Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wednesday's Words for November 14, 2018

Hellscape. It’s a word that has entered our lexicon and is used far too often of late. It’s a word that brings to mind the ruins of an obliterated, ended world—a place with no life, no future. Barren, empty, leeched of color, bled of life.

As my husband and I have sat each evening watching the news, taking in the horror of the fires raging in California, our hearts have hurt for the affliction before us. Being both of us writers, seeing footage filmed via cell phones of those driving through the fires of hell raging on either side of them as in their vehicles, they flee for their lives, begging God to guide them….

It makes it all too vivid, imaging the last moments of those poor souls who didn’t escape, whose remains are, even now and one by one, being discovered in the burnt-out vehicles melted into the roadside. Who among us does not feel heartsick at the testimony of this carnage left behind? I think a person would have to be a complete and utter sociopath not to feel compassion for the lives ruined or lost, for homes leveled—for a reality just gone.

One would have to be devoid of humanity not to feel for the futures devastated by the miasma of uncertainty and the scars inflicted by the reality of these wildfires.

I look at the devastation before me, entire neighborhoods—hell, entire towns—wiped from the face of the earth, nothing left but ash and rubble, and I wonder how anyone can ever recover from such loss, such damage. And yet…

We know, from all the examples we have seen over the course of our lives that little is, in the end, totally insurmountable for the human spirit. I don’t know how to describe the sense of wonder I feel in the aftermath of such heartsickness, when I see people rolling up their sleeves and diving in. People beginning to build not only their own lives, but helping neighbors rebuild theirs. Be it fire or flood or deadly winds, when the calm returns, so do the people. And out of the ashes, out of the rubble, new lives arise.

Sometimes things happen, and we think that the future is ruined, that we’ll never recover or get over this horrible thing that has befallen us. Be it natural disasters or man-made ones, we are hit with these catastrophes and for a time we can’t imagine how we can possibly overcome them.

But the human spirit is indomitable. There is a time for mourning, a time for grieving, a time for letting ourselves fully absorb and process the horrible thing that has happened. And then…

The sun rises, the air blows clean, and we emerge, renewed by our faith, by our life force, by our newly refurbished appreciation not only for the fragility of life, but for the beauty of it. We behold anew not only the fallacy of humanity, but its nobility, too.

 We began our existence in caves. We lived, adapted and evolved. We connected with our God, received his Grace, and began to see the world beyond our own bodies, our own narrow existence. We reached out our hands to help our fellow humans, and in so doing, opened up the possibilities of all that, together, humanity can achieve.

There are charities dedicated to helping people whose lives have been impacted by these fires. I hope you’ll give what you can. Five dollars is five dollars, yes. By itself it’s lonely. But if one hundred million people each give only five dollars, that’s five hundred million dollars, and that is a good beginning.

Thank you to all the first responders who have been working non-stop to fight these wildfires. These are men and women who turned their focus outward, instead of inward, and they are our heroes. 


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

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wednesday's Words for November 7, 2018

As I told one of my good friends very recently, modern technology is a wonderful thing—until it isn’t.

Over the last few months, my cell phone had been acting up. Freezing so that I would have to turn it off and then on again and turning itself off for no apparent reason. If you know me personally, you might scoff at the concept that I’m a patient person. I suppose, since I do believe in transparency, that I need to confess that I’m not that patient at all when it comes to people. Inanimate objects are another story altogether.

My beloved maintains that’s because most people I can best, but inanimate objects clean my clock every single time. His point has merit.

Finally, however, the foibles of my phone hit the breaking point. I woke up on the 29th of October unable to turn the phone on. It had been on with a full charge when I went to bed. The next morning, nothing. I plugged it into my computer, and got the instructions on the Apple site that I needed to either update the phone, or, if that wasn’t possible, restore my phone to factory settings.

It wouldn’t update, and so restore it was—losing all my contacts in the process. And no, I did not know the contacts could be stored on the cloud. Y’all know a techie, I am not.

