Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Wednesday's Words for September 19, 2018

One thing in life that makes me a little sad is the very real fact that some people don’t know how to laugh. They don’t have a sense of humor at all. They go through their days not only not smiling, but more, not enjoying that lightness of spirit and heart that smiling and laughter bring with them as their guaranteed side-effects.

Have you ever seen someone walking down the street with a face that looks as if its owner has just sucked a dozen lemons? Faces like that are, unfortunately, plentiful these days. These are people whose “resting expressions”, the one they wear when they’re alone, is an expression called “just plain miserable”. You don’t want to talk to these people, because you just know if you do they’ll either insult you or depress you. And that is sad for us.

How much better it is to be a person who can smile or laugh. Better still, to be a person who can smile or laugh often, and especially to be a person who can laugh at oneself.

If I’m feeling low, as I sometimes do—because hey, I’m only human and humans get down—I go to YouTube and search out videos of laughing babies. Babies are amazing laughers! They don’t have any emotional or mental baggage yet, so they laugh and give it their all! Trust me when I say that nothing will put a smile on your face faster than the sound of a baby’s deep belly laugh.

One of my favorite sounds in all the world is the sound of my husband’s laughter. I hear it a lot, and I always have. He has the kind of laughter that makes you want to smile in response. His laughter usually says he’s just tickled pink by something.

I can recall when we were dating. Sometimes, we would go to see a movie. In those days there was often a cartoon shown before the feature—even if the feature wasn’t a kid’s movie. Oh my, give him a Roadrunner cartoon, and no matter where he is—at home or in a packed movie theater—he’ll laugh, loud and long.

These days, the times I most often hear his laughter is well after supper, and after we’ve watched some television together. I’ll go to my office to try and wind the day down—record the number of words I’ve written that day, record my steps, and maybe—just maybe—play a game or two.

David? He’ll go to his computer, and, if he isn’t just looking stuff up, he will head over to Netflix and search out either favored or new comedians. He loves stand-up comedy. I always know when it’s door number two, because the laughter begins. If the comedian is exceptionally good, the laughter will be rich and full and nearly to the point of tears.

I believe have mentioned a year or more ago, that when I was a fairly young teenager, I happened upon a recording my mother had, of a speech by famed psychologist Dr. Murray Banks. One point the Doctor made in this particular speech, was that it was physically impossible for the human body to produce laughter and ulcers at the same time.

I recall thinking then that if that wasn’t true, it should be. I still feel that way.

People spend a lot of money trying to “feel good”. They take spa treatments, or they pamper themselves with “retail therapy”. They drink alcohol, and some indulge in drugs—be it legal or illegal. The faster life gets, it seems the more desperate folks become for some kind of panacea, some secret remedy so that they feel good, and have full hearts.

People don’t need to go outside of themselves to find a cure for life’s perceived miseries, for the stress of living, or the heartache of the news. The magic cure is right inside their very own bodies. All they have to do—all we all have to do—is laugh. Learn to see the ridiculous, the sublime, and the just plain silly. See them, appreciate them, and then let ‘er rip!

Like most muscles of the human body, the more you use your laughing muscles, the better honed they become, and the happier you’ll be. And if you want to give a booster to that laughter, so that the good feelings last longer and feel richer? Go and do a good deed for someone, help with a community project, just plain get involved with helping someone.

I guarantee the curative properties of your actions will be more potent than any pill you can name. 


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

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Wednesday's Words for September 12, 2018

My beloved has a list, and I don’t know whether I should be afraid, or not.

After many years of not being able to bring himself to work on this house of ours, since he retired, he’s come to understand that there are things—cosmetic things, mostly—that need to be done. For appearances sake, yes, but also to add whatever can be added to the value of our house, with an eye to the future.

Eventually we will probably have to leave our home and go into some form of assisted living facility. We’re both hoping that won’t happen for at least a couple of decades. But the truth is, we’re not getting any younger.

There are still things my husband is capable of doing, and so he has a list. We had an excellent builder in earlier, as you may recall, who put drop ceilings in the kitchen and the living room. We still have a few projects we’re hoping this gentleman can handle for us in the next couple of years, but in the meantime, there are a few things my husband can do for himself.

Our entrance way, just inside the front door, was never finished, from when he and our late son worked on the renovations. This project was the next one on his list after the bathroom plumbing (done) and “finishing” the steps going to the upstairs (done).

