Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wednesday's Words for March 14, 2018

It’s March Break week here in our neck of the woods. This used to be a time when I’d be hyperventilating, either looking for someone to watch my kids when they were younger, or worried about what was happening in my house when they were allegedly old enough to be left on their own. Those lovely day programs so many communities offer now were not available when my children were younger.

I often had to field phone calls from my two youngest at work. When I was employed in the city, about a 35-minute drive from home, it was in the office of a manufacturing company. There were about 10 of us in the main area of the office, and we all got along fairly well. I recall telling them about the way my two youngest children constantly fought. One time, in the midst of yet another phone call from home, I held the receiver in the air so that all of my coworkers could hear one of my children yelling about the other one to me.

I even once instructed them not to call unless there was blood.

Of course, those days are long behind me, and there are parts of them I miss, and parts I don’t. Now the only thing March Break means here is that for an entire week, there are no school kids lining up in front of our house, and therefore no kids and buses for Mr. Tuffy to bark at. Our dog is quite clever. He deduced early on that all those children gathered together in front of our house couldn’t possibly be a good thing. The other bonus for him during the break is he gets to go outside to his porch and his squirrels a bit earlier than usual. I don’t let him on the porch during on a school day until the buses have collected their cargo. The children don’t need to be barked at by Mr. Barky McBarksalot.

There’s snow on the ground again here, but in light of all the nor’easters my friends south of the border have been dealing with in the last few weeks, I won’t complain. We’re all, I’m sure, sick of winter and hungry for spring. It will arrive, by and by.

Our lives these days are marked by small improvements, here and there, to our quality of life. The latest was an item I’ve wanted to get to for awhile. The piece of memory foam we had as our “bed topper” started out three inches thick when we bought it about five or so years ago. It wasn’t a very high-quality item, but it worked fairly well and was very comfy. Our mattress itself is in excellent condition. That we did pay a great deal for about fifteen years ago. But it’s a bit firmer than we’ve liked and so, the memory foam. Lately, however, the foam wasn’t as comfortable as it had been, and it sure wasn’t three inches thick any longer.

Our new “bed topper” is a foam/gel combination, with a washable bamboo cover. It is also three inches thick, and we bought it online and had it delivered. That first night on our new topper was, for both of us, a case of not realizing how bad a thing was until we replaced it. In the couple of weeks since we’ve had it, we’ve both slept much better. The big bonus for me is not having a sore back when I wake up in the morning.

I’ve long maintained that I can deal with a lot of things during the day, as long as I can get a really good sleep at night. This new topper is yet another blessing for which I am grateful.

One thing, however, the new topper hasn’t helped with is something, frankly, it probably can’t. We’re just a few days now into Daylight Savings Time, and my body is having trouble adjusting. In previous years, I’ve only been tired or “off” for an extra day, and even that I know was more psychological than it was physical. This year, however, it’s a bit worse. Not only am I still missing that hour’s sleep. I feel just slightly out of step. I’ve awakened in the morning just a bit later than I like by the clock, but my body insists it’s too early to rise. I’ve had to talk myself into getting out of bed that early for the last two days.

Because it bugged me I did a little research. I discovered that yes, the older one becomes the more of a struggle coping with this “time change” is. But in thinking about the sensation I’m experiencing, I’ve decided it feels like jet lag.

Now if only I could claim world travels in my dreams at night to justify the annoyance.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

For the First Time Release Day!

For Yousef and Douglas opening their hearts from past wounds and hidden secrets isn’t always easy.  However, love is the greatest gift of all.

My latest title, FOR THE FIRST TIME, has been released today by Siren-BookStrand Publishing!  Grab your copy at a 10% discount until 03/20.  FOR THE FIRST TIME is a gay contemporary romantic fiction novel.


[Siren Classic ManLove: Erotic Alternative Contemporary Consensual BDSM Romance, M/M, HEA]

Crown Prince Yousef Ahmed was a playboy, until he met his late husband, Zander. The foreign exchange student stole the Arab prince’s heart at an underground BDSM club. When the king learned of his son’s desire to marry Zander, he was enraged. In a desert country where marriage equality was not accepted, Yousef was banished with a price on his head. The fatwa also included Zander’s death.

Douglas Girard was not only Zander's father, but the head of Canadian Consular Affairs. In a midnight rescue, Douglas brought the couple to Canada. Zander's murder has changed Yousef and Douglas's relationship. Not only has Douglas buried a son, but he's now caring for a grieving husband.

Yousef and Douglas are faced with pain and hidden secrets. Both men learn how to open their hearts from past wounds and live in the present. In the process, love blossoms. Picking up the pieces isn’t always easy, but love is the greatest gift of all.    

A Siren Erotic Romance



I enjoy hearing from all of my readers, and look forward to your e-mails.  Remember Love is Love…Period.

Andrew Jericho is a Messianic Jewish rabbi, gay romance fiction author for Siren-BookStrand Publishing, LGBTQIAP rights activist, humanitarian, and freelance journalist/photographer.  All of his work can be found at:  Andrew Jericho.  For questions or comments please e-mail him at:

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Wednesday's Words for March 7, 2018

Spring has sprung! And it sprang for me, as far as I’m concerned, on Tuesday, February 27th. The temperature when I awoke at seven a.m. that morning was a few degrees above freezing—but that wasn’t what told me it was spring time.

The sun was shining, and the sky was a pale blue, just a shade up from winter pale blue, but that wasn’t what told me it was spring. The ground was free of snow and ice, but no, that wasn’t it, either.

It was the bird song. Last Tuesday I heard those wonderful, welcome birds that greet each day with such joy, they must sing about it, making the most beautiful music in the world.

Here in Southern Ontario, many of our birds migrate over winter. Those birds who remain behind, it seems to me, don’t sing all that often from October to March. Fancifully, I imagine that to be because they don’t want to alert near-by predators of their presence, thus becoming dinner. Food is a bit scarce for nature’s creatures in the winter, after all. Just ask Mr. Ashbury. He is forever buying bird seed for the birds as well as sunflower seeds and peanuts for the squirrels. Mr. Tuffy, who loves nothing more than barking at the squirrels, is very happy that he does so.

But I digress.

On last Tuesday morning, the avian music sounded sweet and happy. A veritable symphony of feathered ones filled the air with their own particular celebration of the coming new season. I heard robins, wrens, a red-winged black bird and even a killdeer who joined in the chorus. I didn’t hear any chickadees, not yet. They, I suspect, will be back soon.

Yes, I know the calendar says spring doesn’t arrive until the 20th or 21st of March. Setting a date specific on paper? That’s just part of our puny efforts, us humans, to manage nature. Nature goes her own way. It doesn’t matter one whit that by Friday, three days after this wondrous concert, we received more snow. Received more snow? We experienced a blizzard! But, as I said, that doesn’t matter. It certainly doesn’t matter that it’s snowing hard right now. Nothing else matters. Many of the birds have arrived home, and they’ve returned to their happy task of welcoming each new dawn, and I felt the beginning of my favorite time of year, and that’s that.

I’ve always loved spring the most. I love the first sound of robins singing, and the first sight of those buds lending a shimmering aura of green to the barren tree branches, an aura made of hope and promise. I love the first sight of those perennial flowers poking their green shoots above ground, as if having a look around to see if the snow is gone, or not. And often apparently not caring in the end, because they poke their heads up anyway, and begin to grow.

I love the scent of the early blooming flowers, and the parade of blossoms that march across my yard—crocuses and hyacinths and narcissi; daffodils and tulips and finally, lilies-of-the-valley, lilacs and peonies. I love the anticipation of spring, and the reality of it. I love the smell of freshly mown grass, and as I drive in rural areas with my windows down, the amazing aroma of what we used to call sweet grasses—no, not the native plant by that name. In my neck of the woods, as a kid, it referred to the harvest of the winter wheat.

I’m already looking forward to those few precious days when I can breathe in the scent of lilacs and lily-of-the-valley together in one blissfully aromatic inhalation, as I did right here on my front porch for the first time in decades last year. That was first time I’d revisited that fragrance since my years out in the country. I’m hopeful it won’t be the last.

Despite having moments of doubt, worry and a wisp of pessimism now and again, I am at heart an optimist. I sometimes drive those in my family crazy because I refuse to surrender hope. I’ve had people tell me, from the depths of their misery that I have no idea how bad life can really be, how horrible it can get.

Friends, I do know how bad it can be and how horrible it can get. But I will never surrender to the darker emotions. I will never surrender hope. Because I did, for a time years ago, and it felt atrocious. Yes, life tests us, and it confounds us, and it slashes and singes our bodies as well as our spirits. But the dark times don’t come to stay, they truly come to pass.

