Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wednesday's Words for September 18, 2019

We’re all settling in here at the Ashbury residence. Life, left to its own devices, usually finds its rhythm, and it’s best for everyone to find that rhythm for themselves as efficiently as possible. With two of us at home most of the time and only one of us leaving to go to work on a daily basis, the dogs have certainly found their rhythm. And time of day really has nothing to do with it as clocks are not a part of that process.

The four who are new to the home watch from the backs of the recliners as their mommy walks down the steps of the porch to the sidewalk and then to the car. This could be as early as six a.m., or as late as six p.m., or any time in between. Those four dogs keep watching until the car is no longer in sight. Then they get comfortable, their goal each morning that she leaves to await her return.

One of the chihuahuas may remain there, lying down to sleep up high, with that view of the sidewalk out the window. But the other three, they generally burrow into which ever of one of three blankets that are currently in the living room.

We say it as a joke, but it’s true. If you come into the living room, for goodness sake, don’t sit on a blanket that may be covering a seat: there’s very likely a chihuahua within its folds. If the puppy-mommy leaves for an evening round of client visits, why, those four dogs have two human pet beds from which to choose, because the evening finds both David and I in our recliners.

Summer is waning, and some mornings have been quite chilly. I resist having the furnace on as a matter of principle. However, there’s another principle, one that takes precedence. If it’s chilly, and there’s a dampness that can be thrown into the mix, then I do turn the heat on. Of course, a couple hours later I usually turn it off again. Conversely, there are late afternoons that beg a little cooling down, and with the touch of a button the central air comes to life. The day is approaching when we’ll cover the air conditioner that sits outside the side window, and the heat will be “on” until it’s spring once more. But that day is not yet here.

Autumn has a scent, a crispness in the morning, and a blue sky that is of a bit paler shade than the vibrant July to August blue. Some blooms wither while others thrive. I see pots of “mini-mums” for sale at the grocery store, of all places, and I sometimes feel the urge to purchase a couple. Very likely, if I spent time outdoors, I’d get them. What fun is it to sit outside without the view of attractive flowers? However, it’s just been too chilly and damp for me to consider that.

I have one new experience to admit to, and it occurred yesterday: binge video viewing. I did, a few months back, watch a few episodes of The Crown over the course of a couple days, but that wasn’t really binging.

I remember a few years back that the girls were talking about Downton Abbey. I think they caught it on Netflix. And while I had access to the service, I never actually used it myself. The beauty of that medium is you can have a few people viewing from one account, so I was very happy to provide it for the girls—and, of course, David, a devotee of stand-up comics, would use it, too. My Netflix experience began a couple of months back, and The Queen and the new season of Designated Survivor have been the only shows I’ve watched.

A few weeks ago, I began to see ads for the new Downton Abbey movie. I recalled the girls enjoyed the series and thought the trailer to the movie interesting. And so I began to hunt for the series, so I could watch it in anticipation of the new release about to come.

I finally found it—yesterday, in fact, and spent the late afternoon and part of the evening binge watching. In just one afternoon and evening, I can report that five full episodes of season one are down—and a whole bunch more to go.

It’s keeping my interest, and I find the characters to be of every type imaginable. The writing is good and there’s not a single character I feel indifferent about. But as with anything that we judge to be a positive, there’s a bit of a negative side.

I’m not very good, sometimes, when it comes to self-discipline. So I’m hoping that I’ll be able to keep my “but in chair, fingers on keyboard” sufficiently in hand this morning—and every morning. I’m going to have to do my best to make the time spent streaming the next episodes a reward for writing, and other chores done.

According to what I see before me, there are 72 episodes left to go, as I’ve access to the entire series. I’m not altogether certain I have that much self-discipline in me.


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Wednesday's Words for September 11, 2019

One of the most vivid memories I have in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, is driving from the city next door back to our town. Just before reaching one of the bridges that spans the expressway, a new billboard had been erected. Featuring the flags of the United States of America, and Canada, the words were simple, and to the point: “We stand with our neighbors. God Bless America.”

Eighteen years on, we live in a different world than the one we inhabited prior to that day of infamy. The immediate visceral response at the time was the surge in patriotism, the temporary dissolution of partisanship, and the new determination that this would never happen again.

Also in the immediate aftermath, we—all of us in North America—had our collective naiveté badly shaken from the events of that day. Terrorism used to be something that happened over there, be it Britain, Europe, or the middle east. Now, it was something that could happen here, too. As time passed and hearts hardened, we became more vigilant, leaving our naiveté behind forever.

I’m going to make an analogy here, and I hope you’ll forgive me if I somehow offend you. That’s not my intent. The attitude of our two governments, in the wake of that grievous attack, could have gone one of two ways. The options are not dissimilar to the psychology of parents who’ve lost a child.

I’ve heard it said that in more cases than not, parents who have suffered the death of one of their children, drift apart. I know that, because some professionals have commented on the fact that they’re pleasantly surprised that my husband and I are still together in the aftermath of the loss of our son, Anthony. My response to that has been, yes, we are together, but life is different now. We are different now, because the death of a child changes you—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse—but it changes you, and that change is forever.

Twenty-four Canadians died in the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. The losses suffered on 9/11 changed us all, Americans more than Canadians, yes. But changed us it has and now, eighteen years on, we have to think about those changes, what they’ve rendered within us, and what they’ve wrought outwardly. And we must decide whether or not those changes are to be our final answer, as it were, to the attacks by those terrorists.

I won’t offer an opinion here, but I will pose the question to my American friends: is your “marriage”, the unity of your nation, in good standing—or are you drifting apart? It’s a serious question, because without unity, without a sense of common purpose, how will you decide which direction to travel next through life? Without the strength of a strong union, how will you fend off the attacks of the vultures of this world, those who prey on others?

For couples who’ve lost a child, there’s often counselling. Questions are posed and answers sought out, but at the base of all those questions is this one basic principle: we cannot change the reality of the loss we suffered, and so, we have to decide if the legacy of our loss is to be the dissolution of our marriage. In my opinion, to dissolve the marriage is to reduce the meaning of the lives lived and now ended.

There’s an expression that has been used forever, it seems, and one I never understood until we lost our son. That expression: “I don’t want to think that he/she died in vain.” I used to think, well, death is death, what does it matter if it was in vain or not?

But the loved ones of those who pass who are able to donate their beloved’s organs to strangers in need, for example, can justify that if their loved one had to die, at least some good came from it. They did not die in vain.

Death, loss, unwanted change—these are the things that, we, as human beings suffer and struggle to understand. We endure them, because we have no choice. But once the dust has settled, and we begin to try and pick up the pieces and live day to day, I think it behooves us to take a moment to reflect. To remember what was and see what is, and ask ourselves some very, very hard questions.

Is this who we are? Is this what we want to stand for? Are we happier, now? Better now? More fruitful? Are we on the right track? We must put aside our politics, whether we identify as left, right, or center. Do we feel inspired to stand proud before the world? Or is gravity winning in that we hang our heads in recognition of a kind of failure we never imagined would ever be ours.

This is something everyone of us, and each one of us, needs answer for ourselves. And it is something that answer we must, as we have done, we humans, down through the ages, following every other hard test we’ve lived through. That’s where we stand, today, eighteen years after that day that changed everything.

The sentiment I opened with bears repeating, especially on this day. God Bless America.


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Wednesday's Words for September 4, 2019

Yesterday, the new dogs in the house learned about school busses, and the very suspicious activity that occurs out on the sidewalk every weekday morning at about eight-fifteen. As Tuffy has before them, they’ve come to the conclusion that a group of children gathering together so early and, in that fashion, can’t possibly be good.

Fortunately, the barking was all indoors, and minimal. I only have to enter the room now and they hush, and sometimes hang their heads. In shame, you ask? Oh, no, no, my faithful readers, not these dogs. Likely they do that so I can’t see them laughing at me.

The other thing the new dogs in the house have learned about is squirrels. Our daughter reminded me that at her former house, there were no mature trees in the neighborhood as it was a newer survey, and therefore, since there were no mature trees, there were no squirrels.

Cats, yes. Squirrels, no. Cats, for those of you who don’t know, are those evil demonic creatures who sun themselves on the top of the yard fence or the house roof and tease you unmercifully with their presence. They mock you, and all you stand for. Or so the dogs believe.

Squirrels, however, are new. One of the new dogs, Porky, has fallen shamelessly in love with the squirrels. She doesn’t bark at them. When she is out on the porch with her mommy, sitting quietly while mommy reads, sometimes a squirrel will climb down the tree that stands at the corner of the porch to check to see if anything was left for he/she/it in the squirrel feeder.

