticed, in this day and age, even using what’s billed as “extra lean hamburger”, it’s practically impossible to be able to make a pan gravy from it. Normally that wonderful hamburger pan gravy would have remained a fond memory of the past.

Unless you’re me and go out and buy a beef roast when it’s on sale super cheap—and then proceed to cut that roast down to chunks and then put it through a meat grinder.

The meat grinder we have is an old one, and only has one cutting face, and the holes are very small. I do have a food chopper, and I ended up using that this time, and while it did the job it wasn’t the best it could be. However, I took that roast and ended up with 12 very good-sized patties. The first couple we cooked in a frying pan. Ah, the gravy! That was a real blast from the past. The rest of the burgers I cooked outside on the grill, as I wanted to freeze the bulk of them, which I have done. For us, twelve burgers equal 4 to 6 meals, and that’s a darn good value from a piece of meat that cost less than 17 dollars.

My husband loved the results so much he told me to order a new electric meat grinder. His exact words were, (and said around a mouthful of meat) This. Is. So. Good! I’m rubbing my hands together in anticipation of the fun I’m going to have with my new kitchen aid, just thinking about the hamburgers, and ground pork and maybe even ground chicken creations that may be in our future.

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Wednesday's Words for May 30, 2018

Watching the news anymore is an onerous task, and one that causes me considerable inner conflict. On the one hand, I believe in being informed. To the best of my ability, I believe that I should be aware of what’s going on in my world, so that I can contribute what I can, when I can. On the other hand, it’s darned depressing. Did I say depressing? Add on disheartening and dispiriting. Yes, an onerous task indeed.

One of the greatest bits of research anyone who’s a writer can carry out, is to study real people; their mannerisms, how they think, how they react. That research extends to trying to puzzle out why people think and react the way they do. I look for patterns, and I try to find the clues of motivation that are sometimes quite clear, and at other times deeply hidden.

I was raised in a household where the newspaper was read daily, and the television news watched that often as well. My mother was a nurse. She only ever had to work eight-hour shifts in her career, and not the twelve-hour shifts many nurses do today. In addition, when I was about eleven, she received a promotion to assistant head nurse for her ward. That meant she no longer had to work afternoons or nights. In her last working years, which ended when she was in her mid fifties, she confessed it was an effort when she worked her seven-day stretches, twice a month. Her schedule was staggered, with 7 days on, three off, three on, one off.

Mom gardened in her spare time, and she also read mystery novels, watched television and kept up on the news. She was very well informed and had very definite opinions about people and events and why people behaved as they did. She was a single parent, not by choice, but as the result of her husband’s—my father’s—early, unexpected death. She was not a feminist, and yet how she lived her life inspired a core of feminism within me.

I watched her do it all—cook, clean, fix the toaster, get down on her hands and knees to plane the pine plank floors in the upstairs of our house to level them out, build valances for our living room windows—and go to work at a full-time job to support us all.

And yet, in the days leading up to my wedding, she told me words I have never forgotten—and mostly, never heeded, at least not in the spirit in which she intended when she said them. I must have been giving her a hard time in the moment, being a brat, because she told me that while I was still under her roof, I would obey her; and when I got married, I would obey my husband.

If you have ever wondered what carries more weight, the example you set by your words or the one you set by your actions, wonder no more. My father died when I was only 8. Despite those words of my mother’s, I do not recall ever seeing the woman behave in a subservient or submissive fashion at all. What I did see with my own eyes was that even a woman who believed the man was the head of the household could be the head of the household if necessary. In my children’s eyes, I always deferred to their father. But between us, my beloved and I have been an equal partnership. Yes, I do confess that was a relationship dynamic I insisted upon. At the time, it was the only possible choice for me.

Remember, I was a child of the sixties and the women’s movement.

Being raised in the days before the twenty-four-hour news cycle, I remember what it was like to be “informed” according to that day’s standards. But how informed were we, really? We knew what the powers-that-be wanted us to know at the time; things happened around the world’s seats of power that even reporters kept to themselves. It wasn’t until much after the fact we learned, for example, the extent to which some in power were philanderers, and some played fast and loose with the truth when it came to the Vietnam war.

I might occasionally lament the loss of “simpler” times, but that’s the inner whiner within me, the self within wishing for a reality that, when you think about it, never truly was. In all likelihood, we came a lot closer to Armageddon in the 1960s and 70s and 80s…than we could ever have known. The more complete truth is that we’ve never really existed in a painting by Monet, or a poem by Sassoon.