On Tuesday, we went to the mall, to the kiosk that represented our cell network, to get me a new phone. I expected I might have to pay for a new phone, and I was prepared for that. I never expected the process to take more than two hours.

Now, back in my day…. yeah, I hate starting a sentence with those five words, but there are times when there simply is no choice. Let me begin this stroll down memory lane by saying that my first full time position in the working world was as an accounts clerk in the credit office of a department store—one that is now defunct. This was in the day before computers were a thing in the work place. Along one wall in our office stood a line of card index files, marked A to Z. These held all the files that represented all the credit cards issued by this department store. Between each cabinet were places we could insert our headphone jacks—so that when a sales clerk called up to us from the sales floor in order to get authorization for a sales purchase, we could quickly go to the appropriate cabinet, plug in, find the customer’s ‘file’ and either approve or disapprove the purchase.

The key word in that entire paragraph was “quickly”. Customer service was to be polite, efficient, and above all, speedy.

Ah, the good old days. In those days we worked with paper, and it was a manual, painstaking activity. We’d receive the “filing” each morning, which were the credit card slips from the purchases the day before. Those were to be filed immediately to the correct accounts, so that when we were looking at a customer’s file, we could mentally add up what they’d spent so far that month and know if they had room in their credit limit for the purchase being authorized.

Now we’re in the computer age. The Internet age! The age that is beyond the space age! Calculations are performed at the speed of light…and everything, yes everything, seems to take longer.

At the thirty-minute mark, the entire time during which my husband leaned on the sales counter while I was relatively comfortable in my wheelchair, he looked at me and said, “You know, we’ve bought houses in less time than this.”

He’s a swift one, is my beloved. I giggled. The polite clerk (for he surely was that if not efficient or speedy) finally said it was just a matter of updating the new phone—which was new only in the sense it had never been used. It was an older iPhone, which was absolutely fine by me. He asked us if we could come back in forty-five minutes?

We agreed and went for lunch at one of the restaurants across the way. We luxuriated in the experience because we seriously don’t do that very much at all. We came back in an hour and a half…and still had to wait. Apparently, they were having issues with their internet reception in the mall. Imagine that. Finally, I asked the clerk to give me the phone and I would update it at home on my so-called high-speed internet. The clerk displayed speedy for the first time and had that phone, plus all my free gifts—a new case and a new portable storage unit—in the bag faster than you could say customer service.

As we were leaving the mall David said, “We must remember, next time, when one of us needs a new phone, to bring camping equipment—tent, Coleman stove, sleeping bags, air mattresses, food—and our Kindles.”

The twists and turns of life are much easier to deal with when one lives with a comedian.

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wednesday's Words for October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween! Or as it once was called, All Hallow’s Eve. I know that for my American friends, the kick-off to the Christmas season is Thanksgiving—the day after that holiday being the biggest shopping day of the year. But up here in Canada, it’s the day after Halloween that seems to usher in the yuletide season—but not by a big black Friday sale. We have those the same day you do, the day after your Thanksgiving. I was referring to when the retailers here haul out everything Christmas and strew it every-darn-where. Yes, we get a few more days of seeing Christmas items in the stores, and decorations here and there than you do…of course, if I’m honest, I’ll tell you the habit of leaving the Christmas lights out all year around thrives here in the great cold north.

I’ve long associated the beginning of the true nippy and chilly weather with this fun holiday of Halloween. In my memory, there were more chilly and wet Halloweens than there were pleasant ones. Fortunately for me, it was my husband who, as the children really got into the trick-or-treat stage of life, gladly took them around to knock on doors. We’d usually go to my mother-in-law’s house, because they lived in a town and we lived in a rural community with few houses about. That, of course, was before we moved into the town we live in now.

I can recall being a child growing up in the country whose daddy drove her into the same town my in-laws lived in. He’d been born and raised in that town. There were cousins, and old friends of my parents whose doors he’d take me to. There wasn’t much more visiting than a quick hello. My father’s focus was on the task at hand. It’s one of the few solid memories I have of my daddy.