Porky believes that if she smiles and wags her tail, that the squirrels will eventually become her new friends and they will play with her. Porky, sadly, isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. She’s not even especially cute, thanks to the wire-haired terrier in her. But she is affectionate. She has two favorite humans—her mommy, of course, and her grandpa.

She comes running downstairs, leaps onto grandpa’s recliner, performing a perfect 180 turn, mid-air as she does, to land in the crook of her grandpa’s arm—belly up and ready for a tummy rub. She knows of course that grandpa will gently stroke her belly forever. She goes to sleep and will stay like that until he gets up from his chair—and when he returns to it, so does she.

Our Tuffy has already adjusted to having all of his buddies living with him. One significant change in their dynamic is that, whereas when the dogs would visit, he’d have to work at getting them to notice and play with him, now they accept him as a part of their pack. Even the most standoffish of the new dogs—Bella, the oldest—has been seen cavorting with him. As I write this, the house is quiet. It’s early-morning, and the dogs have been outside, backdoor—that happened before my daughter left for work. She wasn’t kidding when she said her dogs sleep a lot.

Ivy, the mother of Porky and therefore also with wire-haired terrier in her, also not very pretty, has come into my office to tell me good morning—twice. She has been reminded that grandma doesn’t like kisses—twice. She and all of her little pack except for Tuffy are in the living room. There are blankets aplenty there for them to get snuggled down—they all like to be covered to some degree. Tuffy is in my office with me, awaiting his morning excursion with his Daddy via the scooter to the park, for some private Daddy/Tuffy time.

Zeus, the little teacup chihuahua, spends a fair bit of his day down here with us, because he really likes the downstairs blankets, and likely because since he’s so small, he can get away with it. When he sits on me in the evening, I barely notice his weight. Needless to say, there is a new rule that’s really sacred: do not sit on a chair if there is a blanket on it. For under that blanket, may be a Zeus puppy.

When my daughter returns from work today, it will be an immediate case of “treats for everybody!” Well, every furry little body with four legs. If she were to go out to work again this evening—some days she does work split shifts—then her dogs would be in our living room with us. Otherwise they would be up in her bed-sitting room with her. There are food and water dishes upstairs and downstairs. There are blankets in both locations, but the treats remain downstairs, as suitable rewards not only for the return of the mommy, but also for “outside backdoor go pee-pee” events.

At bed time, four dogs will go upstairs to find their spot in the big bed up there, and Mr. Tuffy will await upon his daddy, the last human to retire for the night, knowing that he will then be carried into his bed, where he will settle in wherever the mood strikes him, that night, to sleep. Until, an hour or so later, he meanders to another spot. Of course, the humans, in their sleep, move to accommodate him.

Yes, my friends, in this house, it really is a dog’s life.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 28, 2019

We’ve decided that the Canadian National Exhibition will be an excursion for us to take next year, which is just as well. The last few weeks have been a bit busy for us, and an all-day trip to Toronto is something we both need to gear up for.

Let me tell you, friends, getting older is certainly not for the faint of heart.

However, lest you fear we are becoming hermits, we actually went to Toronto yesterday, to have a late lunch/early supper with some good friends, two of whom were here from another province, and one who was visiting from London, England.

A very quick digression is required here in the interest of complete transparency. We are becoming hermits, but for the most part this is by choice, and not something you need worry about at all. There’s a lot to be said for being left to our own devices in our own home.

Now, back to supper out yesterday. There is but one Cheesecake Factory Restaurant in the entire, over five million in population city formerly known as “Hog Town”, and yesterday we were there. The food is good, the portions huge, and yes, we each had a piece of cheesecake for dessert. David chose the “pineapple upside-down” cheesecake, and I—as I did the last time I was there a year ago—opted for “the original”. This is a rich, creamy-smooth cheesecake on a graham cracker crust with a thin layer of sour cream on top. No fruit or syrup, though of course there was the mandatory dollop of real whipped cream, served on the side.

I rarely indulge in dessert, but how could I not do so at a restaurant called the Cheesecake Factory?

For my main course—no appetizer or salad for me—I was in the mood for comfort food, and a dish called chicken and biscuits sounded like a good choice. I was not disappointed. It was very good—gently savory and fulfilling. Of course, I had to bring some home, because I needed to save room for that cheesecake. And my husband told me, as he took those first few bites of the meatloaf entree he ordered, that although he loves my meatloaf, I now had serious competition. I am totally fine with that. To enjoy my meatloaf, he doesn’t need to travel for more than an hour, nor pay a check when he is done.

While we’re not going to the Ex this year, we do have a fall fair in our own town, and I wasn’t at all surprised to hear my husband say that he thought he’d be going to that this year. That scooter of his has been a real blessing, allowing him the freedom to go where and when he will. He rarely cares to go any place that is not within our town. When he does, of course, I’m always happy to drive him wherever he needs to go. There is no public transit here, so it’s a matter of drive, walk, or, just recently for him, scoot.

I likely won’t bother going to the fair myself. Perhaps we’ll attend one in October, in a near-by town. I do like to go and see and do, but I find I do have to be in the mood for it. The one I’m thinking of takes place over our Thanksgiving Weekend and is a forty-minute drive from here, in the next county to the south.

David has always loved to go to our town’s end of summer fair. There are usually interesting programs offered at the grandstand—anything from tractor pulls to barrel racing to music programs, and of course, there are the tee-shirts.

Something of a tradition for him, he searches out the one vendor selling tee-shirts with outrageous sayings on them. He loves to come home with a few that he will then wear as he goes out and about, hoping for reactions to the words painted on his chest. While at the fair, he avoids the midway, as do I when I go. Neither of us care for either the rides nor the games. Those two areas are great money-makers for the amusement company, but a huge cash pit for the rest of us.

Our kids always were drawn to the rides and games of course, and they would be told to save their allowance so that they could indulge themselves each Labor Day weekend. We always provided some money but like all kids they wanted more. We’d remind them at the beginning of the summer that more was their responsibility. When we first moved to town, they were old enough to go to the fair on their own—ah, the relative innocence of those earlier times! That was an exciting revelation for them. We’d moved from a rural area to a town and going to the fair our first weekend here a nice surprise for them and helped to ease the transition to a new home.

This small town of ours will be a very busy place beginning today, until the fair closes on Labor Day, but we’re used to it. We no longer have children going to school, and only one grandson who’s a student, this year a senior in high school. Labor Day on the horizon had always meant the beginning of the end of summer for us, with that back to school Tuesday. But again this year, as we did last year, we felt that seasonal change in the air last week. Mother Nature has no respect for the human calendar.

Life has a rhythm and a routine. It’s really best when you can sense it, and slip into it, and feel comfortable and at peace in the doing.


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 21, 2019

When I was a kid, I always considered the beginning of the end of summer to be when the “Ex” opened. That day this year was August 16—last Friday. And by the “Ex”, I mean the Canadian National Exhibition, held each year in Toronto.

When I was a teen, my mother and I would go every other year, and yes, I understood even then that we went for me. In those days, her arthritis had already taken hold—osteoarthritis, the same as I have—and walking was painful for her, though she didn’t have a cane at that point.

She liked to plan to go to the Ex on International Food Day (I don’t even know if that’s a thing anymore) because at lunch time, you could sate yourself on all the free samples offered in the Food Building, and save your money for the more important things—like rides and games. (Feel free to insert the rolling-eyes emoji here.) Or, in my mother’s opinion, a nice sit-down and be served supper.

I recall one surprising time when mom parked the car on the Exhibition grounds, and who parked at the same time, in the same row, and about three cars down? My brother and his wife. We hadn’t known they were going to the Ex that day, but it was kind of good for all of us. My sister-in-law liked going on rides, and so did I at the time (this was in the days when we were both childless). But neither my brother nor my mother did. So we arranged to meet up later in the afternoon, and Rose and I rode our brains out while my mother and brother sat at a picnic table, had coffee, and relaxed. That’s a particularly fond memory for me, because I lost my enjoyment in rides after I had my first child, which was only about four years later.

I’ve had a lot of fun times at the exhibition. Some of them were unexpected ones, too.

My late good friend—a man who taught high school at the school I graduated from, and with whom I had worked to produce the annual area science fair for elementary (K-8) pupils, talked me into going to the Ex once. He’d already been diagnosed with cancer, though he was still fairly pain free. There were a couple of things specifically he wanted to check out at the Ex, he’d said. He didn’t like going alone, and his wife refused to go after having witnessed a fatal accident at one of the Air Shows there. I had a day off work, and so I accompanied him. As it turned out, what he wanted to check out was something he’d told me later had been on his bucket list.

He was the only person on the face of this earth who could have gotten me on that scary-ass roller coaster, The Flyer, which, it turned out, had been the entire point of the excursion. He’d recalled that I didn’t do rides anymore, and he thought I needed to do one more, and with him. He laughed when I screamed, and then after, we had a glass of beer at the Bavarian Beer Garden. It still touches my heart, when I think on it, that doing something with me had been on his bucket list near the end of his life.