Those were merely our secret refuges, where we’d escape from the real world, where we would rest and recoup, and seek the path to the kinder, gentler times of our imaginations. As far as I can tell, that’s still about the only way we can catch a break from the harsh realities of the day.

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wednesday's Words for May 23, 2018

My mother would be shaking her head, wondering where she went wrong with me. I just know she would. My only excuse is that I am now sixty-three years old and riddled with arthritis. A damp and chilly environment is not my friend, no, not at all.

So that is why on Saturday, May 19th, just this past Saturday, when two days before I had engaged my central air conditioning for a few hours and then turned it off again, I turned my furnace on once more. Yes, I did and I’m not really ashamed to admit it.

I know I commented in my last essay that the older I get the fewer things there are in life to get my panties in a twist over—or words to that effect. However, I think I forgot to mention, that with regard to those things that can raise that response within me, I’m likely to fight, and fight hard.

I’ve come to the conclusion, just this year in fact, that there is no reason whatsoever for me to endure being cold, for my ankles to be cold, or for my knees to be cold. Not one single solitary reason, because the result of that cold is unremitting pain.

My beloved doesn’t think I get outside as much as I should. Here, we have differing opinions. I am happy to go outside, on my porch or in the back yard, provided I can do so without getting drafts on my legs. I will even take a blanket outside with me in the springtime. Because, while it is true that these last few days, and likely moving forward until we hit sweltering summer (scheduled for the week after next, I believe), the thermometer may indeed rise up to seventy plus degrees, it is also true the slight breezes accompanying those days are often cooler. In fact, they are just cool enough to be called drafts, drafts which make me ache.

Don’t tell me the slight breeze is warm. I know it’s warm. I also know that after a half hour sitting there, with that warm breeze wafting over my legs, without that blanket, those legs tend to scream in protest when I stand up and try to move.

So there I was, May 19th, turning on the furnace, telling myself that one more day of using it wasn’t going to break the bank. Truly of all the expenses we have in our lives at this point, the natural gas which fuels both the water heater and the furnace is the least of our monthly bills.

The day after I turned the furnace on again, I proved that whole outside thing to myself anew. On Sunday the 20th, my sister-in-law, my husband’s sister came for a visit in the morning. I decided to make breakfast and invited my daughter to come, so she could see her auntie. My daughter brought her grand babies.

The breakfast part was an unqualified success. The times I don’t feel the weight of my age are when I’m preparing, as I did for this occasion, a dish I’ve never served before. This one was called “French Toast Bake”, a dish I assembled the night before as per the recipe, set in the fridge overnight, and only had to slip it into the oven in the morning.

 Because my family is for the most part carnivorous, I also prepared sausage links and bacon. Of course, we also had what my grandchildren call “Gramma berries”; chopped fresh strawberries, in this case with blueberries tossed in.

After breakfast the little ones wanted to play outside in the back yard since it was warm enough to do so. My daughter and sister-in-law joined them, and of course I went out too. Our back-yard furniture is set up, so I sat on one of our padded chairs at the outdoor table under the canopy….and because I am 63 and occasionally forgetful, I didn’t bring my blanket with me.

My final words on this matter are thank God for modern pain medication. Yes, Sunday once more proved that wise motto: better living through chemistry.

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wednesday's Words for May 16, 2018

There are few things in life that please me more than the scent of spring wafting through my house. For the first couple of weeks of mild temperatures hereabouts, there are very few flying insects to infringe upon my pleasure. I open the front and back doors, ensuring to block both from the ability to suddenly swing shut, and let that fresh, sweet oxygenated air flow in.

Some days, the air actually smells fresh. Those days I wish for a ground floor laundry facility and a wonderful clothes line. When we lived out in the country, I would take such a spring day and wash all the sheets and blankets, hanging them out to dry. That night, climbing into a bed in which everything had been freshened? Oh, my goodness, it was the best sleep. Ever.

I miss those days. Where we are now, there is a clothesline—up a hill that is far too steep for me to navigate alone. I haven’t been up there myself for more than a year. Though my husband can make that climb, it needs to be for just one load of laundry per day. He can go up to hang, then up to fetch, and that’s it.

My mother-in-law had a clothes line that was not only on a pulley system, length-wise; but once the line was full, she could pull a cord and raise it into the air, about eight feet up, changing the elevation sufficiently that nothing even hung even close to the ground, and the laundry was in a position to get that beautiful breeze above the fence lines. Yes, I had severe clothes line envy, and haven’t since seen a similar system.