Wise philosophers down through the ages have urged us to look to the natural world to behold the face of God. I’ve done that and found hope and resilience and renewal, the heart and soul of faith and optimism.

And it’s never so vibrant as it is, cradled within the reality of the perennial spring that greets us each and every year.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wednesday's Words for February 28, 2018

Early last year, when we were looking ahead to what life would be like for us once David retired, he had said he wanted to perhaps sell our house. It was a bit of a wild hare on his part. I think he was just caught up in the idea of having a brand-new beginning. He said he wanted a new beginning in a nice, new house. I could certainly sympathize with that sentiment, and so we seriously looked into the logistics of such a move. Eventually, he realized that it wouldn’t be a good idea. I’ve often mentioned in these essays that our house is no palace. That’s not a complaint, it’s simply reality. As such, it’s not worth all that much at all.

Since we were mortgage free, it seemed wiser just to stay put. However, there were a few things we needed to have done around the place, things that had been let go. The first, and a major repair we saw to in the early part of last November. We had new 50-year shingles put on our roof.

The other major “repair” we needed to do, had been in disrepair since our son died. He and my husband were doing renovations on the house, and one of the things they did was to put on a whole new roof—rafters, sheeting and shingles (the last of which turned out to be 10-year shingles, and not the 25-year shingles we’d believed, which is why we had to replace them this past year).

In creating the new roof, our son extended the height of the upstairs walls by just a over a foot, and combined with the style of roof he chose, this gave us a more usable “upstairs”, one that actually had headroom. Prior to this, and until all our kids moved out, our bedroom had been up there, and five foot nothing me could lay my hand flat on the highest part of the ceiling without even stretching.

Unfortunately, the day they pulled off the old roof, we had an unexpected rainstorm, and the kitchen ceiling was adversely effected. The living room ceiling was damaged when he cut the hole to install the new staircase (he changed the stairs from ascending north, to ascending west, and made them less steep, and also less invasive in the living room because they aligned with one of the walls).

After our son died, my husband couldn’t bring himself to return to working on the renovations. The new upstairs has electricity and sub-flooring, as well as new windows. There is insulation, and a vapor barrier, but no drywall. That area is used for storage and not living space as originally planned. Perhaps now, over time we’ll finish it off—install that drywall and think about finishing the floor.

But those ceilings in the kitchen and the living room? They really couldn’t wait. Since 2006, we’ve lived with those ceilings. The living room one looked like it might come down at any moment, though it proved to be sturdier than it appeared, because it didn’t get worse in 11 years. The kitchen one was just a mess, period. Before the damage, it was a painted, stuccoed surface, and didn’t look too bad—except whoever had sprayed on the Stucco-Tex, sprayed it overtop of a stove pipe cover that had been in the ceiling. And one day about five years after we moved in, that puppy just let go. So even before the rain damage, there was damage to one small part of that ceiling. After the rain event, half of the plaster on the kitchen ceiling was on the floor and the room looked like the sort one might find in a hovel. David had re-done the floor in the kitchen several years ago, but the ceiling was left in all its shabby glory.

This month, February 2018, we finally did something about those ceilings. We had an excellent team come in and install drop ceilings in both rooms. Since what was in the living room was plaster—the old wooden slat and horse-hair kind of plaster—we decided that it would be less headache and less mess to install drop ceilings. We lost only six inches in room height, making our ceilings now just short of ten feet high. But the difference in appearance is amazing. They look wonderful! We had new light fixtures installed, and I no longer am embarrassed by the appearance of my home. Yes, there are a lot of little things that need doing, and maybe a major renovation down the road if we decide to re-do the bathroom.

But for sheer impression, for the way we feel now looking up in those two rooms, I can tell you that in choosing to stay and fix-up, my husband and I, in essence, have ended up with his desired “fresh start”.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesday's Words for February 21, 2018

My heart broke last Wednesday afternoon and I have been grieving for the families and the people in Parkland, Florida. Fourteen babies—for surely they were their parents’ and grandparents’ babies—slaughtered for no apparent reason. Three brave teachers/coaches who gave their lives in defense of their students. Seventeen lives stolen that day, carelessly wasted, and holes mercilessly ripped into the hearts of families and friends.

Anyone who’s lost a child knows that these are holes that will never, ever be filled. These are losses that will never, can never, be made right. Hearts may, in time, mend sufficiently for bodies to carry on, but those hearts will never be whole again.

I understand the second amendment to the United States Constitution. I even agree with it. However, I do not understand why anyone of sound mind would want to purchase a gun of war. I do not understand how anyone of sound mind could claim their second amendment rights would be violated if they could not purchase a semi-automatic rifle. Apparently, the Supreme Court doesn’t understand that either, as they’ve ruled that the ability to purchase one of these specific guns is not a constitutional right.

Oh, what’s that you say? You want to go hunting? You want to use that semi-automatic long gun you have there, that AR-15, to hunt deer and wild pigs? How many rounds per minute you say? On a deer or a pig? Can’t imagine there would be much left of the critters to eat after you emptied that magazine into them.

 Did you know the US military was equipped with M-16s in Vietnam? And did you know that there was a push to replace those with AR-15s, because those guns were more lethal and more reliable than what the military was using? Still think it’s just a “hunting rifle”?

As I was watching the news coverage in the aftermath of this latest school massacre, I heard Washington lawmakers claim they needed to focus on mental illness, not any kind of “gun controls”. I heard them say that those who suffer from mental illness should not be able to purchase guns. My question is this: If they really feel that way, then why did they, in early 2017, repeal the very law that was already in place for that express purpose?

There is no other country on earth that has the kind of constant, almost routine mass shooting incidents, as does the United States. Oh, there are other places where mass violence and mass death happen. Namely, in Afghanistan, and in the middle East, and in Iraq and Syria. But those are war zones. The United States of America is supposed to be, as Ronald Reagan called it, “a shining city on a hill”. It’s not supposed to be a war zone. But with on average 33,000 people dying each year from gun violence? With this being the 30th mass shooting incident of 2018? Friends? February 14th was day 45 of 2018. That gives you an average of a mass shooting every day and a half! More Americans die in two years from gun violence than all the American lives lost in the Vietnam War.

By comparison, there have been 10 mass shooting incidents in Canada—since the year 2000.

When the slaughter of the six and seven-year-olds happened in 2012 at Sandy Hook, I was sure that finally something had happened that would cause saner minds to prevail. I was certain changes would finally be made. But nothing changed, and I’m sorry, I just don’t understand it.

Is enough ever going to be enough?

95 per cent of Americans support tougher background checks before guns can be purchased. 65 per cent of Americans support banning assault weapons. Yet nothing changes. And why is that?

Please don’t tell me that this is an issue of American patriotism, because frankly, it’s not. We’re talking about guns powerful enough to cut down the wall of a house—being in the hands of the mentally disturbed. Friends, the refusal to institute tough background checks, enact legislation to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, and legislation to ban assault weapons has nothing to do with protecting the second amendment rights of the people of the United States.

It only has to do with protecting weapons sales and the weapons manufacturers’ profit margins. It is, quite frankly, flagrant greed at the cost of your babies’ lives.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wednesday's Words for February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine’s Day!

As with many of our modern traditions, the celebration of this day goes back to very early Christian times, and a 3rd century AD martyr, St. Valentine of Rome. I’ve researched a little, and generally the consensus is that not much is known about this historical figure.

In the middle ages, people began associating this saint’s day with the tradition of courtly love. As time progressed, this association continued. Early tributes were in the form of written poems, and likely ditties that could be performed to the accompaniment of lyre or harp.

In Victorian times, the tradition of sending Valentine’s messages was set, and special paper for the occasion was marketed. In the 1840s postal rates were reasonable, and the concept of cards that could be sent through the mail gained popularity.

I believe Valentine’s Day is the first solid example of mass marketing, and in my own opinion gave birth to the modern day greeting card industry. And because this is so—the mass marketing connection—we have candy and flowers, and hey, how about a night out? Expensive dinner served amid candlelight and soft music. Or, why not make it an entire weekend? Our hotel has a stunning Valentine’s Day package! Or, hey, go big or go home, how about a cruise?

I’m not a cynic. I prefer to think of myself as a realist. The reality, in the past, wasn’t all hearts and flowers. Those of my generation had to endure that great cruel crucible of childhood, when Valentine’s Day was the day we all found out what others truly thought about us. Yes, in the olden days, no one dictated that if you were bringing Valentine’s cards, you must give one to everyone in the class. That rule was unheard of, which meant that some people received a lot of cards, and some had very few indeed.