Going once more to this end-of-summer celebration is an possibility that, until this year and the arrival of our scooters was entirely out of the question. The site itself is way too big for us to simply walk it. We’ve discussed going—the last day it’s on is Labor Day—and we still might do that this year. I’ll try to remember to take some pictures if we do. A side note—I’m horrendously bad at remembering to take pictures. For any who are interested, here’s a link to the web-site for the Canadian National Exhibition (aka the CNE or, simply, the EX):

I’m not sure I know where the summer has gone, but then lately, I never do. It always seems to speed by so much faster than does winter. I know that’s all perception on my part. The thing is, I’m beginning to see where perception does indeed become reality.

And why, as you get older, it’s so much easier to sit out the dances that are sometimes offered.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 14, 2019

How do we cope with cruelty? And in this instance, I mean not so much the cruelty that may be inflicted upon us, but the cruelty we witness inflicted upon others in the world around us, and sometimes witnessed day after day via our televisions.

These are shocking and difficult times, my friends. The lid of Pandora’s box is standing ajar—not fully removed, but open just enough for some evils and ugliness to escape and affect the weak and the willing.

Witnessing it, we gasp, and sometimes we feel as if our hearts are going to throb right out of our chests. How do we cope, and how do we hold on to our own souls as this chaos reigns around us?

It can be difficult for those of us who believe in God, who have faith in the Almighty, regardless of our religion, to reconcile the images we see around us with that faith we hold so dear. Sometimes it’s hard to believe in the basic goodness of humanity.

I believe that when this era that we are currently attempting to navigate has come to an end, and on into the future, there will be reams of books written, describing these times, warning of the horrific results of living life in fear and hatred and giving in to our most vile instincts. There will be new emotional disorders named for what some people have gone through, for the affects of the emotional roller-coaster they’ve been forced to ride. I truly believe that.

As with anything in life, we have a choice right now. We can allow the images and what they represent to assail us, non-stop as we wring our hands and bemoan the state of our society; or we can identify ways in which we can take action. I don’t truly suggest closing one’s eyes, eliminating all input from the news media. You can’t let yourself be ignorant to what’s happening in the world, or your country, or your community. You must, to some extent, stand as a witness to the assaults on human rights, the attacks on human dignity, and the attempts to dismantle the institutions that bind your society together. If you don’t see it, and understand it, you are defenseless to prevent it from happening again. And I am sorry to tell you, at some point, it will happen again.

I recall, growing up, the near constant warnings from those older and wiser telling us that if we do not stand guard on our freedoms, someone will try to take them away from us. These times in which we are living are the times against which we were warned!

You need to look reality dead in the eye and know that there’s a point at which inaction equals complicity. Period.

To counter that, you must, where you can, look for the beauty, the good deeds, those awe-inspiring moments where the resiliency of the human heart and the human spirit shine through. There are a lot of moments out there, waiting for you to discover them.

You can get involved your area, seeing to it that you take whatever action you can to nudge your neighbors and friends into being alert and on guard, and most importantly, participating in the choices of who amongst you are elected to serve, to carry out the people’s business in your democracy and in your name. Yes, you must vote!

And there is one more thing you can do.

You can answer bullying with kindness; racism with a spirit of inclusion; fear with joy; hate with love. You can confront lies with the truth, and you can find others of like mind and like heart and form a bulwark against the evil and the chaos that, if not guarded against, can and will swamp you.

It becomes difficult, sometimes, to feel optimism, to believe that any kind of decency will ever prevail. But it will. It does. It has from the beginning of our civilization, and it really will again. No, we won’t go back to the way it has been, in our not-so-distant past, exactly. But that might not be a completely bad thing. We may emerge from this nightmare we are living shaken, and more conscious of how delicate this balance of life is and can be.

But that can truly make us stronger and wiser. And any way you cut it, stronger and wiser are two conditions that always lead to something good.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 7, 2019

I believe in personal responsibility. More, I believe in assuming responsibility for my words as well as my deeds. What I do, I take responsibility for. That’s not to say that I am not open to outside influence. I know for a fact I am—and was even more so, when I was in my twenties.

Here is the reason I know that: When we were married for yet a short time, and our first child was still a baby, we were struggling. In fact, if you asked me to pick a word that suited our first, oh, twenty years of marriage, that word would be ‘struggling’. There wasn’t much money, ever, and as our family grew, as layoffs came and went, I have to tell you, it was bad at times.

We paid the bills—late, a lot of the time, but they were paid. Food came first as we had to feed the kids. Personal spending money? Entertainment allowance? Ha! We did get to the point where we could rent movies from Block Buster. They had a deal, two movies and then one free for the weekend. The kids would pick them. We’d make popcorn, and had soda (no-name soda, aka poverty pop). As things got a bit better, my husband and I each claimed 20 dollars every two weeks and would spend that at the bookstore. We could each buy 2 or 3 books. After we read our books, we swapped and read each other’s.

We got through. And when in those early years we were given something free – wow, that was special! And one of the things we got free was two tickets to attend the Miss Nude World Pageant that was held at one of the area’s “nature camps”. We went, even though I really was a bit of a prude in those days.

David loved it (of course he did. He was a 20-something Y chromosome carrier). As the afternoon progressed at this outdoor event, at one point, I turned and looked behind me (we were sitting only a few rows up in the stands) and discovered that half of the people I was sitting with were naked! The shock was enormous, but not enough to make me leave. And as the afternoon progressed, and it was a very warm summer day with only a slight breeze, and my satiny top was sticking to my back, I began the reasoning process that would probably have led me to taking my top off—and my bra, too. I came close….only inner cowardice stopped me. But I know myself well enough to say that on another day, I would have surrendered to the outside influence and stripped. In public, of a sort.

So yes, personal responsibility, but also, strong outside influences do impact people. They impact some people more than others. It depends on several variables. Not all people are strong willed enough to resist influences. Why do we insist our kids don’t hang around other kids who are getting into trouble? Because we know that the influence of others can be strong. We want to spare our kids the struggle or, if we know our kids aren’t of a sufficiently deeply ingrained good character, the temptation of taking the wrong path.

I believe when someone picks up a weapon, then they are responsible for what happens next. But I also know, that they could have been influenced to pick up that weapon. And when someone in power, someone who’s a symbol of authority says something is ok—or if they infer that it is by their words and attitude, and this they can indicate in many ways—then that encourages some “like minded” people to bring their previously hidden desires, beliefs, whatever, out into the open.

If someone hears their leader declare a certain ethnicity to be “invaders”, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that someone somewhere will take action to repel that invasion. Now, a couple of minor leaders declared that the root cause of the violence so recently perpetrated is mental illness, video games and social media—those old stand-by scapegoats—but definitely not the words of dear leader. Really? They really said that? Well, my question then is this.

Do those moronic minor leaders understand that their blaming of the outside influences of games and media actually means that they are conceding the role of outside influences in the recent spate of mass shootings? They should have stuck to the tried but true, “guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

We are all responsible for our own actions: and when we’re on the stage of life, in a position of leadership and authority, it behooves us to temper our words. Words matter. It’s not rocket science to understand that. 

Words matter, because we know that our words have the power to influence others—for good, most certainly, but also for evil.


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Wednesday's Words July 31, 2019

You always know when the couple you’re with is married and has been for some time. There’s a distinct language I’m going to call “marriage-speak”. This language is peppered with quick back and forth exchanges of snappy repartee and contradictory thoughts, sentences or sometimes, just single words. It’s also marked by a propensity to transport the speakers away from the main subject being discussed to an entirely different conversational planet altogether.

I understand this language because I speak it myself. Of course, there are more dialects in marriage-speak than there are in Chinese. After all, the rule of thumb for the determination of the number of possible dialects is: the more speakers there are of a basic language, the more variations of that language one may find. I know that China alone has approximately 1.386 billion people; no one has ever determined how many married couples there are in the world but I’m guessing it’s more than 1.386 billion. Logic tells us, therefore, that there are more speakers of marriage-speak than of any other language, and therefore there must be more variations of same.

Often, when I visit with my brother and his wife, or with my son and daughter-in-law, I spend a fair bit of time, my head swiveling like a spectator at a tennis match, observing marriage-speak in action. It can be incredibly informative as well as highly entertaining. It can tell you a lot about the couple in question. Are they truly happy in their marriage? This, of course you can determine by the temperature in the room and whether or not the couple is smiling as they indulge in marriage-speak.

And sometimes—rarely but it does happen—listening to a couple mid-marriage-speak can lead to a personal epiphany for the listener.