Once David and I moved our family into a suburban setting, I would hand out the candy while David took the kids around—until our oldest was about fifteen, when he would shepherd his siblings about for us. Of course, he would then come back, drop off his brother and sister, change his costume and go out again, this time with his friends. Fancy Halloween bags? Cute plastic pumpkins? No thanks, my kids insisted on pillowcases. And they darn near filled them, too. Fun times and nice memories.

Winter is coming, of course. I have a kind of a mental check list that I know I should make into an actual physical one—my short-term memory being not quite as strong as once it was. We’ve had the furnace inspected, and the filter changed. It’s only a couple of years old, and that maintenance was a free service, because the furnace is a rental. If anything goes wrong this season, I don’t need to worry about coming up with mega bucks to fix or replace it. Freedom from worrying about that is huge to me and worth the cost.

My beloved continues to work on his home-improvement project, which was to replace the drywall in the front entrance hall, and encasing the stairs leading to the second story. The drywall is in and has been taped and mudded and sanded to the best of his ability. He applied two coats of primer paint and one coat of really expensive (but found on sale) color. Yes, it’s beige, but I would call it beige with a very subtle peach undertone. This past Friday he applied protective tape and began paint to the trim. He did mud and then primer that, too, so he figured one coat on the trim should be good.

The accent color he picked out is called Rich Brown, and I was looking forward to seeing the finished product. As he was painting, he was grumbling. Not only was this paint not going on as nicely as the beige, despite being the same brand and type; the rich brown was more like reddish brown. He had the bathroom door frame completed, and I suggested he wait until it dried. Sure enough, the reddish hue was practically gone when dry. I thought we were set, and it would be all steam ahead.

Friday evening, he decided he didn’t like the brown. Actually, he said he hated it. When I asked him what color he wanted, he said he’d let me know. I love my husband, but I am fully aware of his foibles and short comings. One of them is knowing which colors compliment each other. I put in an emergency call to one of my granddaughters, the one who is in her second year of college, studying interior design. She suggested classic white for the trim. My husband got right on board with that and informed me he would get a semi-gloss to go with the satin finish already on the walls. His reasoning was that the semi-gloss would be easier to clean. One more emergency (and horrified) call to granddaughter, and he bowed to our granddaughter’s expertise—he’d keep that white trim a satin finish, too.

Neither one of us has an eye, really, for what goes with what—but only one of us knows that. Fortunately, the one who does has no problem “calling a friend”.

I’m just glad to have such a consultant in the family. Another bullet dodged.

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Wednesday's Words for October 24, 2018

Autumn colors abound. The air holds a nip of impending winter, and displays of jack-o-lanterns, calico corn, and gourds both colorful and distinctive find their way to porches and decks, and even store fronts. Those first few really nippy mornings of fall always remind me of my youth, of donning a jacket and just walking until my cheeks were nearly stinging. Fresh air and sunshine, accompanied by the darkening clouds, or the dense grey clouds that I refer to as a “snow sky” paint a tableau of the changing season. The breeze in the trees whispers “winter’s coming”.

Squirrels are scampering to gather and save, to prepare for the lean months to come. I’ve already made my first bean soup of the season—I refer to it as “beanie goodness”—and I’m practically itching to imitate the squirrels, not by gathering nuts, but by canning. If the urge doesn’t pass I might see what I can make. But likely it will. Wanting to batten down the hatches and ensure there’s lots in the larder is an urge as old as time. It’s part of our survival instincts at work. My larder is full enough at the moment.

Our walnut tree had a great many leaves this year and almost no walnuts. I’m not sure if that is a harbinger about the nature of the impending winter, or just a cyclical event in the life of walnut trees. I’m not sure I recall the tree every yielding quite so few walnuts before, but then my memory isn’t as reliable as once it was. Honestly, I only saw three or four walnuts, total, and this is a big tree. Since I live in a kind of self-imposed bubble, I have no idea how the other walnut trees in town fared. I really should take a short drive and find out. There are so many of them in the area, and the walnuts leave such a mess on the street, it shouldn’t take me long to know if our tree is unique or a part of a natural trend.