At one point, we had to purchase one of those outdoor clothes hangers. You know the kind I mean, a pole with four arms and plastic line in several tiers forming squares? My kids called it a foreign swing. I had one, and I used it, though I was never completely happy with the way it worked—unless the day was particularly breezy. I also had David string some clothes lines in the basement, and again, while that worked—as did the wooden indoor clothes hanger that folded down like an accordion—I was just spoiled by rural living. Nothing beats sun and fresh air on clothing that is pinned and stretched out, seducing the breeze and the sun to caress and dry it.

Then there was the time I washed and then hung my favorite blouse on that clothesline in the country. I was a teenager at the time, and in Home Economic class that day, I had managed to get a mustard stain on my sleeve. I came home and washed that blouse, hoping for a miracle. But, alas, the stain remained. So, I hung it on the line and didn’t get it in until the next day. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the mustard stain was gone. You can’t convince me otherwise: Mr. Sun fixed that problem for me—the sun, nature’s bleaching agent.

These days, my house isn’t as clean as I could make it whilst in my twenties or thirties or even forties. I do what I can, and my beloved gives me some help. But it still freshens the place when I air it out, making it feel clean, and that helps. Things are certainly tidier here on a day to day basis than when the kids were in residence. Ah, those long-ago days when it was four against one vis-à-vis the housework. And while I do my best, as mobility-challenged as I am, I don’t fret about the state of tidiness as I once did. All I can do is the best I can do, and the best I can do is enough.

Maybe that’s the biggest benefit of getting older. Fewer things seem worth getting upset about. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Wednesday's Words for May 9, 2018

Mother’s Day is coming up, this Sunday—that’s just 4 days away. To those of you who have a mother, or a wife who’s a mother, or even an adult child who’s a mother, this is your official “head’s up”. Use it wisely.

There are many times through the year when I miss my own mother. She died when I was just 21, at a time in my life when I was going through challenges that made me really want my mother. I don’t think that’s a wish that ever goes away, do you? Our relationship wasn’t perfect, because neither of us was perfect. It was what it was.

She never ever would admit to having made a mistake. In her mind, that would be a weakness, not a strength. For my part, I was guilty of sometimes tuning her out, simply because she was my mother. I guess we can file that under typical human behavior.

Do you know where I see remnants of her today? In my daughter. Jenny possesses many of my mother’s traits. As well, she’s in a medical-related career. My mother was a registered nurse. Jenny recently told me she was born without the “emotion” gene. She bases this belief on the fact that some of the things other people “feel”, the things they get upset about or excited about, she just doesn’t get. Now, I’ve seen her in action and I’d dispute her self-analysis, but it is true she doesn’t like to show her emotions, and that is very much like my mom. I can get away with giving her a hug, sometimes. Anyone else? She puts up both hands and says, “personal space.” She’s not my mother, of course, she’s my daughter and her own woman. I think she sells herself short, but I’ve learned there’s only so much you can tell a grown-up child. “Grown up” is such a subjective concept, isn’t it?

Mothers Day, historically for me at any rate, was and remains a day for the giving of flowers, or plants. I mostly gave my mother plants, that she could then transplant into one of her four flower beds. One time, the three of us—my brother, my sister, and myself—got together and bought her 2 flowering crab apple trees, which she planted in front of the house—one in each of 2 round gardens.

Those trees, which would have been gifted in the early 1970's, were still in existence until about a year or so ago, when the current owner of that property finally took them out. In his defense, I believe they were failing at the time.

I have always told my children that I didn’t need gifts—a card was good enough, and a homemade one was even better. That wasn’t only something I said to spare their tender hearts, it was how I really felt.

These days, of course, they’re adults, and I can’t say that I’m as overly concerned about their tender hearts as I was when they were small. I’m not above giving a kick in the ass when one is warranted, though those times have been few, indeed. I’d like to see my son more often than a handful of times a year. When they had young children and were shepherding them to sports and clubs and other extra-school activities, I completely understood. Now that their kids are all adults? Not so much. 

Regardless, I love them as much now as I did when they were little, and enjoy them more, when we’re together, because the stress of parenting is absent.

As for the girls—my daughter, my second daughter, and my daughter-in-law—I have a Mother’s Day tradition that I’ve observed for the last several years. Our local grocery store has a small garden center, and in advance of every Mother’s Day, there are miniature rose bushes for sale. I always buy three, as well as a card for each of the girls. And yes, I get my son something on Father’s Day, too.

All three of the girls appreciate these roses. I know this, because they’ve, all three of them, planted them in their gardens. Each of them now has several miniature rose bushes that bloom each year.

Now if only I knew why roses no longer smell like roses. I have no real clue, but I wonder if it has to do with some kind of genetic modification. But that’s a topic for another day.

To all the mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers out there – I hope you have a very happy and family-filled Mother’s Day!