I can’t even recall what the standards were, back then, for judging whether a classmate was deserving of a card. I know girls had crushes, and that was certainly a factor. Some girls were popular with other girls in a way that even to this day I can’t explain. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how something can have such a lasting impact on one’s psyche, without the details being etched in the memory?

A small digression here. I recall going to my High School’s 25th reunion, in 1985. At the time I was married, had children, and adulting to the best of my ability. We’d been married thirteen years. The one incident that stood out for me on this occasion was when one of the most popular girls in my school, at the time of my attendance, came up to me and told me how much she’d respected me and looked up to me, back in the day. I recall being gracious, but thinking, dayum, girl, where the hell were you when I needed you? I had perhaps four girls at the time I considered friends. I’m pleased to say that today, I am in regular contact with three of them.

As an adult, I always felt gifts on Valentines Day were nice, but not necessary. A card, on the other hand, was a simply bar to set. And I let it be known to my husband and kids that hand-made cards were the best.

Through the years I’ve received beautiful flowers, and they’re always a wonderful surprise that not only perk up my day but are lovely to look on for several days afterward. And then there was the year when my first books came out under my second penname, Cara Covington. Because my husband had to work, he asked my daughter to arrange with the local flower shop for three bouquets to be delivered—one for Morgan, one for Cara, and one for my real name.

I’m not sure if my daughter explained the situation to the florist, or not. She’s got enough of me in her that she might not have done.

For those of you who do celebrate this day—and I know some folks who observe today as a wedding anniversary—I wish you all continued love, laughter, and a very good life.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Wednesday's Words for February 7, 2018

I’m certain y’all have heard by now the results from last Friday. Two groundhogs proclaimed six more weeks of winter. Only Staten Island Chuck predicted we’d get an early spring. I think, over all, he has the highest percentage rate for accuracy. The really concerned should google it. I did a couple of years ago, but that rate could have changed.

Meanwhile in the Ashbury household, we’re chugging along just fine. Yes, we’ve got a lot of snow, again. That’s not a problem for us the same way it used to be in one particular area: we don’t have to go out in it. Since no one who lives here has to go out of the house to work, we can choose to hunker down, if that’s what we want to do. It was snowing this past Sunday, and we had planned to get groceries and pick up David’s new laptop. We just looked at the weather, then at each other, said “Monday”, and carried on with our individual pursuits. That was the easiest decision made and executed, ever.

I’m smiling more these days, because over the last month, during which my husband has been working on his novel, he’s made a few interesting discoveries about writing, the creative process, and an author’s life in general.

My friends, Karma is a wonderful thing.

You may recall that I asked David to relocate his computer and “office” area a couple of years ago. It now takes up a corner of our living room. I made this request of him after a long Christmas “shutdown” during which he was home for about three weeks. All through this time, he was in my office a lot, where his computer was also located. When he wasn’t surfing the web, distracting me because his monitor screen was in my periphery, he was sitting there, his chair turned toward me, and he was reading.

I explained as gently as I could that it was very difficult for me to get into “the zone” with him just sitting there. He protested that he was being quiet, and he just “wanted to be with me”. I felt a little guilty even as I told him I appreciated that, and we could have together time later in the day. Although I knew he didn’t really understand, he acquiesced to my request, and relocated his “office”.

One day last week, I’d finished writing for the moment. It was coming up on two in the afternoon, and I needed to get my legs up. I’ve found my arthritis is marginally better if I do this each day. I walked into the living room and told him I wanted to watch a bit of television, but not to worry, I would use the headphones. I would be so quiet, he wouldn’t even know I was there. He wouldn’t be distracted by the screen, because he sits with his back to it.

My husband said, okay, he’d take a break too. He definitely sounded disappointed. I told him he didn’t have to, I was fine wearing the headphones and watching television on my own.

He turned, looked at me, and the expression on his face…I can only call it sheepish. He told me he can’t seem to focus very well on what he’s writing when I was sitting there, in the room, with him. Friends, a bigger person than I would have simply made sounds of understanding and left it at that. 

Me? I put on a puppy-dog face, batted my eyes at him and said, in a Betty Boop kind of voice, “But I’m being very quiet. I just want to be with you!”

We both laughed, and it was a good moment, really. He’s now beginning to understand a little of what I’ve been saying and hinting at for some time. I know that in the last couple of years especially, he was thinking I was living a live of luxurious ease, while he had to work hard, and in a way, I was.

But how nice it is for him to finally see my lifestyle through his own eyes, to understand the way the writing process can grab you by the throat, enslave you, enthrall you, and frustrate you beyond measure—all in the same breath.

The best part of all is one that was completely unexpected. Not only do I feel I have more writing time, and less pressure to do other things. This change in our routines has definitely brought us closer together.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wednesday's Words for January 31, 2018

The mild temperatures of last week were more than welcome, they’d been expected. In the olden days, we used to call it the January Thaw. As far as I know, there was never a set time in January for this phenomenon to happen, and it could even show up in February, instead of January.

I eagerly look forward each year to the point in January when the air temperature goes above freezing for a few days. I’ve always been a firm believer in airing out my house in the winter. I believe doing so helps the furnace to work better. This belief is based on a long-uttered bit of folklore that says cold water boils faster than hot water, and fresh air heats better than stale air because the oxygen molecules in both are larger.

It occurs to me at the moment, as I write this, that I could very well believe in a lot of stuff that perhaps isn’t proven, scientific truth. I’m going to have to ruminate on that—but not today.

It comforts me to open my house, especially when there is fresh air to be had. I don’t know how to describe this specific scent I call fresh air to you. In my mind, those two words represent a definite smell as much as a state of being. There’s a quality to it, that when you smell it, you just know—likely because your body immediately tells you to breath deep to grab as much of it as you can. I’ve heard it theorized that if a person from medieval Europe could time travel to today, they would have great trouble breathing, because our air quality isn’t as pure as once it was.

I believe that’s true for one reason: the air’s not even as pure as it was when I was a kid. One of my favorite fragrances of all time, is the smell of clean sheets that have hung in the fresh air to dry and have just come in off the line. In case you’re wondering, this is the reason that we now use chemicals to achieve that “breathe deep and sigh” scent in our laundry. I prefer to achieve that quality the old-fashioned way. Every spring, at least a few times when the air has that “fresh” quality to it, my husband indulges me when I ask him to hang the newly laundered sheets out on the line. I appreciate his kindness in doing that for me, because he has to go part way up the hill behind our house to where our clothes line is to do that. That’s not something I can do and is a feat that requires a great deal of effort from him these days.

What I also love about this time of January Thaw is that sometimes, all the snow manages to disappear. It did that this year. All we had left Sunday morning was a small bit of ice and snow where it had been piled high and remained out of direct sunlight. I was able to wear my running shoes to do the grocery shopping. It was nice not to have to struggle with my footwear for a change. Of course, on Monday, we received another few inches of fresh snow.

Please note: fresh snow is not nearly as welcome to me as is fresh air.

In two days time, on Friday, it will be Groundhog Day again. This winter has had its days—days on end of sub-zero temperatures, and days when it’s snowed and been damp and, though not sub-zero, still darn cold. I scoff when I hear the radio announcer say, “it’s going to be warmer today than yesterday. It’s going up to 3 degrees!” Fahrenheit. I’m sorry, but up to 3 Fahrenheit from 1 Fahrenheit is not warmer. There’s no warmth to be had there. It’s merely less cold.

There are several groundhogs that I’m aware of in North America, though there are likely more: one here in Ontario (Wiarton Willie), one in New York (Staten Island Chuck) and of course the famous one in Pennsylvania (Punxsutawney Phil).

I know a lot of people who think that animals in general do a better job of prognosticating weather than even the most highly university-trained meteorologist can ever do. I’ve never quite made up my mind on that score.

What I do know is that in the depths of winter, when all you want is for the darn season to just be over with already, it’s nice to have something to look forward to, something from which to gain hope.

I don’t know what that says about us humans when that something is a rodent.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wednesday's Words for January 24, 2018

Have I ever mentioned how very much I love my job? In the here and now, my life is so much different, so much better, than I thought it would be, sixteen years ago when, in the aftermath of a triple by-pass, I became a retiree.

Before I had that mild heart attack at the age of forty-eight, I was working in the field of accounting, and I very much enjoyed my work. I enjoyed working with numbers, and although I didn’t have a college degree in the field, I had taken a few college courses in accounting. I’d learned, through my working career, how to handle a computer, and I did a pretty good job of it all, too.