The tree has already dropped all its leaves. For the most part, they’ve been seen to. My husband used his leaf-blower to amass them, and our grandson carted them by the wheelbarrow full up to the back corner of our yard, where we now have a compost pile. On two separate occasions. Now we’re awaiting the maple trees across the street from us to shed their foliage. I always tell my husband and grandson that cleaning up the maple leaves that end up on our property is the price we pay for having had the privilege of enjoying the view of them from spring to autumn.

We’ve already purchased our Halloween candy—mini chocolate bars consisting of 4 varieties that are popular here—one of which is not available in the U.S. (Coffee Crisp). They were on sale, and so I bought 2 boxes. No, we don’t get that many little Halloweeners, as I call them. But I am the wife of a man and the mother of a woman who both love their chocolate. I don’t mind an occasional taste of chocolate myself, but I eat so little of it, I buy it the rest of the year by the small bag that has little tiny servings—like the mini peanut butter cups. I go weeks without any cocoa-laden product passing my lips. So for me as well, having individually wrapped mini bars in excess for a time works.

I used to make all my children’s Halloween costumes, although I would never say my sewing skills were prime. I did well enough to please them, and that’s all that mattered. Both my daughter and my son have a fine hand at sewing and making clothes. My father-in-law taught my son and my daughter how to knit. Sewing from a pattern my son learned on his own. This allowed him to create a fine tradition with his daughter—he used to make her little princess dresses for trick-or-treat time. Their other tradition for the season is father-daughter pumpkin carving.

They take their competition seriously and produce very creative jack-o-lanterns.

When I watch my children being parents, I can’t help but smile. I see in their actions some of the traditions I passed on from my own childhood—and a desire, in them both, to discover brand new ones to hand down.

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wednesday's Words for October 17, 2018

I don’t know what to think of the fact that we’ve turned into one of those couples. You know the kind I mean. Their kids are all well and truly grown up, moved out, and off on their own leading exciting and busy lives. We—the older generation—are at home, alone, reportedly retired and in our September years. They probably would have been golden years if we’d done a better job of saving while we were working and raising our kids, but that’s another story.

So, as I said, one of those couples who no longer has children underfoot, whose grandchildren are also all off leading exciting and busy lives…and here we are, at home, just us…and the dog.

Our fur baby. And what do we do? Do I tell Mr. Tuffy to go and see David if he wants something? Does David tell Tuffy to go and see Morgan? No, of course not. Because he’s the baby, right? That means, he is told to think of us as mommy and daddy.

About the only point to our credit is we do not talk “baby talk” to him. Well, there might be a bit of a sing-song inflection in my voice when I tell him he’s so cute I just can’t stand it—but that’s the only time, I swear.

Thinking about it now, I wonder if it would have been better, right from the get-go, if we had referred to ourselves as grandma and grandpa? Or maybe, her/his majesty? Because I have to tell you, establishing ourselves as the “parents” of this little seven-pound, too cute for words Morkie of ours means that we are going through the whole child-rearing thing, all over again.

Complete with cheeky back-talk and a few nights of interrupted sleep when the baby is restless.

On the plus side, he doesn’t ask for money and hasn’t yet demanded the keys to the car. He might some day ask for those keys and then hide them, so I can’t find them, and we can’t, therefore, go somewhere and leave him alone, possibly never to return again leaving him to eventually starve to death! But that, too, is another story.

Of course, once you start this charade of referring to yourselves to the dog the way we have, there really is no going back. I’m his mommy, David is his daddy, and our daughter, Jenny, is therefore, his sister. He knows us by those names, too. The fact that Morkies tend to be devoted to their families is part of the mix. We are the only three people he loves absolutely. He’s happy when either of my two closest grandchildren, Emma and Gavin, come to visit. He gets excited and wants to be picked up and takes the time to sniff their clothes to see where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing.