And a very special Happy Mother’s Day to my newest granddaughter, Nathalie who, with my oldest grandson Nick last night welcomed to the world their first son and my third great-grandchild, Noah. 

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Wednesday's Words for May 2, 2018

This past Saturday, stepping out on an extreme limb of faith, I asked my husband to once again remove the ice claw from my cane; but even more brazenly, I asked him to please put my winter boots into storage, upstairs—along with my winter coat.

He did ask what I would do if it snowed again, and I told him the truth. We’re nearly all the way out of April. If it snows again, I’m staying inside the house—and I don’t even care if we’re out of coffee when I do it.

I know that last bit has my beloved concerned; after all, that’s going below the bottom line beneath which we both, usually, we will not sink. But friends, I tell you truly, a person has to draw the line at some point and take a stand.

That’s mine.

We’ve had a couple of days of magnificent, fresh-smelling air in the last couple of weeks. I took the opportunity to have my front and back doors wide open to air out the house. Also, I have my bedroom window open about an inch and a half now. I’ve always slept better in a cooler bedroom, with the window open. But I’ve noticed some changes, lately. And I believe that I’m possibly on the verge of inching toward that tipping point, the one my daughter has told me about. The one where a person steps (or maybe stumbles) over the line from middle age, right into the morass of elderly status.

My daughter, Jennifer, is what’s known here in Canada as a PSW—a Personal Support Worker. I believe, in the U.S., that career is referred to as being a Nurse’s Aid.

Now, Jennifer doesn’t tolerate the heat well. She not only visits clients in their home, but she also has clients she visits at a senior’s care facility, here in town. The rooms there, apparently, each have their own thermostats. And a lot of her clients have that sucker cranked right up, no matter the time of year it is.

She tells me that there are days when she comes out of a client’s room and has to take a moment to allow her body temperature to come back down to normal while she uses a tissue to mop the sweat from her brow. She shakes her head as she tells me, that sometimes, even in those environments, those poor people will complain of being cold.

I am beginning to understand that concept. My internal thermostat has been off since I hit menopause, a while back. In the middle of the day—any day—I will either feel icy cold or very hot. Part of the cold, I understand, has to do with poorer circulation. That is especially true in my right foot—because of the veins they took out of my right leg during my emergency heart by-pass surgery in 2002.

My office is cooler than the rest of the house, and my feet can get very chilly, even though I am wearing socks and leg warmers and slippers. Later in the day, when I am “legs up” in my recliner, with a blanket covering those legs, from my knees to my ankles, I sometimes have the same problem.
I solved that dilemma about a month and a half ago. While in Walmart, I purchased an inexpensive fleece blanket, the small kind meant for sitting with, not for beds. I folded it in half lengthwise, and sewed it shut across the bottom and about a foot and a half up the side.

Mostly—when I’m in my recliner—I slip my legs (minus my slippers) into this hand-made “cubby-hole” for my feet, get those legs up, and cover myself as previously with my other fleece blanket. Within about fifteen minutes, sometimes sooner, my ankles and feet are toasty warm and I am a happy woman.

One other dilemma has no solution. Sometimes my knees will ache like a bad tooth-ache. So, I put my heating pad on them, and that begins to ease the discomfort. That wonderful device can also, unfortunately, trigger a hot flash.

My husband suggested, and yes, with a straight face at least until the words were out of his mouth, that on such occasions I apply an ice pack to my head. He said, that way, I could be a real earth mother: my knees would represent the tropics, my head with the ice pack, the north pole, and the rest of me, the temperate zone.

A sense of humor is a wonderful thing. But I digress.

Just like those dear souls my daughter cares for, I, too, have taken, from time-to-time, to raising the thermostat in the house. Most of the time, over the winter months, it’s set at seventy degrees. Last year, that was sufficient for all but a handful of days.

This past winter, however, and even as recently as last Sunday night, we dared to be wastrels, spendthrifts throwing away heating dollars as if they were so much flotsam and jetsam on the sea of life.

Yes, I think we’re making that leaving-middle age transition, because we dared to raise the setting on our thermostat from seventy degrees all the way up to seventy-two.

If you tell me that proves it, and it’s all downhill from here, I’m going to pretend I don’t hear you. 

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wednesday's Words for April 25, 2018

There’s been a lot of talk, lately, about history. As in, “when history looks back on these times, they won’t be looked upon kindly”. Or, my personal favorite, “They’re on the wrong side of history!” “They” of course, being whomever, depending upon and according to the speaker of the moment, is considered “in the wrong”.