The thing about epiphanies is this: they are not simply moments when one has one’s eyes opened to something profound and not previously recognized; they can also be moments when something—a particular bit of knowledge, say—makes the final transition for the listener from head knowledge to heart knowledge.

I was at my brother’s house one day last week. We live in the same town and have done so since David and I moved to this town in 1989. In those days we were struggling, financially; housing was less pricey in this town, so we sold the lemon-house we had in the county in which we’d lived for most of our married lives and ventured to here. Now, when we moved here, my big brother laid down the law to me (strange how big brothers tend to do that no matter what the age or maturity of the little sister may be). He said, “don’t you think you’re going to be over here all the damn time.” I never would have thought that, but as you likely know from all the essays I’ve written over the years, I have always been an old-fashioned woman, relationship wise. This man was my big brother, the man of the house in my birth family after the death of my daddy. I took his words to heart. In the last couple of years, my brother and his wife have commented that they don’t see me very often. Of course, they don’t. I’m a dutiful baby sister.

But I digress.

I was over there, because my brother had a stroke in June and was recently released from the hospital. Thankfully, the doctors were able to eliminate the clot in the left artery, and while his left side is weak, he’s walking with a walker and he is speaking without impediment, other than having a reduced volume to his voice. His wit is as sharp as ever. The doctors feel he will make a close to full recovery in time.

Our conversation was animated. My sister-in-law, who’s a vegan sometimes and a vegetarian at others, declared the only reason he had this stroke—and the heart-attacks he’d had in his 60s, was because he has been a meat-eater all his life. But, no more! He will eat no more meat. Then she looked at me and said, this is true, trust me. I, being ever honest, informed her that I didn’t particularly trust her, but I did love her, and that would have to do.

We began to chat about other things, and in the course of this leg of the conversation, my sister-in-law declared that there is no truth anymore. I’d heard this, of course, but was interested in hearing her say this because she’d always been convinced that she always walks in the truth. Then they both declared it! “There’s your truth and my truth and their truth. So, see? No real truth.” The truth, my brother concluded, was indeed no more. That sounded familiar to me because I’ve heard public figures, and public disgraces, say that very same thing on my television.

And that was when I had my epiphany.

Everyone, somehow, has conflated “truth” with “belief”. They’ve forgotten that belief is something personal to one’s self. Truth, however, is a statement verified by evidential fact, whereby the evidence is presented without the aid of prevarication. Belief is personal; truth is universal. And rarely the twain shall meet.

And I have even figured out why it is so many people are confused. The difference is simple. Too many of us think that we’re the only ones who matter. We’re the only ones who are important. And so therefore, if we say it’s so, it is.

We’ve forgotten to nurture the quality of humility in our hearts, and then live it in our lives.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Wednesday's Words for July 24, 2019

In Canada, where I live, the official dawn of “senior citizenry” is generally considered to be the age of 65. Once one turns 65, one may collect one’s government pension if one has a mind to do so.

There have been a lot of arguments, pro and con about collecting your pension at aged 65. Now, the government pension—called CPP, Canada Pension Plan in all the provinces except Quebec (where it is called Quebec Pension Plan), is a plan into which one contributes over the course of their entire working lives. For every dollar I contributed, the government (or, truly, my fellow citizens) kicked in the same. Through the years, there has always been a “maximum contribution” amount, an amount that goes up a little each year. That means anyone making over a specified amount of money reaches a maximum number of dollars they can contribute each year. If you make seventy thousand or a hundred and seventy thousand, your contribution is the same. Paying the maximum amount (currently about 2,900 annually) is called “topping out”, and while I never came close to doing so, my husband did.

Likewise, when it is time to collect, you get a monthly payment which also has a “maximum amount”. I believe that amount now is around 1,200 dollars a month.

I’ll be finding out in the next few weeks what my monthly payout will be, but it won’t be as much as my husband’s. I’m expecting around 700 a month. Now, that’s just pension. There is also this thing called “Old Age Security” which is a separate stipend from the government, and is the same for almost everyone, regardless of their lifetime pension plan contributions. That amount is currently about 600 a month.

I say almost everyone, because for those who didn’t earn very much in their working lives, OAS offers the possibility of a “guaranteed income supplement”.

Now as to the arguments that I mentioned, “pro and con”. You can collect your CPP earlier than age 65—I think you have to be at least 60. If you do, for every year earlier than 65 that you choose to start to collect, your monthly stipend will be reduced. Some folks apply for and receive their CPP as soon as they qualify to do so. Their reasoning? “I’ll never live long enough to collect everything I put into it!”

Then there are the others who don’t want to follow the herd and collect at 65. For every year beyond age 65 that you put off collecting, your stipend increases a little. Everyone must begin to collect at age 70. The reasoning for those putting it off as long as they can? They want to get as big of a monthly check as possible.

I’ll be getting my first checks (CPP and OAS) at the end of the next month after I turn 65, the same as the bulk of the herd. Since I’ve been receiving quarterly royalty payments for the last several years, it will be interesting to have a “paycheck” every month. I’ve had fun telling everyone who will listen, this will be the easiest money I’ve ever earned. All I have to do, is keep breathing.

When I first entered the world of the internet, back in early 2003 as I was recovering from my open-heart surgery, I discovered a free game site called Pogo. They had a bingo game then (just one back in those days) and I happily partook. The “chat room” I visited most often was a room called Spiritual. I met several people there who, for one reason or another, were more or less what would have been considered “shut-ins”. It was a fun way to pass the time, chatting and clicking on the numbers that came up in the bingo game. As you might imagine, we got to know each other, and readily told each other our life stories. I wasn’t published yet, and I was still trying to find my way in the post-work world. I had a long recovery from my surgery. I’d been overweight and a smoker, and not in very good physical condition as I never actually exercised much. I wondered back then if I would ever get my stamina back. It took a couple of years for me to feel like myself.

In that chat room, someone—I don’t recall who—told me to “stay on top of the grass”. That expression tickled me, and I’ve responded to the question, “how are you?” quite often in the years since by saying, “I’m still on top of the grass”.

Now that I’m officially a senior, not much is going to change for me. I’ll continue to do what I have been doing, because I cannot do nothing. So I will indeed keep writing, although admittedly at a slightly slower pace than I have in years past.

I’m also going to stay on top of the grass and keep breathing.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wednesday's Words for July 17, 2019

Last Sunday my husband and I marked our 47th wedding anniversary.

When you say that number out loud, forty-seven, it seems impossible to reconcile it with the sense of the life we’ve lived since our marriage all those years ago. We were only babies! Teenagers, with no real concept of what we were doing or where we were going. We married a week to the day before my 18th birthday, which means my mother had to sign consent for the marriage licence. We were already expecting our first child.

There have been times when our life together has seemed very long, and times when it feels as if we married just yesterday. There have been incredibly high highs, and devastatingly low lows. We have struggled with issues of alcoholism (David) and self-esteem (me). The two are, like us, inexorably connected. I can tell you that David is now more than 36 years sober. I’m still working on the self-esteem issues.

We have suffered losses, of course. My father died when I was a child, but we lost my mother after only three years of marriage. Then one of his sisters, then his parents, and his only brother. There are just him and his one sister left of their original family. I lost my sister, leaving just my brother and I as our original family’s sole survivors.

We have lost a granddaughter, and a son. There’s no recovering from that kind of loss. You never really get over it, you just move on. Even now, there are times of tears, and times when faith bolsters the heart. I imagine I will be teary over them, missing them, until I’m with them again. I have absolute faith our son and his daughter are in the arms of Jesus. That knowledge, that faith, helps me move on.

I’ve come to understand that the purpose of life is not to show me a good time. Fairness is a wonderful concept. I believe it exists in the ultimate sense, but not necessarily in the every-day living of life. Someone does you wrong, and eventually, I believe, they get their piece of karma cake. You just might not ever know that it’s happened. So maybe in your mind that unfairness is never met with what you consider to be its just desserts.

The truth is that yes, life is unfair. But it’s unfair to everyone, not just you, so get over it. Sometimes it’s super fair to you, giving you more than you ever imagined you would ever have, so just tell yourself it all balances out in the end, and again, get over it.

Those of us who live a faith-based life, and even those who perhaps consider themselves atheists, agree on one thing: evil is real and it does exist in this world. So knowing that, you shouldn’t be all shocked and upset when evil actually seems to get ahead or take center stage. Yeah, that happens, and it sucks, but it’s not forever.

Stand your own ground against evil where you can. No, maybe you can’t affect the ultimate victory over it. But be aware of the evil around you and refuse to participate in it. The more people resist it, the more easily it will, eventually and in its time, be defeated forever.