New people occasionally come to the house, but he doesn’t want anything to do with them. He doesn’t bark at them, he just stays away from them. It took our son (Mr. Tuffy’s brother) about four times visiting after we got the dog for the dog to allow him close and tolerate being picked up. I think he’d be like that with others, too, if they visited more often. My brother and his wife don’t come over often enough to make any kind of impression on him, so it’s no, thanks. I’ll just stay with my daddy. He is absolutely the happiest when our daughter is here, so he has all of his humans present and accounted for.

We love the little rascal, of course, even if occasionally we wish he’d be a little less vocal—a little less diligent in his job as “Tuffy on Guard” as he feels he must alert us to every passing human (with or without a canine) as well as every squirrel that dares to venture close.

He’s the first small dog we’ve ever had, and there are marked differences between him and our previous large hounds. For one, he really is a lap dog, and having him on me isn’t cumbersome at all. Being the breed that he is, he doesn’t shed. The last dog we had—and the last cat, too—were fur shedding machines. One had to vacuum daily to keep up with the fur. I don’t miss that. He also sleeps a lot more than the bigger dogs ever did, and he’s easier to exercise. Heck, sometimes he just has to run for the pure joy of running, and runs laps from the living room, to my office, into the kitchen, around the table and back again.

Mr. Tuffy, being the baby, is spoiled. This house has three actual puppy beds in it. One is in the office, on the floor beside me, and has a towel for a blanket and several bones in it. Being creative, we call that the bone bed. There’s another with a towel for a blanket on the spare chair in the living room. That’s his television chair. There’s a third one, with no towel, that we keep on a bottom shelf of a shelving unit we have in our entrance hallway. There’s only about a foot and a half between the shelf the bed is on and the one above it, and we call that his “little house”.

Of course, when it’s bed time, it isn’t to any of these luxurious beds that he goes to. No, when it’s bed time he stands stoically waiting for his daddy to pick him up so that he can then carry him into our bedroom and the big, high bed (so high he can’t jump onto it). Yes, he sleeps on our bed, every night. He’s a restless little sleeper, too, finding his place on top of the blankets—sometimes wanting to be close to daddy, sometimes mommy, sometimes at the foot of the bed, sometimes by our pillows—and sometimes exactly between us and under the blankets.

Awakening at night, I know the males in the family are sleeping well and soundly when I see them both on their backs, snoring away.

In case you had any doubt at all, I will tell you that is, truly, how I like them both best.

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wednesday's Words for October 10, 2018

This past Monday was Thanksgiving Day in Canada. I can tell you that the history of this holiday as I was taught in school was that at its inception, it was a uniquely American one. I know I mentioned that last year at this time, (and likely the year before that and the year before that). My childhood memories of the holiday, at least in school, were of coloring pictures of the pilgrims and the Indians, and pumpkins and turkeys—and learning, of course about the Mayflower.

I definitely recall, as we heard the story of the first Thanksgiving, no teacher ever informed us that pilgrims were not a part of the Canadian historical story—or indeed, that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Canada in 1578. I didn’t learn that until very, very recently. Apparently, our Thanksgiving is more closely tied to the harvest celebrations held in Europe, usually in October. No, I never learned that in school, where we had to set out our Thanksgiving decorations of pilgrims and pumpkins and such.

We didn’t, in my personal experience, begin to make a big distinction between the United States and Canada until we drew close to our own Centennial. Yes, we stood on Main Street for the parade on July 1st, Dominion Day, which later was named Canada Day. But that and standing for our National Anthem (as often as not, in those days, God Save the Queen), was the full extent of Canadian patriotism that I’d ever seen displayed in public.

I recall the great flag debate of 1964. In our family it was a battle of sorts between my Mother (wishing to retain some semblance of the Canadian Ensign and the Union Jack on our flag) versus my brother, who wanted that beautiful new white and red flag with the Maple Leaf.