I think it’s good to keep history in mind as we live our lives. But not just the history we’re making in the moment. You see, some of the history we’re making is new. But sadly, much of it is a repetition of what has come before—actions we took that wreaked dreadful consequences upon humanity.

History, you see, really is something you’re doomed to repeat until you learn from it.

It was a fervent belief in eugenics and racial purity that allowed a power-hungry madman to come to power in Germany and to go on to become one of the greatest human monsters of all time. That didn’t happen centuries in the past—that was just eighty-five years ago, in 1933. Those beliefs weren’t simply beliefs that sprang into being spontaneously; they were beliefs that were coined and fed and nurtured by the madman himself. In that monster’s day, the scapegoat he chose as the reason his country was no longer great, was mainly the Jewish people. Millions of them died in this satan’s attempt to not only make his country greater, but to make himself the absolute dictator of his nation, and then of the world.

Ultimately, he failed primarily because one nation, The United States, left behind its isolationism and rose to the challenge, leading a force of allies that defeated him. And from the moment that war was won, wise souls began to caution us all that these freedoms that our courageous fighting forces had secured for us were not guaranteed; we needed, all of us, to stand guard over them, and keep vigil upon them, lest they be subverted once more.

We needed to remember, lest we forgot. Sadly, it would appear that we’ve forgotten.

Our basic human nature lies at the bottom of our susceptibility to being led astray. Times get tough, things change, we feel insecure, and because of our human nature, we seek to blame someone or something for our woes. We didn’t do this to ourselves, so someone must have done this horrible thing to us! And that very aspect of our nature gives an opening to the snake oil salesmen of the world to slither in and wreak their havoc, to wallow in their chaos and to generally make a mess of everything. But all that havoc being wreaked upon us has nothing to do with bettering our state of being; it’s all about the despot of the moment and his fortunes and his whims.

Down through the ages, times have gotten tough and things have changed. It’s not someone doing something to us, it’s cyclical. The answer, the way to cope, is not to cast aspersions and strike out at whoever appears to be a convenient target; it’s not to blame others, and shout to the world with a raised, shaking fist that all would be fine if only they would just go away. Whenever we’ve done that, which I liken to throwing a kind of “grown up spoiled-child hissy fit”, the cosmos sees to it we get a “time out”. And that time out is rarely pleasant.

The better way to respond when times get tough and things change is to support each other and to adapt and adjust to the new paradigm. The adoption of the can-do spirit that led to the boom times that followed the end of the Second World War is a prime example of that sort of response. In my mind and in my heart, I know that’s the only way to answer these kinds of difficulties.

In nature, species that do not adapt and adjust to changes, die out. That’s what survival of the fittest means, and it’s not a political tenet, it’s nature’s way of protecting life, all life. Only the strongest, the most viable, and the most adaptable organisms are allowed to go forward.

They adapt, and they adjust and they, to totally mix my metaphors, make lemonade out of lemons instead of trying to rid their environment of “the others”.

We have to learn to do that again. We have to learn to recognize when we’re being sold a bill of goods that is nothing but horse pucky. We have to remember that the freedoms we cherish are not absolutes, they are not forever. They, like the most delicate of orchids, require care, and attention, and work. We have to remember that we were created not to rule this planet, or to live in isolation, but to help one another.

I have great hope for our future, because I do believe that most people are good—if, perhaps, a little too trusting of those smooth-talking snake oil salesmen.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wednesday's Words for April 18, 2018

Should I have known it was going to happen? I mean, it’s April, which is supposed to be springtime. That whole, “April showers bring May flowers” vibe is supposed to be doing it’s thing. Really, I think it was quite reasonable of me to remove the ice claw from the bottom of my cane. Aside from sometimes being a nuisance—when the claw is retracted, it’s on the outer side of my cane, and can catch on things if I’m not careful—it’s also heavy. Not ridiculously so, but just enough that it makes a difference.

So no, I don’t think I was out of line taking that thing off my cane a couple weeks ago. That said, we had an ice storm over the weekend just passed. I’d been certain, while it was happening, that by Tuesday night/Wednesday morning—this morning—all sign of that weather event would be gone. But alas, my hopes were dashed. The claw is back on my cane.

This storm was a different tempest for different people, depending upon location. In Toronto, which sits on the shores of Lake Ontario, they experienced the kind of ice storm I usually visualize whenever I hear those two words. They experienced ice coated trees and buildings and utility poles and streets, a clear glass-like casing which was perfectly transparent and ultimately really heavy. Trees came down, power lines came down, and car accidents abounded. Then the temperature rose a little, just enough to cause sheets of ice to cascade to the ground from the tallest of structures. 