I had a friend who lived by the motto: life is short; eat the dessert first. That’s not a bad motto to live by, all things considered. I’m not sure what my motto should be. I know I’m deeply flawed. That I try to be kind and help others where I can, but again, deeply flawed so nowhere near as good as I could be. My goal is to do a better job in every area of my life each day. Some days I settle into my bed at night, and know I’ve tried and maybe advanced, oh, about an inch toward this goal of mine. Other nights I ask extra politely for a bigger dose of forgiveness, because I know I’ve blown it in a major way and have taken several steps back.

I truly believe my heart is good, because I don’t wish horrible things to happen to anyone, not even, necessarily, the evildoers. Generally, in my heart, I just want them gone. I want them relegated to the pages of history where, in due time, the entire world will celebrate the demise of their existence.

It will happen. I have faith.

And maybe, that informs what should be my motto through this life. I know it’s something I’ve said in these essays from time to time, so I guess the choice is only natural. I’m going to be sixty-five on next Sunday, the 21st, and so I can say that I have lived long enough and know the secret to contentment.

It’s the realization that things don’t come to stay. They merely come to pass.


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Wednesday's Words for July 10, 2019

The most amazing thing happened Sunday night. It had been a very hot and humid weekend, and I’d spent most of it inside the house. There’s no sense in my going out, even on the porch, when it’s like that. It’s not good for my arthritis and being in the heat too long’s not good for my heart. I know I’ve written in these essays more than once I’ve become a bit of a hermit of late. And while I am completely aware of that fact, I am also fine with it.

Life is what you make it, and contrary to the way things were forty or even thirty years ago, a person who more or less stays inside for health considerations is no longer “shut in”. Thanks to the internet, one can keep their mind and their fingers occupied even if their body is somewhat at rest. Life changes, and what you used to love to do, maybe you can’t do any longer. Instead of thinking on that, I choose to find new things that I love to do. But I digress.

Sunday evening, around twilight, the heat had broken, and it was at that perfect temperature outside—not too hot, and not too cool/breezy or damp, that a visit to the porch was definitely in order. And made even more special when, after inviting me out to join him, my husband said, very quietly, “watch the lawn across the street.” I did…and then I saw it! But not just it, I saw them. There had to be ten or even twenty of them.


I know my friends in the U.S. tend to call them “lightning bugs” but we always called them fireflies. And I hadn’t seen any in years. Years! While I sat there and took them in, I felt connected once more to my childhood. I used to love to sit out at night, on our little piece of rural Ontario, and watch as the light show began each twilight in the early summer. The fireflies were just act one of my evening entertainment. The twinkling off and on was more attractive to me than city lights. In the distance, either across the road or behind us, which were both wooded tracks, the sound of the whip-poor-wills could often be heard. They provided the music, and the fireflies danced!

In my child-memory, those two natural phenomena—the bird with the onomatopoeic name and the fireflies—were a matched set.

I haven’t heard any whip-poor-wills in years, either. Those, I imagine, I will have to be in a rural setting—and at night—to hear. But I had wondered if the fireflies were no longer in our area, because I hadn’t seen them in so very long.

I don’t often sit out at night, and certainly not the way I used to as a child, and a teen, and again as a young, very busy mother of three. The outside used to be my sanctuary, my “me space” where I could be alone, surrounded only by the sights and sounds of nature. A place to breathe, to rest, to regain some of the equilibrium that would have been leeched out of me during the hours of the day just ended.

As a young girl, I would sometimes take a towel and get up on the hood of my mother’s car—a sturdy Plymouth. Yes, this was in the days when cars were made of steel. You see, the hood, then the windshield provided a solid “chaise lounge” at just the perfect angle. I could then stargaze to my heart’s content. The stars, the awesomeness of the milky way, and the occasional shooting star or aura borealis, that would be act two of my evening viewing pleasure. Oh, there were a few mosquitoes in those days, but we didn’t have any standing water close by, so their breeding grounds weren’t near us. There were a few, but not many. And they weren’t infamous, in those days, for carrying the diseases they do now.

It would be only in the aftermath of a couple of rainy days that I’d be chased inside by the biting little buggers.

Now that I know it’s possible to see fireflies again, I’ll take a couple more twilight vigils and see if I can. And if the bugs are too bad out, I’ll try viewing them from the inside of my car, which is parked right in front of my house.

I think that would be one sure way of bringing the past and the present together. Sometimes life gives you little full circles—if you are aware and keep your eyes open for them.

Blessings abound.


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Wednesday's Words for July 3, 2019

We had a lovely Canada Day weekend, just passed. The spirit of holiday began for us on Saturday, when the three of us—David, our daughter and I—visited the St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market for the first time this year. And this time, we managed to see a lot of it. We spent more than a half hour going our separate ways and could do that for the first time in more than a decade because we took our scooters with us.

There is definitely something to be said about having the freedom to explore on your own. David and I have never lived in each other’s pockets. We have separate interests, and when we would, in the past, go to a place as rich in choices as that farmer’s market, we would always spend some time exploring on our own.

Of course, for the last few years that wasn’t possible unless I sat somewhere and waited while he went off—which almost always happened. I learned to bring my kindle with me so I could read while I was left on my own. However, this was the first time I was able to go off on my own. I like to look at different things than he does. Not that I want to purchase anything, necessarily. But I do like to look. People are so talented! There are tons of arts and crafts there, free for the ogling. What a great time we had.

The only purchases I made were of the edible sort. Among the goodies we bought were two items it’s hard to find in our usual stomping grounds: smoked pork chops and really good apple fritters. I even got some of each for our Sonja who had to work that day and couldn’t join us.

I’m a bit more used to riding a scooter than my husband is. This was only the second time that he’d been on one in a large crowd. The last time was a few years back when we visited Las Vegas. We both rented one of those large, freedom-giving machines, and it was a definite blessing, being able to go wherever we wanted to go in that very busy and highly populated area. The big surprise for David during that trip? The way that once he was on the scooter, people didn’t always “see” him.

That’s something I noticed from the beginning. People don’t always see you if you’re n a scooter. Of course, they don’t necessarily see your cane when you walk with one, either. The reason people don’t see you on a scooter is, very simply, because you’re no longer at eye level. And they don’t see you walking with a cane because the cane’s not at eye-level, either.

David came to understand very quickly in Vegas, and was reminded this past Saturday, that he had to “drive defensively”. At one point on Saturday he had to veer hard left, because a woman was walking and texting at the same time and was headed straight for him. She did bump him, but it was only a slight bump all the way around.

The funniest thing was the woman looked up and said to him, “you should watch where you’re going.” Anyone who knows my husband would, at this point, have said, “uh oh”, and ducked. Amazingly, he didn’t lash out at her. He simply said. “I’m sorry, but you walked into me.”

I will only say that this mild response of his was refreshing to hear about—and the fact that I heard about it from him doesn’t necessarily discount his narrative of the event.

Later that day, my daughter brought her friend from an hour’s drive away to stay Saturday and Sunday nights. And she also brought her two grandbabies to stay over, Sunday night. So for a forty-eight hour period, this was a very full house. It’s a testament to the construction work done by her and her daddy that the upstairs bed-sitting room held two adults, two children, four dogs….and with the door closed, we heard nothing of them at all.

When I said those very words to Jennifer the next morning, she grinned and nodded…and then proved she was, after all, my daughter.

She said, “well, it’s a testament either to our construction skills—or how far gone your hearing is, too.”

It’s a blessing to know that when I am no longer here, the family practice of “smart assery” will continue on. A proud family tradition.

Happy Fourth of July to all my American friends. I hope your celebration is filled with family, patriotism, a fantastic meal—and the best fireworks, ever!


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wednesday's Words for June 26, 2019

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the house is blessedly quiet. In all fairness, the house has been pretty quiet even after the move-in last week. Most of the time, one wouldn’t know that this is now a house that boasts more than one dog. Actually, we have my daughter’s four small chihuahuas and our Mr. Tuffy. Five. Five dogs. This isn’t the first time the Ashbury’s have had five dogs at one time. That other time was when we lived out in the rural environs of the community into which I was born. I’m thinking, around 40 years ago.

At this moment, Mr. Tuffy is with his daddy, at the park. That morning scooter ride and walk is their private time. The others show no jealousy, and only bark when they first see their grandpa in his scooter. He brings it down from the upper back yard on his own, and then he comes in and gets the dog, loading up on the sidewalk in front of the house.

I asked David if his reason for doing it that way now was because Tuffy recalls vividly the last time daddy put him in the basket in the backyard. That time ended up in David’s dumping the scooter with the puppy in the basket. It was a very gradual “dump” and David protected the dog. Neither was hurt, of course, unless you count Mr. Ashbury’s pride. I don’t believe he answered the question.

But I digress.