Meanwhile, while I was fortunate to have an office job, where I got to sit in a comfortable chair, and work, for the most part, on my own, my husband worked in the aggregate industry, and for the most part he worked outside.

Driving a huge haul truck with tires taller than he was, that was what he did for just the last few years of his career at the quarry. For most of the thirty-nine and a half years he was employed there, he worked outside, year-round. Early on, he did a lot of shoveling, and a lot of “unjamming” of the crusher.

A crusher is a machine that takes large rocks, the size of your kitchen table, and reduces them to much smaller rocks, of various sizes depending upon the need. A lot of those large boulders ended up gravel. And sometimes, those boulders would get stuck and the crusher could not work. Enter my husband, sledge hammer in hand. Yes, he would stand over the rock jammed in between the jaws of the crusher and hammer away until it was stuck no more.

Ah, the early days. He used to have very well-defined biceps and triceps.

In the winter time, it wasn’t the crushers that got stuck so much as it was the conveyor belts. Snow and ice would accumulate at the top, by the pulley. In those early years, when that happened, my husband would climb up those hundred-foot-high belts and fix the problem. During those same winter months, when there would be a tear in a belt, he sometimes worked up there, in the snow and the wind and the ice, cutting out the piece of belt that was defective and lacing in a new piece.

One thing I can say about that industry in those days: they never heard about the folly of putting new wine into old bottles.

I share these bits of trivia with you, so you can understand why I always assumed that David would retire early, and I would keep working until I hit 65. In fact, I had no doubts whatsoever that was what would happen.

Imagine my shock when at forty-eight, my “working life” ended. I was worried about no longer bringing in a pay check, although I knew I would be all right for a year, because I had not collected unemployment benefits for a very long time. But that wasn’t my only worry.

What was I going to do with my time? I had a hard recovery from the heart surgery and it took me a very long time to feel good. I tired easily, and I was feeling almost hopeless. I could see—hopefully—decades of life ahead of me. What would I do to pass those years?

And then I began to pursue my dream, and before five full years had passed, my first novel was published. That was in 2007. Yesterday, I submitted my 55th novel.

I love my job. It gives me what I need, which is the ability to go to work in my pajamas; I avoid traffic and difficult co-workers. I get to immerse myself in a fictional world that operates according to the ideals of honesty, kindness, integrity, and decency. The good guys win, and the bad guys lose. And the very, very bad guys are always brought to justice.

All this, and people buy my books, so I even get to bring in a paycheck, too.

And the very best part of all is this amazing job has given me wonderful friends who’ve made my life so much richer than I ever could have imagined it would be.

Who wouldn’t love a job like that?


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wednesday's Words for January 17, 2018

Today is R plus 54. Yes, we’re closing in on the two-month mark of my husband’s retirement from the work-a-day world. I have to be honest, and tell you, it’s actually gone much better than I had hoped it would.

Please don’t judge me too harshly for my reservations. I’d only had past experience to go by. The last few years, my husband had enjoyed three or more weeks off each year, stretching from before Christmas until into the New Year—well, all except for the Christmas of 2016, when that long period of respite was canceled due to unexpected sales. And for those last few years of long weeks off, right after the two-week mark, he started to go stir crazy. Add to that knowledge all the times he’d had vacation time, with no vacation destination…friends, it wasn’t pretty. Three years ago, during one of those three-plus week long Christmas hiatuses, was the year I banished his computer from my office.

It’s hard to get your head into the story when someone is sitting practically beside you, staring at you, watching you to see if maybe you’re bored yet, and would like to go somewhere and do something? Would you? Huh? Huh?

For the first full month of his retirement, my husband focused on resting, and reading, and binge-watching shows on Netflix. He’d informed me before he actually retired that he had no intention of wasting his days by sleeping in. No, he was going to be up by seven-thirty each morning. He’d spend that hour or so I asked of him, doing things around the house, and then he’d apply himself to recreational pursuits.

I bet you’re all wondering how that plan worked out for him? Well, from my point of view, perfectly. In our natural habitats, you see, I’m a morning person, and he is not. I’ve been getting up, for the most part, between seven and seven-thirty since he’s been retired. And I have my house to myself until at least nine on most days, and some days until ten. The only problem with his plan to get up early was that it was predicated on the unspoken natural law that early to rise goes hand-in-hand with early to bed. And by early, I don’t mean early morning. A man going to bed at two-thirty a.m. is sure not getting up at seven.

Over the last week or so, my beloved has finally read enough, and binge watched enough, and surfed the internet enough, and napped enough, was ready to begin what he had decided would be his major focus in his golden years: writing.

He’s working, actually, on his third book. The first one he wrote years before I was ever published, after I challenged him to do so. The challenge came, perhaps not in as friendly a tone as it might have, after he’d spent a few good long minutes lecturing me on all the things I was doing wrong in my process of writing. Yes, my friends, I uttered those words, “if you think it’s that easy, why don’t you write your own damn book?”, never expecting that he actually would take up the challenge.

I can tell you that book had a beginning, a middle, and an end—as did the next one—and that is more than a lot of aspiring authors ever produce.

The fiction sub-genre he’s writing is “dystopian”, and he had a lot of notes before he actually sat down at his computer and began to use the word program for the first time. And as I sit here, writing this, he is in the other room, at his keyboard, working.

He tells me he loves what he’s doing, and that is the most important thing. When the time comes, he’s going to look into “self-publishing” his novel. Neither one of us cares if it makes a penny, though I have a feeling, the way life can sometimes send you a funny little twist, that it might.

For now, he’s happy, and it is in fact bringing us a little closer together. He’s just recently learned one little diddy, an “author’s lament”, if you will. Those of you who are authors know the tune well. It’s called: that moment when you do something, you’re not sure what it was, and several hundred of your hard-crafted words simply disappear from the screen. Forever.

I came when he called me, retrieved his latest saved version, and commiserated with his grief of the unfair vagaries of fate. I told him been there, done that—which is why we have Dropbox.

I also told him: save, save, save.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wednesday's Words for January 10, 2018

In my neck of the woods, at least, the terrible deep freeze has let go—for now. In its place have come temperatures a little more “normal”, whatever that really is these days. According to the weather network, the rest of this work week – from today to Friday inclusive – the temperatures will be in the low forties, and instead of snow, we’re to get rain!

There are two major problems with this turn of events. The first, of course, is that when you have (relatively speaking) warmer air come in over an ice and snow-covered landscape, you inevitably end up with fog. Thick, impenetrable fog that takes a while in the morning to burn off. I am a veteran winter driver. I can drive through fog. I can drive on an icy road, as long as it’s not obscenely icy. What I hate more than almost anything in the world? Driving on obscenely icy roads, in a thick fog. I did that from time to time when I was younger, and when David was still working. He had to be brought home from work, after all and once in a while, when it was one of my days in the winter to do so, we had those ghastly driving conditions. These days, I take one look outside and plunk my butt down, inside if it’s icy with a side of fog. The second major problem with rainy days coming too soon after such a harsh deep freeze with a ton snow is that it’s possible what you’re going to end up with thick, slick ice over every damn thing.

I’m grateful that I have plenty of safety salt on hand. Once the rain is done and the temperatures drop again, my beloved will ensure my walkway and sidewalk are well salted. I hope we get enough of the darn liquid precipitation to reduce the snow significantly, rather than just make it wet and heavy before it turns the landscape into an ice sculpture. Reducing the snow means it’ll mostly be gone all that much sooner; wetting it will only leave us those unholy chunks of ice to deal with.

We used to call what’s slated to happen over the next few days a January thaw. I’m not sure what to call it in 2018. Apparently, we’re in for some above freezing temperatures at the end of next week, as well. We’ll have to wait and see how it all comes out. The forecasters do their best, but I think it’s the nature of the beast that in the end, all the professional prognosticators can give us are their best guestimates. Sometimes there are elements involved in the process of weather prediction that sneak into the mix that no one expects. They call meteorology a science, and I get that, but in my opinion, it’s not a pure science. It’s a combo science, crap shoot, and mass of voodoo spells. If this were not so, we would not have that February pagan festival known as “Ground Hog Day”.

But those circumstances, they’re almost a metaphor for life, aren’t they? We can study a situation, make plans, and form a decision to act, only to have everything change at the last minute. There’s that wide category in life called “shit happens”, and there is nothing, not a single darn thing, that you or I can do about it.

So, all you can do is all you can do, and when it comes to the weather, you just have to hope for the best. This is one area in life when it really pays to be prepared. Any plan you make that calls for the weather to behave in a specific, wished for manner is a plan A that desperately needs a plan B.