Melting occurred, but not a total melting. There was plenty of ice to clog drainage grates, causing flooding and general misery. Falling ice from the CN Tower tore a hole in the dome of the stadium where the Toronto Blue Jays play, resulting in the game scheduled for Monday night to be canceled. More than a hundred thousand people lost electricity during the event, some for as much as thirty hours.

Here, about an hour’s drive west of the Greater Toronto Area, we had a different kind of ice storm. We had no solid ice covering over vehicles, trees, buildings, streets or sidewalks. Instead, it more or less rained ice pellets. From the time the storm began until it ended—practically the entire weekend—we were inundated with what looked like wet, icy snow. The temperature fluctuated, so some of it was rain, a bit was snow, but most of it was ice pellets. I

ce falling in pellet form makes a particular sound on the windows. It’s a sound that says, good thing you don’t have to go anywhere. And if you do, just send an email and cancel. We both stayed indoors throughout this event. We had all that we needed, and gratefully, we only suffered one tiny flicker of our power. The outage lasted less than five seconds. Of course, it was enough to turn off the television and the Keurig. The former then had to reboot, a process that is automatic and can’t be rushed. It takes about five minutes. It happened during the telecast of the ACM awards show—about ten or so minutes in—but we just shrugged and picked up our e-readers and read until the television came back on.

About two inches of white stuff was on the ground here by Monday and fully half of it remains this morning. It really looked like two inches of snow, but there was nothing fluffy about it. At night, it freezes almost solid; and then, during the day, as the temperature inches above freezing, it gets wet and sloppy.

I’m a bit worried about my poor spring flowers. Those tiny little shoots—narcissi, tulips, hyacinths and crocuses—had become fairly substantial before Mother Nature’s little hissy fit. I can still see the tips of them, so I will be hopeful that, being the hardy Canadian perennials that they are, they’ll simply dust themselves off and keep growing.

According to the weather network, the temperature will hit 43 today, and be above 40 and into the 50s over the next seven days. Fact or fiction? Only time will tell.

This has been a particularly long winter, despite having a few days clustered together here and there when it seemed positively balmy out. I did have one magnificent day, in February, I think, when I had my doors open, and fresh air filled my home. I really hate to think that one day was our early spring, come and then gone.

Yesterday my husband expressed the opinion that, because we had such a cold and long winter, we were likely in for a very hot summer. He shrugged his shoulders and said that if that was so, he might be tempted to have us go to the beach—something we haven’t done for a couple of years now.

If it does get very hot, I’ll show him this essay to remind him of his words, and then hold him to it. 


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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Wednesday's Words for April 11, 2018

I spend a great deal of my time writing. Or at least, in writing mode. We authors have an acronym for that. It’s BICFOK. Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.

I don’t produce words as fast as I used to, even just a few years ago. It often takes me longer now to write a book. These, as you know, aren’t massive tomes. Lately, my word count per novel has ranged from sixty to eighty thousand words. Some folks don’t even consider those full-length novels.

Sometimes, I have the best days. Those are the times when I am so into my story, when my characters are so there, it’s almost as if I’m a court stenographer, recording the action instead of being the writer creating it.

I have a lot of laugh out loud moments as I work. If I inadvertently write the wrong word—for example, wonton instead of wanton—it’s not unusual for me to burst out laughing. Yesterday my goof was “she held on for deer life”. Yeah, when I’m focused and reaching, and then I goof? I just have to giggle.

The biggest adjustment I aimed for in the days leading up to the date of my husband’s retirement, was trying to mentally prepare myself for what might be. I feared that I would suddenly have less time in which to write. I’m not generally one to look at the glass as half empty. But in my defense, in those months, my beloved was excited and anxious himself. It kind of was like when you come into a bit of a windfall and you discover you have a few extra dollars just for you. You might have trouble deciding what you’re going to do with that unexpected blessing. Maybe, I’ll buy this; maybe, I’ll buy that. Or, I could get this, and this. Or maybe….well, you get the idea. Yes, he had it in mind that he was going to spend his time writing—but that wasn’t real to him yet. So yes, based on the evidence at hand—all the ideas he had as to how he was going to spend his incoming surfeit of time, I worried.

Thankfully, instead of having less time to write, I actually have more. Our appointments are few and well spaced. We’ll both admit to having morphed, since November, into hermits. Especially during the not-quite-yet-departed winter months, neither one of us wants to go out and about.