Mostly what the area needs is new drywall. He has two cordless drills which he uses alternately to install the screws in the drywall. He also had to buy another step ladder as the one he had is too short, and the extension ladder too difficult to use in the narrow space.

Getting the 4 x 8 sheets of drywall (you may know that product as gyp rock or sheet rock) was the easy part. Our local building supply store delivers. That arrived last week, and David had the driver and his assistant lean the sheets in the hall, blocking the door to my office. That was no problem. I have two doors in my office—opening into the hall and the kitchen. Being unable to use the one doorway was not a problem and moving past the other door into the living room was just a bit of a tight squeeze for me until he used up a couple of the eight sheets he’d had delivered. It was more a matter of side stepping for a few paces.

David did as much of the work as he could do each day, including replacing a small piece of drywall in our living room, a piece that had a hole in it. He was finished covering the area by Thursday, and we called our grandson to help him carry the left-over pieces upstairs. I had thought he’d ordered too much when it arrived but didn’t say anything. That very morning, he confessed he’d done just that. This isn’t a problem, because we have a few other areas that are in need repairs, and those two sheets will give him a good start on them.

He did a good job, and of course I told him as much. He had only one “oops” in the entire process, involving a part of the front door frame, but he was able to fix that. It’s one of life’s truths that as you get older you wonder if you can actually do what you need to do or what you want to do. Sometimes, you can’t. For this reason, I gave him lots of praise each day. It should be noted that he does the same for me, when I attempt a new recipe and actually succeed.

As we stood together admiring the installed drywall, we made plans to go to our local Canadian Tire store and get poly fill, so, he said, he could cover the screws, and be ready to paint. Hands on hips, he nodded, as if that nod meant, “and that’s all”. I agreed that we needed to get that, and, tape as well, for the seams between pieces of drywall. He gave me his best annoyed face. “Do you know what a pain that stuff is to work with?”

Once he understood that I wasn’t going to budge, he told me he guessed he could watch a couple of YouTube videos, and see how to do it. I told him I had faith in him. I didn’t really have to fight to get my way. There really is no sense in doing a job unless you’re going to do it right. And that sentiment is one that he’s espoused many times in our many, many years together.

He’s got one wall done now, taped and “mudded”. He gained confidence as he worked, and realized that, since he’s older now and has more patience, maybe that tape isn’t as difficult as he expected it would be.

Next week, hopefully, he paints. After having the entrance hall and living room be an interesting shade of pink/mauve for more than a decade (my choice), he’s told me I can choose any color I want for the newly prepared walls.

As long as that color is beige.

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

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Wednesday's Words for September 5, 2018

I found it very gratifying to see the depth and breadth of the tributes paid to the late Senator John McCain. No matter who you are, from where you hail, what language you speak, there are core definitions connected to basic humanity that do not change. These were all honored last week.

Integrity is; compassion is; honesty is; heroism is—and Senator McCain embodied them all.

I wanted to wait a week before I gave any comments, because I didn’t want to intrude. I am a Canadian, but that has never prevented me from seeing people as they are, for respecting those who exemplify the best of what we humans can be.

I have admired several of your luminaries in the past, irrespective of their political party. I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I’m just a simple woman who has tried to live her life according to certain principles and standards that I have come to expect of myself and pray to see in others.

I try very hard never to lash out in anger; never to return slights, or insults, or even injuries with like actions or words. I’ve come to believe that kindness and consideration are far more powerful weapons than are hate and vitriol. This does not mean that when I meet an injustice, I become a door mat. When I see or hear of a wrong, I stand up and speak out. Couching my opinions and actions in what some might see as meekness does not diminish them. You don’t always have to scream to be heard. Sometimes the most impacting words can be conveyed in whispers.

So, I was gratified to see the respect with which many responded to the Senator’s death. That he would ask two of his fiercest political opponents to eulogize him speaks more eloquently of John McCain’s character than even the most lavish words of praise could ever do.

The speed of life is faster now than ever it was. Solitude, peace and quiet, and moments of reflection appear to have lost their value in today’s world. These three qualities are invaluable to the individual psyche. When I meet people, ones who don’t like to be alone, who don’t like to take the time to surround themselves in quiet, then I pay attention, because in my mind—and friends, I have no scientific evidence to support this, just experience—I feel these people are troubled and lacking in some way. Sometimes, it’s a case of their having very low self-esteem—and sometimes it’s the complete opposite of that.