The first two to three days, move and post-move, were exhausting for Tuffy. One of my daughter’s dogs had just finished her heat a couple days prior to the event. So Tuffy’s interest in her was, shall we say, heightened. That’s a good word because for the most part, it describes Tuffy’s challenge with um…intimacy. He’s lacking the sufficient height in his legs to get to the good part. So, except for one time when my daughter wanted this particular dog of hers to have puppies with Tuffy as the daddy, he’s never quite managed to fulfill nature’s urge. (That one time she kind of helped by facilitating the event with a clever placement of stools.)

By Sunday afternoon our poor dog was exhausted, the female dog in question was resigned, and life more or less returned to normal—whatever that is.

The dogs have free reign of the house except at nighttime, and otherwise except for one other thing. I will not allow any other dogs on my desk, between my monitor and tower. That’s Tuffy’s private spot and is to be honored because this was his home first. He’s happy to come to bed with us each night again (he didn’t want to do that the first few nights), and the only difference there is that he wants out of our room on his own at some point in the wee hours. I’m not quite sure why that is, because the others are upstairs in the newly renovated bed-sitting room, behind a closed door. Oh, and we close our door at night, too, because my daughter gets up very early, and her dogs don’t need help to jump up on our bed.

We’re all still finding our balance in this new expanded household. David isn’t fond of having more than one dog—his own—wanting to sleep on him while he’s in his recliner, relaxing and watching television. I don’t mind it so much. In a way, it’s nice, because Tuffy doesn’t like my chair and so won’t sit with me. There’s a space between the foot panel and the seat. There is strong upholstery there, so he wouldn’t fall through, but he doesn’t like it. The other dogs do settle down, and they are actually a lot better trained than our dog is. So yes, part of my job now is to be a puppy bed for at least three of my daughter’s dogs. They don’t weigh much. But they are fairly well trained.

Yesterday was a case in point. I was right here, at my keyboard, working away on my manuscript. David was on the porch, the front door was open, and all the dogs were with him. They all love being out on the front porch, as long as there’s a chair for them to sit on. Apparently, the cement is too whatever for them. The chihuahuas are trained that when the “squirt bottle” appears, they stop barking.

Predictably, when a person walking their dog appeared, the dogs all started yipping and my husband grabbed up that squirt bottle and asked, “Do you want me to use this?”

Well, the dogs did shut up immediately with the exception of the oldest one. It was enough to break my author-concentration. I called out, asking David, “which one of those little guys just said ‘no’?” I’d heard it, plain as day.

Surprise? Yes. Shock? Maybe not so much as we had a cat once who learned how to say ‘no’. In response, my husband cut to the real issue, and did it adroitly.

His reply: “It was Bella (the oldest). Let’s hope that’s the only thing she says no to.”

Here’s hoping, indeed.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Wednesday's Words for June 19, 2019

What do you mean it’s Wednesday? We just had a Wednesday! Yesterday, wasn’t it? What’s going on here? 

Does that refrain sound familiar to you? It’s one that’s echoed silently in my mind, by now featuring every single day of the darn week at one time or another. Of course, I never said anything out loud, in case people thought I was already losing what few marbles I have left.

And then Mr. Ashbury, just last week, said those words to me. It was a Tuesday. He was genuinely perplexed. Then he smiled at me and shrugged. And he said, a real confession, that he doesn’t pay attention to the days of the week because since he’s retired, it doesn’t really matter what day it is.

I think it’s because I’m more than a little anal that I’ve always kept track of the days. They fly by, but for the most part, I do keep track of them. They really do just zoom past so darn fast; I sometimes feel that we just had a Wednesday, and here we are again, so soon!

Mr. Ashbury on the other hand was being completely honest about not caring what day it is. He really doesn’t. Usually at least once a week he will ask me what day it is. When he tells me that he can never remember, I do tell him all he has to do is open his cell phone. Right there, on his menu screen, is the calendar icon that has the name of the day, and its position in the month.

His response to that was to tell me it’s easier to just ask me.

We’re continuing to get ready for our daughter and her dogs to move in. Her half of the upstairs, an area that is really very big (16 feet by 25 feet), is now complete, walls, ceiling and flooring. The drywall is up, mudded, sanded, and painted—both primer and finish coats. The flooring—laminate flooring in a shade of grey—is installed. They finished it yesterday. Now all that remains is for them to tidy up the debris of construction.

Our daughter decided that on moving day, which is Friday (yes, two days away), she’ll bring her dogs here with the first load. Since I’m not able to help with the move in, I will have the hounds—all of them—enclosed with me here in my office. It will be the first practical use of my two brand new office doors. I have not yet needed to close them so I can work, but I can if I have to and that, my friends, is awesome.

It shouldn’t take too long for our grandson and his friend to move her furniture in; there isn’t a lot she’s bringing with her. Just what goes in her bedroom, along with one sofa—a sectional—her television, her computer, a couple of bookshelves and a faux fireplace that she loves. That piece is heavy, but the upstairs is well fortified.

There are going to have to be some adjustments made by all of us, human and canine alike. I do believe in time that everything will be fine. Normal is, after all, just what you get used to. Her dogs know us, and the house, and the current canine-in-chief. Our daughter’s workday has never been standard since she began to work in home health care. As a Personal Service Worker, she visits clients in the community, and therefore everyday for her is a split-shift day. She begins usually at six a.m. and may have several clients close together and be done by mid-morning or very early afternoon. At that point she might be done for the day, or she may have to resume client visits at about six in the evening, until, sometimes, ten at night.

In the past, when she’s only had about an hour or so between client visits, she would stop in here, and stretch out on one of our recliners. She didn’t like to go home to her dogs that had been alone, only to have to go out again a short time later, leaving them alone again. That problem will be solved, because except for the odd appointment time, and grocery shopping times when we go out, her dogs won’t be alone at all.

They’ll have grandparents to crawl all over, and sleep on.

Looking at it all that way? The dogs really are going to be getting the sweetest part of this deal. Huh, I guess it really is a dog’s life.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Wednesday's Words for June 12, 2019

First, a flower update: I discovered just this past Saturday that the lilies-of-the-valley planted in the back yard are blooming later than the ones in the front of the house and at the base of the lilacs. I would guess that’s because the ones in the back yard are mostly in shade throughout the day. Of course, that meant that while my lilacs did burst into bloom on Sunday, it was too late for me to get the natural combination of fragrances, because those lilies-of-the-valley were done.

Enter Mr. Ashbury, who clipped a sprig of lilac and then went into the back yard and pulled out a sprig of the lilies. He put them in a vase and set them beside me on my desk. I inhaled deeply and…ah, heaven. I was still inhaling that bit of heaven last night, and for that, I’m grateful. Springtime flower quest, met.

My husband and my daughter have been working together on our upstairs area. I may have mentioned that renovations were underway here in 2006, and that my husband didn’t have the heart to continue after our son died, as it was a project they were working on, together. Since David has been retired, however, he’s come to understand that a house with an unfinished upstairs, and cosmetic repairs left uncompleted has considerably less value than it could. This building, such as it is, is our major savings account for the future. It’s been fully paid for, and we need it to be in as saleable a condition as possible for that time in the future when we’ll possibly need to enter a nursing home.

The upstairs has served us in the past as “bedrooms” for two of our grandchildren, when they needed to be with us while their mother, our Sonja, was working nights. The kids didn’t seem to mind the unfinished look. However, it really was past time to get some drywall up there and something other than area rugs over the sub-flooring. So daughter and daddy have been working on that. David has managed to get the dry wall up, and even on the ceiling, thanks to the drywall lift he purchased. Daughter is in charge of the “taping and mudding” half of the renovations, a process that is now underway.

They plan to do the painting together, beginning this coming weekend. And there is a deadline for them, as our daughter will be moving in with us in just under two weeks’ time.

Sadly, she recently had it brought home that when you rent a house without a lease, then you run the risk of having the owner of the house decide to sell it out from under you. Real estate values have increased in this area, and it’s hard to fault the man’s desire to capitalize on that reality. Our daughter has been renting from him for several years, and she was quite devastated to have him suddenly show up one day and ask her to move out.

Her rent was more than I would pay (because of course I am older and recall smaller monthly amounts), but it was less than she’d have any expectation of paying for a new lease. As well, she has her chihuahuas. They’re her children, and there is no way she could, or should be forced to get rid of them. Her dogs and our Mr. Tuffy are best buddies. In fact, they are the only dogs our Mr. Tuffy tolerates, and he loves them.

We convinced our daughter her best option was to move in, take over the upstairs, where she could stay for as long as she wants. It’s a way for her to save up and either eventually buy her own home or take that money she’s saving and finally have a retirement account of her own.

This will be good for her in that regard, and it will be good for us, too. She’s going to help me one day a week, and that will be a blessing. Plus, there will be a peace of mind for us both knowing that she is here.