Not wanting to get stuck in a situation where, as we get older, we run the risk of having our furnace foul up on us—been there, done that—we now rent that appliance. Having lived through the third of three winters in a row, a couple of years back, when our furnace quit on us told us this was not a scenario we wanted to experience again any time soon, especially going into retirement. This way, the utility company can soak us a bit each month instead of our being faced with a two-thousand-dollar invoice to unexpectedly have to pay on a fixed income.

If this particular January thaw comes to fruition, I won’t get excited or change any of my plans. I may open a window to get a bit of relatively warm and fresh air into the house. Being closed up is my least favorite state of being. But I’m not going to go nuts.

I’m going to keep on as I mean to go, marking each day off the calendar as one more step toward spring, which will almost certainly be here sometime in March. Maybe. If we’re lucky.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Wednesday's Words for January 3, 2018

On this day, especially, I remember my father, who passed away when I was eight and a half years old. That was 55 years ago, on January 3rd. He was only in his forties, and he died of a stroke. Just a month or so before, he’d had a heart attack, and was not long home from the hospital when he left us. My memories of him aren’t many, as I didn’t have him in my life for very long, and I imagine the trauma of losing him had an affect on my memories as well. Mostly, looking back, I see freeze-framed moments, mere snapshots of the life I lived in those few years when I had two parents.

In 1963, children of 8 years old weren’t as sophisticated as they are today—at least, I sure wasn’t. We had school, and we had some television. Not much beyond Saturday morning cartoons and whatever was on before eight p.m. on a week night. I watched whatever it was my parents watched, and there for sure wasn’t much objectionable on the airwaves in those relatively early days of television.

I don’t think that life, in general, was necessarily more innocent in that day and age than it is today. But for a kid living in a rural community, with no community resources near-by, no “outside influences” beyond my little three-room school, no Internet, no social media, no cell phones—well, life sure was a lot more sheltered compared to today.

I sometimes wonder how I would have grown up differently, if I hadn’t lost my father at so young an age. Certainly, between my parents, he was the more affectionate of the two. He would read to me at night, and tuck me into my bed. As a matter of fact, one of my earliest, most vivid memories of him was his doing exactly that, tucking me into my bed. In the winter, my dad would put me in that crib, then take my sheet and blankets out to the living room where, one at a time he would warm them on the oil space heater, and then tuck them close around me.

I would have been three or four at the time. And yes, I was still sleeping in a crib at that age—ours was a small house and my parents, my sister, and I shared a bedroom in those days, so there was no room for an extra bed. My paternal grandmother had the second bedroom, and the vestibule by our front door was converted into a sleeping area for my brother.

As I said, I sometimes wonder how I, and my life, would be different if only…but of course, you can’t change what was, and to covet to do so would be to wish, in a way, to surrender all the good of your “what is”. Things happen in life to all of us, and for better or worse we are shaped by those experiences.

I do know that my father, when he was a young man, was a writer. I recall a family friend, a man who grew up with my dad, once told me “wherever Jack went, he always had a note book and pencil with him”. I have some of his work, all that survived that long-ago time when the young man who eventually became my father would craft stories and poems. He stopped writing after his own father died when he was seventeen or eighteen, and he had to leave high school to go to work to support his mother.

It truly was a different world back then. Not better, or worse, necessarily. Just different. How my father’s life changed by the passing of his own dad had a direct affect on how my mother responded when toward my brother, when our father died. My brother was eighteen at the time and in his second to last year of High School. And while it was still common for young men of that age, in those days, to leave school and work to help support the family under such circumstances, my mother refused to consider that option. My brother was to stay in school and go on to college—it was what my father had wanted for him, and what my mother insisted upon.

My brother is now seventy-three, a retired elementary school teacher who attained a masters degree in education. I’ve never asked him if he ever thinks about the sacrifice our mother made for him, because he and I, though we love each other, are different people with different perspectives and different world views.

I do my best to appreciate each new day I’m given. Family history has shown me that life is short and uncertain. So I do the best I can, and treat people as kindly as I can.

I live with an attitude of gratitude and know, for me, that is the way I was meant to be.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wednesday's Words for December 27, 2017

I don’t go overboard decorating my house for Christmas. In fact, other than our tree, the house holds no decorations at all, with one exception. That exception is the heart of my home, my kitchen. I have a box that we keep upstairs for eleven and a half months of the year. That box is labeled “Christmas Kitchen” and inside it is everything I need to display my Christmas spirit.

The rest of the year I have a “lazy Susan” in the center of my table. A silver tray with four glass smaller trays that form a circle, and a round one that fits in the middle, this piece was a gift from my late son. I’m not certain why the name “Susan” is associated with this device. I know several women named Susan and not a one of them is lazy. I’ve also heard the term “loose Susie”, and I don’t get where that one comes from, either. But I digress.

My usual kitchen table centerpiece is currently in my office, because we don’t have any other place to set it. On my table in its place is a small green wreath, inside of which sits a large red candle. On either end of this wreath, I have a glass candle holder, with long red tapers. Then, on each end of this collection stand two red, wooden, hollow “Santa boots”. These boots measure three inches tall and two inches in diameter. Accompanying this center piece on my Christmas-time table are four place mats, plastic, but with holly and ivy and glittered pine cones forming the decorative pattern.

In the Christmases of my early childhood, these four boots were part of my parent’s annual Christmas display—there was the Creche on one table, and the boots and a large candle in a wreath on another. The candle was also red, not smooth like today’s candles, but knobbly. This candle would be lit only on Christmas Eve, and only allowed to burn for a small period of time.

The boots would be filled with nuts and hard candies. It’s a testament to one of the differences between those times and these, in a way; today if you set out four small containers of candies and nuts for your guests, you’d probably be considered “parsimonious”. We weren’t as gluttonous in those days, not by half. Ice cream was available only in a small brick, that when opened would sit easily upon a luncheon plate.

I came into possession of the wooden Santa boots after my sister passed a few years ago. The old candle is still in existence and at this moment is sitting on a shelf at my brother’s house. I have no idea what my siblings did with the Creche in the aftermath of my mother’s passing. At the time I was a little too emotional to think of such things.

I change my table setting on the same day as my husband erects our tree. Because our daughter developed an allergy to pine trees the same year our house here in town burned down, we have a small artificial one, that doesn’t stand more than five feet tall. The tree is festooned with miniature ornaments. The surviving older glass bulbs from my childhood and my husband’s, are no longer displayed, but kept safe to pass down.

We’re not fancy people, not by anyone’s measure. I’ve always been more concerned about the quality of the hospitality I offer my guests than the appearance of my house. If you’ve ever met me face to face, you’ll know I present a clean and neat appearance, but I don’t tend to wear makeup, or even a lot of jewelry. I can’t see the point in fussing.

I treasure my simple pleasures, and my simple traditions. When I look at those Santa boots on my kitchen table, it’s as if I’m reaching across time to join hands with that little girl I used to be. I feel once more the comfort of my parents’ presence, and am reaffirmed by a sense of history and continuity.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year. May 2018 be a year of love and laughter and peace.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wednesday's Words for December 20, 2017

The first snowfall of the season finally arrived here in Southern Ontario a few days ago, and of course, it was accompanied by bone-aching cold. The day after the snow fell, according to the weather network, it was 18 degrees out – but it “felt like” 7.

Talk about scientific precision! To me, too cold is too cold. This old body of mine can’t tell the difference between 18 and 7. This body just shivers, and craves a blanket, a heating pad, and for the thermostat to be cranked upwards. Oh yes, and a nice hot cup of coffee, if you please.

Seriously, this ancient house of ours does have air leaks when the breeze comes from the west or north west. Generally, in the winter months, I keep my furnace set at 70. If I’m a bit chilly, I put on a heavier sweater or, if I’m relaxing in the living room in my electric recliner, I cover myself with a blanket.

If the moment comes when, even covered, I think I’m cold, then I turn up my furnace a whole two degrees! Of course, if the wind drops, back down to 70 it goes, because all things being equal? 70 really is warm enough.

My beloved didn’t take the snow blower out until several days after the blanket of snow fell. To his credit he did a really good job of digging out the car, clearing the walk, and clearing the opposite side of the road from our car. On the 16th and the first day of each month we have to park on the opposite side of the street from where we were. We do have a driveway, but it is off the side street that is a steep hill to the south of our house (we have a corner lot). I don’t park in the driveway during the winter. One swipe of the snow plow and we could end up with a heavy, unmovable three-foot ridge of snow at the end of that driveway—and possibly on our car, too, as the driveway is just deep enough for the car to fit into. How steep of a hill, you may ask? Well, if I were standing on the sidewalk in front of our house at the corner, the elevation of the driveway (looking up, of course) is more than my height from where I’m standing at that point.