And once in a while you encounter an individual who wraps his inner sense of worthlessness in a gaudy cloak of loud egotism. People who have to always be the center of attention, who by their actions and words are constantly shouting, “watch me, watch me!”, are people who are deeply troubled and in need of help.

My late son, Anthony, was like that. I wish I’d been mature enough, wise enough, to truly understand the danger a narcissistic personality could be. I’ll always wish I could have done more, but I understand there are limits even to what a loving mother can accomplish. I remember one counselor telling me that there was no cure for narcissism. The very best you could hope for, she said, was if you could somehow convince the narcissist that they needed to behave differently. Then, she told me, you might be able to get them to modify their behavior and their responses, but, she cautioned, beneath it all, they would still believe all they ever had about themselves. They would still be narcissists.

Whenever I hear people talking about those who clearly are narcissists, I shake my head when I hear them say, “well, maybe they’ll stop doing this, and do that instead. Maybe they will see reason and understand they need to put others first.”

No, they won’t. Because as they see the world—themselves at the center of everything—that is their reality, that is their truth. They often will not accept that there is anything wrong with them, because they know they have no problem. They’re perfect just the way they are.

After my son’s death at the age of 29 caused by substance abuse, I sought the help of a therapist. We mothers will blame ourselves when our children make those wrong choices in life. I certainly did, and it took me a long time to understand that I could not have affected changes in my son’s behavior, no matter how hard I tried. He simply wasn’t wired in a way that would allow him to see the long-term implications of his actions, or that his choices were wrong, or that his actions hurt all those who loved him.

The last two years of his life, desperate to help him if I could and also to protect myself, I set boundaries. And if you don’t think that haunted me in the aftermath of his death, you’d be wrong. That was one of the reasons I needed the help of a professional. He’s been gone now for just over twelve years, and I have since come to accept that changing him was never in my power, and never, in truth, my right.

Expecting a narcissist to behave in such a way that they begin to have the welfare of others at their center has the same probability for success as expecting the sun to rise in the west.

The best you can do is to know there is nothing you can do that will change them. Accept that truth, and then respond accordingly.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wednesday's Words for August 29, 2018

It seems to me that the last few years, we’ve been gifted with a week’s preview of autumn, occurring sometime during the last two weeks of August. I know I’ve mentioned this before in past essays. The expression I use is that it seems like the sky has “turned”. In appearance, it looks as if it goes from the deep blue of summer to the slightly fainter blue of fall, almost overnight.

I’m willing to admit the possibility that this is all in my head. However, it’s happened again, just in the last few days. When we headed out last Saturday to attend a craft show, I told my husband that it felt like autumn. He agreed with me. Then it rained very hard later that day, and I wonder if that was what I was sensing, an oncoming storm.

Rainy days are both wonderful and horrible for me. They’re wonderful in that aesthetically, I love them. I love the sense of coziness I feel, the sound of rain on the roof and windows, and that “let’s just snuggle down in a comfy chair with a nice blanket, a cup of coffee, and a good book” kind of vibe. I was driving home from the craft fair in the pouring rain and felt that was what I wanted to do as soon as I got home.

I think being attuned to the weather is one of those primal senses buried within us all. In the beginning of human life on this planet, paying attention to the weather was a matter, often, of life or death. Then as we moved from being cave dwellers to becoming an agrarian people, we knew the weather and our food supply were inextricably bound together. In those days, you had to grow it yourself, because there were no other alternatives.

Today our thinking vis-à-vis the weather, for most of us, is more of a secondary matter. We look to the forecasts to see if we need an umbrella, or if it’s going to be a good day for a picnic in the park—or hanging laundry on the line. But knowing the weather, having the ability to forecast is vital to a lot of people, especially those in coastal areas, in areas dubbed “tornado alley”, and of course, for those who live in the more usual paths of hurricanes and cyclones.

The horrible part of rainy days? I apologize for thinking of myself here, but the horribleness is that a series of wet days means that I’m bound for more arthritis pain that normal—and normal is pretty darn bad to begin with. I’m almost like that proverbial character of folklore, the grizzled old woman who lives on the corner and can predict the rain because of the throbbing of her aged joints.

Getting older is not for the faint of heart.