In this day and age, with expenses rising and salaries stagnant, younger people are finding it more and more difficult to manage, especially if they’re single. One of the information shows I was watching last week stated that the dream of home ownership is becoming harder and harder to attain in these expensive times. For most, it is a dream out of reach.

It used to be a given that the next generation would flourish beyond what the previous one had been able to accomplish. I’ve heard some of the talking heads say that this generation of young people coming up—the millennial's—will not be as well off as their parents.

Personally, I think our expectations need to change. I believe it’s very hard to prepare for a future when the reality of what the future is going to be shifts under your feet, like sand in the grip of a wave.

We have an entire floor above our heads that’s just sitting there, as fancy storage space. We have a fenced in back yard. She’ll be here, safe and sound, and can look forward to having a meal waiting for her at the end of her workday.

I think that’s a win-win-win situation (including the dogs in that equation).


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Wednesday's Words for June 5, 2019

I’ve got my fingers crossed. My two lilac trees are somewhat behind the rest of the lilacs in our area. However, there are good buds there, and my fingers are crossed that they will bloom this year, and within the next four to five days.

You see, I still have vibrant lilies of the valley blooming, and I really do want those two scents mingled for my olfactory delight. Yes, it’s a little thing, but I am currently out of big things, and will take my pleasures where I find them, however small they may be.

I’ve managed to excavate my desk, grateful to discover there was indeed an antique oak library desk beneath all the accumulated papers and such I had stacked upon it. I’m thinking this new habit of mine—letting things pile up—is a late-arriving protest after years of working in an office, where one’s desk needed to be tidy and free of “litter” all the time. Except of course, if one was on vacation.

Then there was that one time when I went back to work after a one week vacation; before leaving, I had made a comment that questioned the value of a week off when one returned to a week’s accumulated work and had to then spend a week working twice as hard. The company boss overheard my comment. He told me then and there that he would inform my supervisor that my work was to be covered while I was gone. Of course, when I returned, my desk looked pristine. He came over, beaming, and told me he’d kept an eye on my desk, and wasn’t I pleased? I held his gaze as I opened the drawer and pulled out the more than two hundred documents that had accumulated in my absence: company bills that needed to be paid, many of them within the week.

He was so angry his instructions had not been met, he gave me two more days off with pay as a consolation prize, which just proved to me the man didn’t get it, period.

There might be a bit of that in my latest habit of not stuffing things away until I can deal with them properly; or I could just be getting into that “who cares?” portion of life’s program. I believe I previously noted in one of these essays that I don’t have any rat’s butts left to give. I thought there might be a shipment on route, but sadly, I’ve seen no signs that there is.

More likely, that old adage, “out of sight, out of mind” is at play here, as well. Because now, as never before, that adage is a literal reality for me. So I keep things where I can see them in the faith and hope that I will eventually deal with them.

Regardless of the reasons behind this new habit, I do believe that it’s perfectly okay for my attitude about certain things to change as I get older. It’s not a sign of any mental deficiency, but rather, an acknowledgement on my part that there is a bit more of a physical deficiency than I would like. Each day I think of what my “to-do” list comprises, and each day I realize I need to revisit my thinking. The truth is, I simply don’t have the stamina to do all I would like to do in a day.

I was a bit more graceful in coping with the first wave of physical limitations, the most obvious being: no more work done on the knees. No gardening, and no scrubbing of floors. That second one might sound to some of you like a blessing. But I loved gardening, and I’m sorry, I don’t care what mop you use, the floor simply does not get as clean as it can be if one does not take to one’s knees with a sturdy scrub brush and a bucket of cleanser—followed by one of clear water to rinse with.

When I shared that opinion with a friend, she opined, “you can’t tell me that, able-bodied, you’d still be scrubbing the floors on hands-and-knees if you won the lottery.” And she was right. If I won the lottery I likely would not continue to do so, even if I was physically able.

But you can be certain I would then hire someone else to do it.


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Wednesday's Words for May 29, 2019

Today is the day my brother and his wife celebrate their 54th wedding anniversary. It’s also the anniversary of my parent’s marriage, who were wed in 1942.

My mother didn’t often speak of my dad, who died when I was eight and a half years old. When she did, I paid attention. I recall her telling me that she and Dad had lived their lives as if they had all the time in the world, when in fact, in the end, they’d had just a little more than twenty-one years together. As a wife who will be celebrating the 47-year mark of my own marriage in July, that seems an incredibly short amount of time. My father was the love of my mother’s life. After my father’s passing, my mother never dated, never even considered the possibility of doing so. She died thirteen years and three months after my dad. They weren’t married all that long, and they didn’t, either of them, live all that long; my dad never saw 50, and my mom never saw 60.

It’ll be my 65th birthday one week to the day after our 47th anniversary. In Canada, that’s the age at which, the month following, you begin to get a paycheck from the government for still being alive. Here in Ontario, we collect the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), the amount per month based on our contributions to this point. We also collect OAS – old age security. That is a basic amount, which is the same for everyone—right now, about $602.00 per month.

I never contributed the maximum amount allowable by law to the CPP, (your contribution is based on your wage and I was never a high wage earner), so I’ll likely see somewhere between 600 to 800 per month for that pension. Not a bad wage to draw, I suppose, for the sometimes onerous task of breathing.

Our expenses are less now than they used to be; scooters aside, we really don’t need much or want much, for that matter. Things don’t hold the allure for us as once they did. We understand more now, being older, the things which are of real value in life.

It’s not material things that matter, but people and relationships. It’s not receiving things that matters but giving them. It’s not speaking your mind that counts the most but listening to another who needs to share and may have no one but you who will listen.

When I was 48, I was in a hospital cath-lab, undergoing an angioplasty procedure, when the surgeon had an “oops”. He’d torn an artery, and they had no choice but to rush me into surgery (down the hall and up several floors) for a triple by-pass. I was lucky to survive, and I’ve been conscious of that fact ever since. In the aftermath of the surgery, I knew I wasn’t done here, in this life. I had more yet that was expected of me.

To the best of my ability and with God’s help, I’ve been working that mission ever since.

People will attest that age is just a number, and in some ways, that’s true. We still recall, inside of ourselves, what it was like, being younger—moving better, thinking better—and so in some respects we feel as if we are still that same person, inside. Underneath the creaky muscles and the painful joints, we don’t feel old. We don’t feel different, or “other”. We feel like…. well, we feel like ourselves.

I believe that aging itself doesn’t change us fundamentally; rather, if there are changes, they come from the sights seen, the voices heard, and the experiences lived. You hear older folks say, more often than not, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” That’s because they know darn well that there is big stuff coming, which makes all the little irritations appear as nothing.

My husband and I both believe at this point in our lives, our focus should be on doing the good we can do, and making sure to take the time to smell the roses—or at this particular moment in my garden, the lilies-of-the-valley. I have a few sprigs beside me as I write this, and their perfume is wonderful.

And also, one more thing—and that’s to follow the advice given to and shared by King Edward VIII: never miss an opportunity to relieve yourself; never miss a chance to sit down and rest your feet. 


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wednesday's Words for May 22, 2019

It’s been an interesting week for the Ashbury’s.

We took delivery of our scooters, and I can tell you that they’ve been an unqualified success. David went out the day after we got them—he wanted to charge up the battery first—and headed downtown to have breakfast and just tool around.

I drove my scooter back and forth in front of the house, just to ensure it worked well, and that I was happy with it. Mine won’t be used much for going around town. If there’s someplace I want to go in my town, I’ll drive there. But I used it in the grocery store last Friday. I discovered that the basket was totally inadequate for that particular excursion. I now have a slightly larger basket, and we’ll see how it goes this week. However, since my scooter goes a lot faster than the scooter in the store, I can zip back and forth from where I am to the regular grocery cart my husband will be walking with through the aisles.

My scooter is in the trunk of the car at the moment; I used it to visit my brother-in-law in the hospital, and I will use it to go to the mall at some future undetermined date. Yes, my little blue rocket is an indoor aide. Or, a parking lot aide to the indoor activity.

On the day after his first excursion, David put Mr. Tuffy in the scooter basket, locked him in with a couple of catches and cords between his halter and the sides, and set out for the park, several blocks away. The only time Mr. Tuffy has been to the park has been when we’ve taken him by car. It is a paradise beyond the range of walking.

Mr. Tuffy thought this was the best thing, ever! He loved running on the grass, (his leash has a long range). He came home with a huge doggie grin, and now bugs David in the morning until they go out for their morning “romp.”

Yesterday, they did have a slight mishap leaving our property. David admits he was a bit cocky and didn’t take the little “dip” from the yard to the road at a sufficiently slow speed. Nobody was hurt. Just embarrassed. I was on the porch and they were out of sight. The tale was told by a couple on the other side of the street, walking toward us. They stopped, they gaped, and one asked, “Are you all right?”

I shook my head. “What did he do, dump the scooter?” I asked.