We always get a laugh on storm days. One of our living room windows faces that side street. We invariably chuckle when cars attempt to go up that street, only to slide right back down again because they can’t make it all the way up. Salt and sand can only do so much. In the end, steep and icy is steep and icy.

We’re settling in here, getting used to spending our time in the same place practically every day. One thing that my husband was surprised at was how fast the days go. At the end of most days, when he was working, he would answer my question, “how was your day?” with one word: “long”. He’s pleasantly surprised that time isn’t dragging for him now.

We’re just about ready for Christmas. All the gifts we’re giving this year have been procured. I may do a little baking. My granddaughter, who usually comes so we have a baking day is now seventeen and working two-part time jobs. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m pleased that in years to come, she’ll have the memory of those past baking days to look back on.

 As I write this, and get ready to send it out to you, David is in the living room, setting up our tree. It’s a small one, not even as tall as I am. Because it’s tiny, I bought a bunch of miniature decorations to go on it. We no longer seek out those “icicles” because, goodness, they end up everywhere! We’ll have the lights turned on in the evening as we sit, side by side, reading our books. There will be a heating pad for me, blankets for both of us, a thermostat waiting to be turned up. And oh yes, there will be coffee. Most of mine these days is decaf, but I quite enjoy the taste.

David and I wish you all the very best joys of Christmas—fun, family and friends.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday's Words for December 13, 2017

What can I say about the debate currently taking place on many of the television news magazine programs, and talk shows? It really does feel as if we, as a society, have finally begun to turn a page. With all the show business, television, and political people being shown the door based on allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, it feels like a new day has finally dawned in our society.

I say, “feels like”, because I’m not convinced—but I am worried.

Yes, it is far passed time for those who believe it’s perfectly all right to practice sexual harassment to be stopped. Passed time for those who use their positions of power to threaten those under their aegis if they don’t submit to their demands for sexual gratification to be shown the door. However, we need to go forward in this apparent “social cleansing” with great care and due process.

I am completely uncomfortable with the concept that a person can lose their livelihood on the basis of unproved allegations alone. I heard one person on the side of the “throw all the bums out” brigade actually say, “it’s not like they’re going to starve to death”; and this person also said, “they’re just losing a job.” What a totally asinine comment to come from a so-called enlightened and intelligent person. The accused are losing more than a job. Their reputations are in tatters and they have been transformed into social pariahs. Just losing a job? Hell, they’ll be lucky if they ever get one of those, ever again.

This cleansing would be problematic even if there was no such thing as a person who would lie in order to seek revenge for past wrongs, or for the fulfillment of a personal agenda. But we all know, unfortunately, humans do lie. They especially appear to have a propensity for lying now that that particular sin is practiced and even celebrated with new, clean sounding labels like “alternative facts”. And in case you take exception to my calling “lying” a sin, I will point out that I didn’t decide that. Exodus 20:16 did.

But I digress.

My point here is simple. Yes, using your position of power or authority over another to coerce or try to coerce sexual favors is wrong. Yes, touching another person without permission, especially in an inappropriate way or an inappropriate place is wrong. Yes, we need to have a discussion on these issues, and not just one gender but both genders must stand in solidarity on these principles and stand for what is just and fair and right.

That discussion needs to delineate and spell out the difference between brushing one’s hand against another’s posterior, and grabbing another’s genitals outright; between an adult who tries to kiss another adult, and an adult who molests a child. These transgressions are not the same, they are not equal, but they are all transgressions and need to be stopped.

We have to take care as we go forward that we do so with careful, thoughtful deliberation, and not with our emotions in the driver’s seat. We need, all of us, to work together to make our work places safe for all people, and to ensure that no one forces themselves in any way, shape or form upon another. And if we deign to take from a person their career as a punishment for these transgressions, if we’re going to destroy a person’s reputation, then we better make damn sure that such charges are proven—or at least credible—and that such penalties are warranted.

Because to continue to proceed headlong without due process down the course we’ve already embarked upon is to risk the very gains and the principles we seek to claim. To continue to lash out as we have been doing, painting all the people accused of various wrongdoing with the same brush, is to diminish the case against the child molesters among us, equating that crime with groping—and to risk the very principle we’re trying to enshrine in reality.

We must take care that those who are accused are truly guilty; because accusers are human, and humans lie. So let’s get our collective anger under control, put shackles on our personal thirst for vengeance, and stick to the high ground and do the right thing.

These words come to you from one who in the past has been a victim of the worst kind of sexual predation. It’s not easy to let go the need to “get back” at those who did wrong to us in the past. But it is the right thing to do.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wednesday's Words for December 6, 2017

I’m 63 years old. You’d think that by now, I’d be used to the fact that December is the month when Christmas occurs. But no, every year I seem to raise my head above the sand in which it is perpetually buried, look around, spot a calendar, and say, “oh, crap. It’s nearly Christmas!”

I suppose I could claim an excuse this year, considering that so much of my mental storage space has been used up dealing with our recent life change—if it weren’t for the fact that, as I said, 63 years old now, and counting. I should know better.

We are, as one might expect, paring back expenses. Tightening the old belt. It’s going to be a few weeks before we know exactly how much money we’ll be receiving monthly from the combination of David’s company pension and the government one, so therefore, we won’t know the total income we’ll be dealing with until then. As for my income (since I am not now nor do I ever plan to be retired), I never know how much money I’m looking at until I get my quarterly check. That’s just the nature of the beast, and after ten years, something I’m used to and very grateful for.

If you’re thinking I’m not a person who deals well with the concept of financial uncertainty, you would be correct. I know it’ll only be a matter of time before I know what to expect and can organize accordingly. The real trick for us, of course, will be adjusting to getting two payments a month instead of one each week. That may take awhile.

We shopped ahead, loading up on meat and canned goods. I re-organized my small deep freezer, so that I can find what I’m looking for faster. At the moment, we hope to be able to get by having two major grocery orders a month, and then shop for perishables like milk, eggs, bread and butter as we need them. Extras we’ll relegate to my quarterly check—at least that’s the plan, for now.

It’s all just a matter of getting used to a new normal, and I know it’ll all work out. Being older also means I don’t really get worked up all that easily over the bumps in life. I try hard to keep the main thing the main thing, and roll with the flow.

I did my Christmas shopping yesterday. I went to the bank, took out my budget and stuffed it into fourteen Christmas cards. Done. I used to give gift cards, but they charge you about 6 dollars per gift card, and then tax on top of that, for the fee! So, I decided to cut out the middleman.

Now, that’s one area right there—the giving of gifts—where it’s good to be older. When I was younger I shopped for hours for actual gifts for everyone, and worried that people wouldn’t like what I had chosen for them. I can recall spending a lot of time over the holiday season, worrying about that, and whether my house was clean enough, my food good enough and plentiful enough, and blah blah blah.

But now I’m older, and the main thing being the main thing, I have a whole new attitude. We give what we can; we host as we can; I can promise not to poison anyone with my cooking and baking; and we still love with our whole hearts. That’s who we are, and people—yes, even family—can take it or leave it.

For me, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of the Son of God. It’s about spending quality time with family and friends, and resting in the sweet, sometimes bitter-sweet, memories of my years on this planet so far.

A little seasonal music, a warm cup of cocoa, and a good book to read in between socializing—and if I’m lucky, an after-dinner chocolate to sweeten the deal.

And remembering that the main thing is living, laughing, and loving and not working, worrying, and weeping.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Wednesday's Words for November 29, 2017

I may have shared with you the fact that David would leave me a note every work day, and had done so for the last few years. Here is my beloved’s note to me on last Friday—his final day of work:

End of days! Parole!!! Last time! No more lunches to make! The only 4:30 is in the PM! The alarm is history! New Beginning! New Life! New adventures!

Over the years, our family and friends would assert that between the two of us, I tended to see the glass as half full, whereas David tended to see it as half empty. The note he left me on Friday was a proclamation that he was going forward with an optimistic attitude. I was very gratified to see that, because I know that this moment for him was bitter sweet.

Facing the future can be uncertain. For someone like me who tends to also be on the anal side, it can be more than a bit scary. The truth is, I’m very optimistic, if I have my ducks in a row. I’m not really sure that I do this time. Only time will tell. In moments like these I rely heavily on my faith. God is in control of my life. I have nothing to fear. I just need to focus on the things I’m supposed to do, and let Him handle everything else. For me, there’s nothing tougher than “let God and let go”.

While a part of me as dreaded this moment—a total change in my own routine, as well as switching from work earnings to pension earnings, not really knowing exactly how much money will be involved—the other part of me rejoices for all the reasons my husband noted above, plus one other.