Cold air and icy ground are not our friends, not at all. Part of the joy of neither of us having to go to work is we can both just hunker down when we want to. David and I were just discussing the subject of tires for the car. My winter tires are still on because we’re still getting snow and some black ice, and also because we need to buy new summer tires. The ones I currently have are done. Since we no longer drive very much, we’ve decided we’ll simply get four good all-season tires, and no longer bother with snow tires for the winter.

There’s one more adjustment we’ve made as well, another change in our day-to-day routine. And, in a way, this is a case of my becoming semi-retired. I used to make a good full supper every night. But since David no longer goes to work each day, he’s no longer as active as he was, and therefore, he’s no longer as hungry as he was. For the first couple of months, I carried on as I had always done, and was getting annoyed that I ended up tossing out so much food. So now I cook a full supper every other night, and in between we have plenty of food to eat—left overs, soups, lunch meat, salads and a few frozen entrees to choose from. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy cooking. But it doesn’t make sense to cook a full supper six nights a week (I did get Fridays off) and see only about half of it eaten.
That’s one of the reasons I have more time to write. Less scullery maid work for me.

But the other reason is that David is so absorbed in his own writing. He doesn’t want to go out just to get out of the house. He doesn’t want to go and see. He wants to stay and do. Stay, and write. For a man whose keyboard technique is hunt-and-peck, his production rate is phenomenal. His burgeoning novel is over one hundred and twenty thousand words to date.

The days don’t seem to have enough hours in them. There’s nothing I like more than being busy. I know that just as I’m not working as quickly as I used to, that more slowing down will be in my future. Getting older is a process after all, and it sure isn’t one for the faint of heart—but that’s another story.

For now, we are a household of two writers and a dog. We are busy doing all day long. And we’re having the times of our lives.

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

New Release: Carnal Sins Box Set by Jan Bowles

Look what's available now; a new Box Set, featuring all my sexy bad boy stories from the Carnal Sins series:

Blackmailed into the Billionaire's Bed

The Wicked Rancher's Indecent Proposal

The Secret Agent's Captive

Siren has made a lovely cover too. Thank you.

Available from Siren Bookstrand:

http://www.bookstrand.com/book/the-carnal-sins-trilogy

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Wednesday's Words for April 4, 2018

One of my favorite things to do in all the world is listening to my husband’s laughter.

The first time I really heard it, we’d been dating again for a short time. I say again, because we sort of dated when he was still in high school. Then we sort of broke up—or more accurately, drifted apart.

Then, the summer before my senior year, when he’d become a working man, he came knocking on my door…and the rest is history.

On one of our first dates, he took me to a movie. This would have been in 1971. The movie was The Summer of ’42. In those days, the “pre-show” consisted of a couple of ads for refreshments, previews of movies to come, and a cartoon. I remember how he laughed out loud at that silly cartoon. In fact, I do believe his was the only voice doing so. And that, friends, happened during any cartoon he watched.

These days, I hear his laughter fairly often. Usually, I’ll be at my computer, and he’ll either be on his, or watching television. I never know which, unless I look in the living room. He has a set of wireless headphones for the television, and the plug-in kind for his computer.

David loves to watch stand-up comics. When I hear him laughing on a continuous basis, I know he’s tuned in to one of the many comedy networks or is watching videos on YouTube. I can be in the worst mood, but when I hear him laughing, I always smile.

If anyone were to ask me what the one human trait is that they could develop that would serve them the most throughout their life, I would tell them to have a healthy and vibrant sense of humor.

I can recall years ago, and I may have mentioned this before, that my mom had an enormous reel-to-reel tape recorder. Actually, it had been my dad’s. There had been a little money left to him by his mother, when she passed. I was only small at the time, and I’m sure that they used the inheritance to its best advantage, but it was also very much like them to share what would have been considered “left over”. My mom bought a new sewing machine; my dad bought the tape recorder.

My father had the instincts of an entrepreneur. He used this piece of modern equipment (circa early 1960s) to start a business. He called it “Wedding Bells”, and what he did, was to set up the tape recorder local churches, to tape wedding ceremonies. He really was ahead of his time, and I know that a few couples took advantage of this service. I also recall that years after his death, when my brother was in his senior year of high school, he and his friends “taped” their own “radio shows”. I got to participate, too, at the young age of 9 or 10. I held the roast pan full of cutlery, and overturned it on cue, to resemble the sound of breaking glass.

I never recorded anything myself, but I did listen to a few tapes my mother had, and one was a lecture on the importance of a sense of humor. This lecture, by Dr. Murray Banks, really made an impression on me. He was a clinical psychologist, and one of his assertions was that it was physically impossible for the human body to produce laughter and ulcers at the same time. Now that right there is a sound and sufficient reason to get that sense of humor.