The male of the pair nodded. “Yes, and the doggie, too.”

As I said, they’re fine—a good example of that old saying, “sadder but wiser.” Mr. Tuffy took it in stride; he did not hesitate to get in the basket this morning.

On Saturday I arose very early—about 4:30 am—because I was headed to Niagara Falls, Ontario, and a book signing event called Romancing the Falls (#RTF). It was only at the beginning of the month when a good friend, author Lilith Darville, received a call and was unexpectedly given the opportunity to attend the event. She wanted to split the eight-foot long table, and so she called me.

Fortunately, I was still well supplied with swag and books from San Antonio and was grateful for the opportunity. We were last minute entrants, and both of us happy to be sharing the experience.

It was the first event I’ve attended in several years without my own personal assistant (Mr. Ashbury). It was a long day, but a very good one. There’s nothing I like more than getting out and meeting readers and hopefully soon-to-be readers. As we were heading home after the event, which included a nice buffet supper, we were heralded by the several displays of fireworks being exploded along the way.

I won’t lie; that one long day of extra activity and the bustle of the crowds took a lot out of me. It was well worth it, just to be out and meeting readers, but I’m not as young as I used to be. When I see other authors, older than myself, handling these events with greater aplomb, it just humbles me, and makes me more determined to push just a little bit harder.

Of course, attending one event can often lead to another. And so I can announce today that I will be appearing at a book signing in Belleville, Ontario, in October. Plenty of time to check out my swag, get a few more books…and store up my energy.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday's Words for May 15, 2019

The Ashbury’s finally did something that has been a long time in the anticipation stage. There are arguments to be made on both sides of this issue as to why this hasn’t happened before now. But I’m one of those people who believes that things happen when they’re meant to, if you don’t insist on being the kind of person who has to have everything now.

Therefore, I’m pleased to share with you that finally, everything has come together just so, and I can confirm that the order has been placed, for the long awaited mobility scooters.

Anyone who’s met me at any of the various conventions I’ve attended for the last decade can attest to the fact that I rent a scooter whenever I have to attend one of these events. The gatherings are usually held at very large hotels or convention centers, and my arthritis simply won’t allow me to walk those long distances. In fact, I always get wheelchair assistance in the airport whenever I fly. That’s a necessity, because a lot of airports are facilities that go on for miles – or at least that’s how it seems.

Mr. Ashbury’s one and only experience on a scooter was gained a few years back when we took our most recent trip to Las Vegas. He loved it! In fact, on departure day, he got a little teary-eyed when it came time to say good-bye to Scotty the scooter.

We decided a couple of weeks ago, when we came back from the bookkeeper with our completed tax forms that this was the year we had to purchase our scooters. Mr. Ashbury took on the task of looking for the best options, and I think he hit a home run.

The scooters we’ve chosen are called “portable scooters”. When assembled, they weigh 92 pounds, and are rated for people who weigh up to 300 pounds, so good for both of us. They have a range of about 12 miles, and their top speed is 5 miles an hour. The major selling point? These scooters can be disassembled, so that you can put them in the car and go somewhere with them. And they should both fit in our Buick—one in the trunk and one in the back seat.

This also takes care of that horrendous problem: how to we get those suckers into the house? That was the major factor preventing us from buying them. If we’d ordered those large scooters like the ones I’d been used to using, we would have had to build an out-building to house them in.

When you enter my house through the front door, it’s after climbing several steps onto our narrow concrete porch—a porch not wide enough, if you used a ramp to get up there, to manoeuvre one of those scooters inside. The back door has a drop of about a foot or so—open door, step down.

Now all that is no longer a problem to be solved. In the winter, when they will only be used if the roads are clear or if we’re heading to a mall, they can be stored right here in my office—there’s room for them here. Although Mr. Ashbury thinks except for the batteries, they can be stored in the car. We’ll see which of us wins that argument.

The best thing about having scooters, however, is that Mr. Ashbury will finally have his freedom back. One thing I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned is that my husband no longer drives. Ever.

Before the COPD made physical exercise too much for him, he’d often take a Saturday and walk to our “downtown” area. He’d go down to get his haircut, and then pick one of the several restaurants to have breakfast. Sometimes he’d wander the main street in town to see who had what, with a stop at the real estate office to peruse the listings. He used to walk to the far end of town, a walk of about three miles from here.

He’d get an urge to roam and decide he wanted to go down to the building center store, or to the Canadian Tire store, which are in the north end. Now he’ll be able to do all those things whenever he gets the urge to do so, on his own, easily.

I’m not much of one for wanting to do that, and that even works out as a bonus, too. If he thinks he’s going to be gone a sufficient amount of time for those miles to add up, he can take the battery pack from my scooter with him. Since we bought the same make of scooter, the parts are interchangeable.

We placed the order last Wednesday, right after I posted the previous essay. The company called us a half hour later, to verify that we wanted two of these items, and hadn’t made a mistake. And then they called to announce they’d be in by the end of the week—next week at the latest.

We got a call yesterday about nine a.m. It was the delivery driver announcing he was on the way. My husband made quite the sight, pacing, looking out the door, waiting, waiting.

 And then they arrived…and I left David in his happy place, as he prepared to unpack and “assemble” them himself. He’s looking forward to taking Mr. Tuffy for a ride. I’ve posted a picture that might make you smile on my Wednesday’s Words blog: 


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wednesday's Words for May 8, 2019

Ah, pansies! Have I mentioned how much I love pansies? Well, I do. I love them because they always look so darn happy. The way their varied colors are arranged, when you look at them, it almost appears they have faces, and those faces are smiling.

The only thing I don’t like about pansies has nothing at all to do with the flower itself and everything to do with the business from whence we purchase them. As you undoubtedly know, pansies are an annual flower. Apparently, according to the people running the greenhouse where I buy mine, they are a very short-life expectancy bloom, only good for early spring and then, bam! They’re gone.

The problem really isn’t the company, that is to say, the greenhouse where I buy my pansies, but it’s our geographic location, and Mother Nature herself. You see, I live in the “golden horseshoe” area of Southern Ontario. And early spring, quite often, features really chilly temperatures and almost omnipresent frost. So, according to the whole “pansies are good for early spring only” mantra, early spring can be defined, hereabouts, as about a week or three (at most) sometime in or between April and May.

We went shopping for our pansies, finally, on Friday, May 3. Let’s just say the selection was…wanting.

The plan each year is to fill our three window boxes, which we hang from the railing of our porch, with my beloved pansies. We had intended to get out to the greenhouse a couple of weeks before we did, but there were a few really cold days, and that can make my actually going someplace problematic. Plus, it was tax time, and I had some other errands that absolutely had to be done, and the next thing I knew, it was May 3.

So, when we arrived at the greenhouse, we saw they had an eight-shelf storage unit and another display with four shelves, this one two-sided, both with pansies, but that was it. We walked all the way inside until we found some staff to ask, just in case. But no, those on sale out front were all there was, and there wouldn’t be any more.

Because, of course, pansies, as we all know, are a springtime only flower. Except, I somehow manage to keep them blooming for the entire growing season, right up until the fall, but that’s just me.

This really was our last chance, if we wanted pansies this year, to get them. We hadn’t looked too carefully when we first spotted that “30% off” sign above the displays. But now, faced with the sure and certain knowledge that it was now or never; go big or go home; do or die…. we looked. And as we moved the pots, most of them round or square shaped, most of them of disparate sizes, colors and configurations, we found something interesting.

Usually, we’d buy a flat or two of pansies, those flats filled with boxes that held four plants each. We’d also buy some good soil, and then we’d spend a few hours on our porch, with the window boxes, getting each one ready, and then gently and lovingly transplanting those pansies into their new homes. We’d often buy a few different plants, too, so that we’d have an arrangement in each box that bordered on the artistic.

Yes, I’m an artist—with words. I’m not a visual artist, so I’ll leave it up to you, my friends, to decide just how artistic these boxes looked. Oh, what’s that you say? Perhaps Mr. Ashbury has a nice artistic flair? Oh, he does, be assured. His particular style is called junkyard chic.

But I digress.

So we stood back, after having a good look at all the available pansies to be purchased. We’d set out three selections separated from the rest, moved everything else a little bit back, and considered.

I looked at Mr. Ashbury and he looked at me. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” he asked. The beauty of having been married for nearly 47 years, now, is that shared thought thingy happens with us on a regular basis. On nearly every given occasion the answer to that question is yes.

This day was no different. “I am,” I acknowledged. And neither one of us particularly cared about the cost. We spent about twenty dollars more than usual, with the thirty percent off, and that was fine.

We bought our selection of three. We came home, lifted the 24-inch window boxes from their “hangers”, and set in their place these three, 16-inch oval planters….and called the whole thing done.