I have seen him struggle over the last year, especially, because of his COPD, and the general pains of arthritis and getting older. He’s felt frustrated because physically, he couldn’t do the maintenance at the quarry like he used to do. In the last couple of years, when they needed his expertise—and he had quite a bit after 39 years in the industry—he assumed the role of supervisor, standing on the sidelines and telling them what to do to fix what was wrong. He couldn’t get in there himself and actually do the work, and that was a wound to him. I’ve seen him struggle to breathe when it’s cold outside. I’ve prayed for the day when he wouldn’t have to do any of that anymore, and that day has finally arrived.

Despite some of my comments here and there, I’m not really concerned about no longer having my house to myself. The truth is, we’re both good at being together and being separate in the space we have here. My office only has one door, instead of two. One of the first things he wants to do is purchase another door to hang, so that I can close both doors when I need to. That’s a good first step. But we’ve already taken other steps so that we can each be on our own.

A year ago, my beloved moved his computer into the living room, making his “office” in the corner of that much larger space. He has wireless headphones, so that when he wants to watch television he can do so without disturbing me as I work. The headphones are good for him, too, since he has suffered significant hearing loss over his career, and they allow him to really hear the programs he watches.

I am looking forward to what adventures life has in store for us. And being older, our definition of that image-evoking word, “adventure” is definitely different than it would be for someone much younger.

I still feel understandable trepidation as we move forward. I just have to remind myself to put a smile on my face, and look bravely toward the sun.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday's Words for November 22, 2017

The last week of my husband’s working life has arrived and so far, nothing is the way either one of us thought it would be. My beloved is counting down the days until Friday—but the first two days of this week he did so from home.

They had a sudden change of plans, and needed to fill an emergency order, the result of which, for Monday and Tuesday, there was nothing there for my beloved to do, as they suspended regular operations. They offered to bring him home on Monday, and to give him Tuesday off, and of course, he chose that rather than to stand around outside in the cold doing nothing for two days. So today, he’s back at it, and Friday will be his last day on the job.

I looked on his extra time at home as a blessing, because I had pulled a muscle in my left knee on Friday. It was nice having him here to help me out. Whenever my arthritis acts up, and I have even more pain than usual in my legs as a result, I try very hard not to just sit around. I try to keep moving, even if it is painful. I’ve found, however, that after a few decades, my tolerance for pain and my ability to keep a smile on my face and a bounce in my attitude are not what they once were. But life does go on.

David is really looking forward to next Monday. He told me he’s planning to get up with the alarm, so he can turn it off, and then go right back to bed. It’s something I’ve heard a lot of people adding to their wish lists—to finally “follow through” on what the working Joe or Joan would love to do when the alarm goes off in the morning, but of course they don’t because they have to get up and go to work.

For David, if he were to begin to set his alarm to get up at 6:30 in the morning once he’s retired that would be, in fact, sleeping in 2 hours from what he’s used to. He says he’d like to get up no later than 7:30, because he doesn’t want to waste the day.

That’s my preferred time to get up, too. I do haul my butt out of bed, even if I am tired. My reasoning is two-fold. First, by that time, I’m usually sore from being in bed so I really do need a change of position. Second, I know that if I continue being tired I can go into the living room, get into my recliner, and doze pretty much whenever I want to. My daytime priorities are my writing, and some housework. I make supper for us every day except Friday and Saturday. David doesn’t like to cook so I don’t ask him to or expect him to, it’s as simple as that. Last weekend when I was in so much pain, he heated microwave meals and soup—and that is the most “cooking” he’s done in the last couple of decades.

As it stands now, David plans to take the first week of the rest of his life, doing very little. He wants to enjoy the absolute freedom he’s accused me of having day in and day out, the freedom to do whatever he wants to do.

If he equates freedom with total inactivity, I’m pretty certain one week is all he’ll want to spend doing that. Though he is much more talented than I am when it comes to lounging about, I know he’ll become bored doing nothing for too long.

I need my routines, as trite as they may be, and my pattern of “multi-tasking”—mixing creative work with the physical, in order to keep my mind from stagnating and my body in some form of working order.

I’m thinking that before long, he’ll discover the very same thing is what he’ll need, too.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday's Words for November 15, 2017

In August of 2010 we returned home from a vacation that had included a visit to Disneyland in Orlando, to attend an RWA conference. The month before, we’d said goodbye to our Boots-kitty. He was an all black Persian, that had originally belonged to our Sonja. She brought him with her when she moved in here for a time. Having been an indoor cat until then, he became quite fond of the outside world while Sonja was with us, and when she and our son moved to an apartment in another city, she thought it would be cruel to suddenly deprive him his new-found freedom outside. Though we live in a town, this is a quiet neighborhood, with little traffic and plenty of cats.

We agreed to keep him, since he was already a member of the family. That was in 1997, so he was old, about 14 or 15 when he left us. A week before we came home from our vacation in 2010 it was to learn that a new cat had arrived—on her own as it were, or if you believe in such things, sent here by God when she was likely abandoned. I say abandoned, because she had no front claws. People who declaw cats don’t generally let them outside. Efforts were made, of course, to find her home and her owner, all to no avail. The area vets had never seen her before, and she had no “chip” implanted.

Now, her arrival was eerie, to say the least. She was all black, like Boots, except for a patch on her chest. Not a Persian like Boots, but she appeared to have some Maine Coon in her, and she had long hair. She showed up on our porch on a rainy day. My daughter was staying here looking after our old dog, Rochie, while we were gone, and discovered the cat when she came home in the middle of her work day. She spoke to this kitty, of course, as no one in this family would ever chase away a stray. My daughter returned to work, and when she came back again at the end of the day, the cat was still here, so she invited the kitty in.

This black cat went straight to the corner of the living room where Boots’s green cat stand had stood (and which I had removed when I came back from the vet on that fateful day because I couldn’t bear to look at it), turned to look at my daughter, and, (so my daughter said) gave her merry hell for the stand being gone. To appease the small beast, my daughter asked this interloper kitty if she wanted some treats.

Whereupon this cat made its way to the kitchen and jumped up on the same chair that Boots would jump up on to receive his treats. For these two reasons, my grandson’s girl friend named this cat Spooky, while he named her Creepy.

Not caring for either of those names, I called her Puddy. When I came home from vacation, I walked straight to where she’d been ensconced since she arrived—inside, on the fourth step of the stairs going up to the second level. I patted her, and spoke to her, and that was it. She followed me into my office, and was the first critter to inhabit the spot on my writing desk between my monitor and tower.

In her attempts before we arrived home to locate her owner, my daughter had taken her to the vet, as I said, to see if there was a chip in her, but there was not. The vet told her at that time that Puddy was an older cat—likely at least seven or eight years old. My daughter thought that perhaps she’d belonged to an elderly woman who’d had to be moved by her family to assisted living. She said she sees that all the time in her line of work (she’s a community care giver). They tell mom they found a wonderful new home for her beloved kitty when the truth is, they simply put the cat outside and abandon it.

Puddy made her place in our family, and when Mr. Tuffy arrived a couple of years later, she tolerated him once he acknowledged her position at the top of the family totem. She was demanding at times, earning the nick-name bitch-kitty. And in the last month or so, she became very affectionate with me. She demanded to be held a lot, and I accommodated her as often as I could. I had the sense in the last couple of weeks especially, that she was saying goodbye.

On Monday, October 30th, my beloved let our Puddy out the back door as he did every morning, before he left for work. She would go out early each morning and then when she was ready, would come right back in through the cat window and yes, she could go out the cat window too, but why make the effort when one of her staff was there to wait on her?

On this particular Monday, however, Puddy didn’t return. That had never happened, not once in seven years. We looked for her, of course, and called all of the area vets, and the proper authorities. We found no sign of her, and even while I looked and called, I somehow knew we wouldn’t.

She left us as she’d arrived, and as she’d lived—on her own terms, taking in the love and affection and massive amount of Temptation cat treats as her due. I don’t expect to see her among the former pets I’ll encounter at the rainbow bridge. I believe there’s a woman with a prior claim, who’s lap she’ll belong in, and that’s as it should be.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wednesday's Words for November 8, 2017

Today is a double birthday celebration in the Ashbury family! Today, my beloved turns sixty-five years old—and our second daughter, our Sonja, turns forty.

Both are landmark birthdays, and despite the way both of the celebrants sometimes grumble about making a fuss, or the ever constantly mumbled, “please don’t remind me”, I believe that birthdays are to be celebrated.