I know in my own life, laughter and holding onto my sense of humor have kept me relatively sane. Hard times come to everyone. You can give in to the stress and the worry and the heartache—or you can laugh.

I choose laughter. I choose to look for the silver lining, to exercise my facial muscles with a smile, and to take the next step forward, and then the next. Soon the heartache or stress fades; think back on a moment that was difficult, and in time, you may recall the moment, but you don’t feel the same heartache. Recall a joke, or a funny instance from years ago? You still smile, and probably laugh.

Of all the things that I’ve passed down to my children, that sense of humor is, in my mind, the greatest. And when things get really grim, I take a laugh break. I go to that wonderful resource, the Internet, and I look for videos of laughing babies. I honestly don’t think it’s possible to watch babies laughing with those deep belly laughs, and not at least smile in response.

If you remember to laugh, it won’t necessarily fix the challenges you face. But it will make your heart a little lighter as you face those challenges and overcome them.

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wednesday's Words for March 28, 2018

I made myself sit down last weekend and focus on the job of getting my taxes ready to give to the accountant. This, like Christmas, is something that comes around every year at the same time. And, just like Christmas, it sneaks up on me. Every year.

I’m not particularly proud that I tend toward procrastination. That’s a flaw that I keep meaning to work on, but then I get busy doing other things and I forget all about it. Until life sits up and smacks me upside the head to remind me, of course.

Before becoming a published author, before the myocardial infarction that ended my working outside the home days, I was an accounting clerk. Not an accountant—while I did take a couple of college level courses, I never got a degree in accounting. I worked primarily in accounts payable, payroll, and group benefits. When I worked for the candy company, I also worked on the order desk, and did some accounts receivable.

For the most part, I was a dedicated employee and pretty good with numbers. I made some mistakes, of course, but not many. I was fast and accurate, and for the most part, I enjoyed my work. I really did enjoy working with numbers. I have noticed recently, however, that the further away I get from those days of month ends, year ends, and balance sheets, the less fond I have become of the tasks involved in the processes. I was once told that it’s unusual for a person to be competent with numbers and to also be a wordsmith. I’m beginning to believe that, because these days, I don’t look forward to the “office work” like I used to.

I could just hand my files full of receipts to my accountant, but I don’t. I prepare an excel spreadsheet that has five pages to it. In my anal fashion, I list each receipt and then give it a “control number”. That allows the accountant to sort the data however she chooses, and still easily find the actual receipt to verify it. The prep work I do makes the accountant’s job easier for her and, in the long run, less expensive for me.

Yes, I can do that, and do a pretty good job of it, but I don’t enjoy it the way I used to. When it’s all ready, I email the spreadsheet and hand deliver the supporting documentation. As I came home from dropping the receipts off to the service I use, I once more told myself that if I was smart, I would begin working on my 2018 spreadsheet next week. At this moment, I intend to do that. But in all honesty, I don’t hold out much hope that it will actually happen.

As spring starts to make its appearance, my thoughts move ahead to the new season, and gardening. I love pansies. They have cute little faces, and they come in such a variety of colors. In the past, when I’ve waited until the traditional Victoria Day weekend to purchase my plants, I’ve been disappointed at the garden center. They’ve been “sold out” of pansies, because they are, apparently, not flowers for summer, but spring. Now, the Victoria Day holiday here is the Monday closest to the 24th of May and this year, it falls on May 21—a full 30 days before summer.

To avoid disappointment, I plan to go to the garden center within the next two weeks. We may not yet be able to put the pansies in their boxes that hang from the porch railing, but I can at least get them. And if they’re outside when I buy them, then they can be planted. My porch railing is about six feet off the ground, and therefore somewhat immune to early spring frost.

The shoots of my narcissi and crocuses and hyacinth have begun poking above the ground. The ice and snow are gone from my yard, but we’re still in danger of frost, and temperatures so cold that a glass of water left outside would likely freeze overnight. My perennials never seem to care that they might yet get some snow blanketing them. They’re only poking up, not completely vulnerable.

My husband has an accumulation of egg cartons that he plans to use to start some veggies. He keeps trying to come up with a method of having a garden without actually having a garden. I understand his dilemma; we’re both past the point where we can get down on our knees and work the soil. As well, for him, the act of raking is a challenge that his shoulders and hips don’t appear to like. This year he’s going to try and build a table-top garden. He told me so just last night. He’s certainly got the carpenter’s skills to do so, and he really enjoys gardening. But a new consideration has arisen this year that was never a factor before, and it’s hardly one I can argue against.

You see, I know he will get that project going. Provided, of course that he can leave his manuscript-in-progress long enough to do so.

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