And neither, lately, is the weather we’ve been getting in North America! There are droughts and awful fires on one coast, torrential rains and flooding on the other. I watch American network news each night, and I have one thing I’d like to say to all of my friends in the U.S.: y’all just can’t catch a break, lately, and I’m sorry for it.

We’ve been lucky where I am the last couple of years. The winter has been not too early or severe, with a few milder days here and there; rain has fallen in the other seasons on a regular basis, but not enough to flood us out. And we’ve had a few very hot days this summer—in fact, we have had more than a handful of days of high, thick humidity with stifling heat, with more coming in the next couple of weeks, apparently. But it hasn’t been endless. I don’t tend to go out too much on those days. That’s why I have central air. Now, in our September years, my husband and I feel as if we’ve earned the right to stay comfortable in our home when the mood strikes.

I am, however, concerned about the coming winter. I haven’t looked at the farmer’s almanac, nor have I read the predictions of Environment Canada. No, I’ve been watching the squirrels just outside our house. Those little buggers are running around like crazy, gathering their bits of food, and hiding it all away. In the heat of August.

I may not know much but I do know this: that early industry by nature’s little critters just can’t mean anything good.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Wednesday's Words for August 22, 2018

Over the last several months, I’ve slipped into the habit of getting up fairly early in the morning, for a “retired” person. There are a couple of reasons for this. The one I’ll most readily admit to is, no matter how comfortable one’s bed is, after several hours, if one has arthritis, one’s body protests being horizontal.

Yes, I turn over from laying on my left side to laying on my right, but the moment comes when arising is really the best option to ease the pain. I aim for crawling into bed between eleven and midnight each night; it’s true that an adult my age is “supposed” to get eight hours of sleep, but let’s face it. That’s not happening for me. I don’t even, except if I’m under the weather, take an afternoon nap to add to my sleep hours. I might doze off for fifteen minutes or so in the afternoon when I have my legs up, in my recliner, but that’s it. So, in bed hopefully by eleven-thirty, up between six-thirty and seven, that’s seven hours. But then you take away the couple of trips (usually) to the bathroom, and you’re looking at about six and a half hours sleep on a good night.

With arthritis, I find that just getting up and moving helps. Even with morning stiffness adding a great degree of discomfort to the moment, by the time I’ve moved around for a few minutes, it’s easing up a bit. So getting up early and taking a longer time to officially begin my day, makes things more tolerable.

But there is another reason for me to get up early.

When the kids were here, and parenting was my major focus, and I worked outside the home in a job that was Monday to Friday, I would get up a little extra early on the weekends. I’d be up at five a.m., and I had a very firm rule: no kids up and about until I’d had my second cup of coffee.

That usually took between an hour and a half to two hours. And I figured, that meant the kids could get up at seven or a little after, and I was good; I’d had those precious, precious minutes of solitude. Just me in my domain, my trusty cup of coffee in hand. If I had that time to myself each weekend morning, I knew I could handle whatever came my way during that day. Usually.

Well, as you know, my children are long grown and living lives of their own elsewhere. For several years now, it’s been just the two of us here. And until last November 24th, I got to enjoy a high degree of solitude, as David left the house around five-thirty a.m. and didn’t get home until four-thirty, or sometimes, later.

Now of course, he’s at home all the time. And that has been a good thing. However, basic principles in life rarely change. And since my husband usually stays up past one or even two a.m. and has a wake-up call in (with me) for nine a.m. every morning except Sunday when he wants up at eight…my getting up early is a necessity, not a luxury, and certainly not a foible.

If I’m lucky, I get two hours of solitude each morning to begin my day. To do my devotionals, first, then wake up my mind by playing a few games. To have my first coffee, and yes, maybe even my second coffee.

It seems somehow appropriate that my Fitbit tracks my steps-per-hour beginning at nine a.m. – and the first steps that go into that count are from my office to the bedroom to awaken the males (man and dog) of the household.

Life of course is never perfect. Every once in a while—rarely, in fact, but it does happen—I get out of bed at six-thirty, head to the bathroom—and then head right back to bed. Yes, I do once in a long while sleep in until eight!

Less rare but no less annoying vis-à-vis my daily routine? My beloved wakes up ahead of schedule—around eight—proud that he hadn’t needed his wake-up call that day.

Those are the days I recall that old truism: if one’s daily schedule is disrupted early, one’s entire day is shot, right out of the gate.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wednesday's Words for August 15, 2018

I never thought I’d see the day. But I have, and now, as I reflect upon it, I can’t help but analyze the entire situation.