They are proof that so far, the bastards haven’t beaten you down. They haven’t won. You survived another year, and you’re still here, baby!

That sentiment isn’t as negative as it might appear, at first glance, to be. It kind of reminds me of that old joke about a man, falling from the sixtieth floor of a building, being heard saying as he past the thirtieth floor, “so far, so good”.

I know that I tend to always give a mostly upbeat message in these essays, and that’s because despite everything, I’m a mostly upbeat person. Maintaining a positive attitude affects things more than I can prove to you; the more positive you remain, the more positive you feel, and the more positive life actually becomes for you.

That doesn’t mean I don’t know how crappy things can be, how dark, or how hopeless. I do know because I’ve been there, which is why I insist upon having an attitude of gratitude, and celebrating the bright side as often as possible.

When I do those two things, I’m saying, sure, there is a dark side to life, and crap happens. Crap happens to everybody—but I don’t care. I don’t care that there may be horrors or disasters in my future. They will happen, with or without me. I will get through them. They don’t come to stay, they come to pass. Like the song says, “if you’re going through hell, keep on going.”

Life is entirely too short to spend your time worrying. We already spend enough time working, and wondering what the future could be. Friends, you add worry to that mix, and that is a triple ‘w’ that has nothing to do with the internet. How much better to give life it’s due: go to work, do your best, then at the end of the day go home, and try to remember that life is really for learning, laughing, and loving.

I’m not sure how we will celebrate these two milestones this year. I’ve heard no news or whispers from the rest of the family, so I don’t know if the kids are planning anything for David, or not. Although he was very humbled and deep-down pleased by the open house his company hosted for him at the beginning of October, he’s never really cared for parties. I’m not sure why that is, exactly, but there you have it.

He and I differ in that regard.

Party or no party, I do know the kids will be certain to call on the day of, and visit as soon after as they can. Our kids usually don’t forget our birthdays, though they have a couple of times. We certainly understand how busy life can be, especially for those still dealing with kids. And when they do forget those things, well, I believe there’s a value in human growth and development when we make those little faux pas from time to time and experience a bit of rue. Not a bad way to keep the ego in check, either.

Since this is a Wednesday, I’ll serve my beloved one of his favorite suppers, and give him a pass on doing the dishes. That might seem like just another Wednesday in the Ashbury household.

But the difference, I believe, as it is in most things, is in what lies within the heart.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Wednesday's Words for November 1, 2017

In the Ashbury household, the countdown clock to retirement is at R minus 23. My beloved’s last day on the job is Friday, November 24th. The day following is the company Christmas party, to be held at a steakhouse not far from the job site. We’ve been invited to attend, and it will be, in all likelihood, the last time my husband sees any of the people he’s worked with—some for as long as twenty-five years.

He’s never been one to mix socially with his co-workers. He never really made any close friends on the job. In fact, he really only has a small handful of people he considers to be close friends. I actually believe that’s how it is for most of us. We could all probably count the people we have met in our lifetimes in the hundreds, but close friends and confidants generally without using all the fingers of both hands.

David commented in his note this morning that he thought it was going to be harder to get up each morning the closer he drew to the end. He really is tired, and looking forward to no longer having to get up at 4 in the morning. I’ve been a witness to how difficult it’s been for him these last couple of years. He’s worked hard all our lives, even to the point of, early on in our marriage, shoveling driveways in the winter when he was out of a job. He deserves his rest.

We’ve done a fair bit of talking, as you can imagine, over the last little while, about what our daily routines will be like. He insists that he doesn’t want to waste his days away, and so will likely get up at no later than seven-thirty each morning. Of course, for him that’s three and a half hours later than normal.

I’m more of the theory that we’ll kind of release the norms of getting up and going to bed. David used to be a night owl, and so did I though we went through those particular stages at different times in our lives. My brother told me recently that he tends to go to bed and get up early, whereas his wife of more than 50 years now gets up and goes to bed late.

I won’t be surprised if we have a similar circumstance, after a while. We’ve never lived in each other’s pockets our entire lives. We’ve never been a couple who had to do everything together. We’ve always pursued our own interests, and actually enjoy the time we spend by ourselves (as in, himself and myself). Aside from the three weeks he’s had off over Christmas the past couple of years, we haven’t spent day after day together, not in the last, well, thirty-nine and a half years. There was always work, and so this is going to be…interesting.

We joke about it a little, because we are both very much aware that no one is perfect. We’ve been together a long time, but that doesn’t mean we live, sleep and eat hearts and flowers. No one does. We’re each of us very capable of getting on the other’s nerves. For his part, my husband plans to get himself a scooter, and go out a couple days a week. For my part, I plan to get up earlier, and encourage him to nap if he’s tired. One takes one’s alone time where one can find it.

We aren’t marching into our futures, secure and solid in our idea of what it’s going to be like for us. We’re old enough to know that few things are as imagined. But we’re also wise enough to understand that this is the dawn of a new phase in our lives. So we’ll face it the way we’ve faced most challenges over the years.

We’ll do the best we can, and try very hard not to sweat the small stuff.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday's Words for October 25, 2017

Autumn is definitely in full swing here in Southern Ontario. The good news is that our walnut tree has finally dropped practically all of its leaves. The bad news? There was a bumper crop of walnuts this year, and about half of them are still up there!

Calm days aren’t so bad. Windy days? Friends, we are living in a war zone! Those little bombs make a bang when they hit the roof on their way to the ground. Those that are on the road make a loud pop when run over by a vehicle. If it’s windy, and you have to go out the front door? You pray to be spared a walnut bomb on the noggin.

War, as they say, is hell.

As we all know, there is more than one kind of war being waged in our society these days. There was a war on poverty once, though anymore it looks like it’s morphed from an effort to ease the suffering of those afflicted by it, to an effort to simply make the lives of those afflicted harder and crueler. There’s a war on drugs, but I have no idea if we’re winning or losing that one.

People who identify along different places of the political spectrum seem to be at war, as well, and with each other, at that! That is a sad, sad state of affairs. Really, isn’t that war not much unlike the controversy between the over/under proponents on the best way to hang toilet paper?

And then there’s another war going on, one that did in fact begin raging long before I was ever born. This war I call the forgotten war. There have been moments during my life time, when it’s suddenly in the spotlight. And every time that happens, hell, I think we end up going backwards a couple of steps, instead of making progress.

That war, of course, is the one that nearly every woman alive on this entire freaking planet is aware of and even familiar with. It is a war being fought in classrooms, and courtrooms; in Hollywood, and New York. It is a war that is waged in restaurants and boardrooms, in factories and everywhere else that people—female people—work or live.

It’s a war for respect, for equality, and for the right not to be harassed, not to be touched, not to be ridiculed or made to hear rude, sexist comments. It’s a war for the right not to be raped.

Every time this war is in the spotlight, as happened most recently a few weeks ago when the New York Times published their story on Harvey Weinstein, people are all, “this is so shameful, disgusting, sick, despicable…” if you can think of a really powerful insult, it was likely hurled by someone to describe the now publicly shamed producer and what he’s accused of doing.

That’s always the first thing that happens after the spotlight has been turned on.

The next thing occurs when it becomes clear that no one is ripping to shreds the brave women who finally stood up and said “enough!”. That next thing is that more and more women dare to step forward. This time, though someone told me the hashtag is reborn and not new, the #metoo campaign exploded and yes, I published my own “metoo” post on my Face Book wall.

And then the next thing that happens is the flood of comments by many, intoned with various tones of sobriety or hope, that maybe women will now finally be “empowered” to stand up for themselves…and this is where I really, really have a problem.

Since the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 (pretty close to the beginning of recorded history) when the wise leaders of the new Christian faith tried to decide if women were beasts or human (human won, likely mainly because the Bible pretty much forbids bestiality), up to today, this war has been fought, women have stood up—and pretty much been beaten right back down again because of it. Ridiculed, humiliated, and often punished because they dared to complain, or dared to have been the victims of harassment, verbal abuse, or rape in the first place.

This time, I heard one commentator ask the right question: what causes this despicable thing to happen? I can’t recall the exact answer given at the time, but it was the wrong answer. Here’s the right one, and it’s not complicated.

The cause of this harassment is bad, inappropriate, an unacceptable behavior by some men. Period.

What’s needed to end it, is not simply for women to stand up, to speak out, because we have been doing that for all of our lives.

What’s needed is for good, decent men to stand up with us, to speak out, and let it be known that this behavior is not to be tolerated anymore. It is not right, and it should end, now. That is the only way things are going to change. Women can not do it alone. Good, decent men have to help.

I do believe, with all my heart, that there are plenty of good, decent men available to get the job done.