I’d often heard it said that couples who stay together, over time, tend to shift and change and more resemble each other than they did at the beginning of their union. They become two peas in a pod. Sometimes, they even begin to look alike!

I’m not altogether certain I ever believed that. I did know there was a quality of being married for a number of years that seemed to possess every married couple I knew who’d been together more than a dozen years. And that was an inclination toward bickering.

Not nasty fighting, not name calling or blame throwing, just nit-picking bickering. These back and forth exchanges at times resemble an existential one-act play—or a tennis match. I’d experienced it in my own marriage, of course, but I’d also witnessed it with my parents-in-law, my brother and his wife, good friends, and even our eldest son and his wife.

In fact, that last example? I can still recall the first time I heard my son and his wife begin behaving like old married folk. I laughed.

So the bickering, yeah, that’s normal. But that other thing? That becoming like two peas in a pod thing? Nah, that couldn’t be right. In fact, a part of me even thought, “say it isn’t so!”

For those of you who’ve read these essays over the years, y’all know that my beloved has been what I called a “traveling fool”. Nothing, in his mind, was worse than having a week or two of vacation time and going nowhere. He loves traveling, going and seeing and doing. He’s not a world traveler, but he’s a continental one, and even a slightly off-continental one.

Over the last dozen years we’ve been to a number of major cities in the United States, including Puerto Rico, as well as a few resorts in Cuba, The Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas, St. Thomas. We’ve even cruised to Bermuda—twice.

You may recall, as well, that at least once a year he and our daughter would head off to Cuba, for some sun, sand and sea. And, of course, reading. Our daughter is as voracious a reader as we are, and as is our oldest son.

I was worried, as the day of my husband’s retirement loomed, that I wouldn’t have much writing time in the months and years to come. I feared that he would want to be going and seeing and doing, that he would be loath to stay home all the time. After all, being the home body, preferring to be within my own domain as opposed to going and seeing and doing, was my thing. I was the hermit in training, not he.

The operative word in that last sentence: was.

The day I never thought would come has arrived, and it did so quietly, and without fanfare. We were coming back from the city next door about a week ago, having had to run a few errands, and my beloved said, “I’ll be glad when we get home. I really don’t like going anywhere anymore.” No traveling, I asked him?

“It’s just such a bother,” he said. “Maybe now and then, at some point in the future. But for now, I just want to stay home.”

When he said that, I very nearly protested aloud that he was stealing my lines! And then, I thought about it some more. And I thought about that theory, that long-married couples tended to blend. And I realized it was true, at least for us.

Time was we spent our days apart, he at work and me here, at the keyboard. Then he’d come home, and he’d relax, eat the supper I’d cooked him, then read or watch the television while I…returned to my keyboard. He was tethered to his job, and the routine that created, and I was here, being a hermit. 

And now here we are, two long married people, at our keyboards each day, loath to go out into human society. Not really wanting to travel so much as just…stay home. Weekly grocery runs are even an ordeal at times. We’re seriously considering having them delivered.

There remains but one major difference in our days: he likes to stay up later and then get up later than I do. So, he has a couple hours after 11:30 at night to have the house to himself, and my couple of hours of solitude come before nine in the morning.

His title of “traveling fool”, while well earned, needs must now be, as he is, retired. There’ll still be the odd excursion in our future, including one to San Antonio next February for a writer’s/reader’s event. But going and seeing and doing far away from home will be more a memory than a way of life.

Times, and life, change. We both believe in embracing what is, and in seizing the day, be it long or short. Happiness, in my view, is easiest realized when you cherish the moment that is and look fondly on the past as a lovely place you used to be.

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

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Wednesday's Words for August 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Wednesday's Words for August 1, 2018

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

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

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

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

Imagine rolling-eyes emoji here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wednesday's Words for July 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wednesday's Words for July 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wednesday's Words for July 11, 2018

What an amazing, miraculous, happy-ending story!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Wednesday's Words for July 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It has never been free.

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wednesday's Words for June 27, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that lack of recall is probably just as well.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday's Words for June 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wednesday's Words for June 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wednesday's Words for June 6, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Wednesday's Words for May 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wednesday's Words for May 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wednesday's Words for May 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Wednesday's Words for May 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Wednesday's Words for May 2, 2018

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

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

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

That’s mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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