The only Thanksgiving Day traditions this family has are all related to food. In my house growing up, and as a parent myself, generally speaking, we had turkey twice a year: Thanksgiving in October and Christmas in December. The other Thanksgiving staples are sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. New Years Day supper, both in my mother’s house and in mine, more often than not was ham. I should qualify that and say that for just the two of us these days, New Years Day hasn’t generally in the last few years come with any special supper at all. Who knows what this upcoming New Year’s will be like? I’m on an every-other-day supper making plan here. We have soups (sometimes home made ones) and canned pasta or stew or frozen one-serving entrees, and of course “L.O.s” (left overs) for the day in between. Even with this new schedule, David has put himself on a diet, because he knows he needs to lose quite a bit of weight. Retirement for him has been a mostly sedentary life.

This year we had the local gang as well as two guests here for our Thanksgiving supper. It was a wonderful time, and really special because our Sonja cooked the turkey, so she was here for most of the day. I like spending time with her—I like spending one-on-one time with both of my girls. They’re interesting and funny, and even though they are both in their forties, they still need a mom every once in a while. I’ve had solid evidence of this the last couple of years, and I am grateful to be allowed to fill that role for them both. Our guests for Monday’s feast were two of Sonja’s coworkers. They appeared to enjoy themselves and that always pleases me.

And that brings me to the message I really wanted to express in this essay: gratitude.

I’ve come to believe in my later years that an attitude of gratitude is a healing balm that can cure most emotional ills and bruised hearts. I try to take time every day to express my thanks-giving. I’ve come to appreciate that those things I once considered truly awful that happened to me in my early years were in fact blessings—and for that I give thanks.

If I hadn’t been through some really horrific things, my writing—whether in these essays or in my novels—would lack depth. I have a friend who is a New York Times bestselling author. She has always maintained that while you occasionally have child prodigies in many of the arts and sciences, you don’t have one in novel writing. The reason is simple. Despite the possibility of gifted prose, unless one has some of life’s kaka on them, they can’t really write anything that touches us, or that calls to most people.

I am grateful, therefore, for the adversities I’ve endured and overcome, for they have made me relatable, which in turn allows me to help those going through similar tough times.

I am grateful for the lean years where balancing the family budget felt like trying to juggle six balls in the air while standing with one foot on a thin wire, high above the crowd—and with no safety net below. If not for those times, I wouldn’t be able to offer counsel to others when asked, nor would I be as grateful as I am for our modest bounty today.

I am grateful for my family, whom it has been my privilege to serve and love—and for the chance to love our middle child, Anthony, for the few years we were granted with him. Loss has a way of helping to build bridges with others. And so, yes, I am grateful even for that loss.

I’m grateful that there are actually thousands of people who’ve read my words in the past, and fewer now, but still thousands who continue to read them today.

And I am grateful every morning to awaken to a new day—a day that if I choose to see it thus, can be as bright and full of endless possibilities as any new day should be.

I wish you all many days that are bright and shining and full of possibilities.

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Wednesday's Words for October 3, 2018

I often feel that I need to perform a very delicate balancing act as I pen these weekly essays. I’m a Canadian, and so I don’t feel I have the right to comment on the affairs of a country that is not my own. I can’t imagine that many of you who are my readers and are Americans would appreciate my poking my nose into your politics, and so for the most part, I don’t.

These are very turbulent times in which we find ourselves. Looking at modern society here in North America, I have to say our social behavior has not been at its best, lately. The Internet and Face Book and Twitter have, in many ways, dissolved the borders between us, but they have also dissolved the norms of manners, civility, and veracity. When we’re simply writing words on an electronic device, we can pretend to be whoever we want to be, and we can also pretend that the rules of polite society do no apply to us. After all, there’s no one in our face to tell us otherwise.

The relative anonymity of the Internet has allowed people to leave their civilized self behind and let their inner savage flow. It would seem that sitting at home, with our fingers on the keys does something to dissolve our personal filters.

The truth is that human behavior is human behavior regardless of nationality or political affiliation. Good manners are good manners and truth is truth—oh yes, it is! And it doesn’t matter on which side of the 49th parallel one lives. There are core realities that apply to everyone, everywhere.

One day last week there was an “event” unfolding on television, a real “reality Television” event. I’ve chosen to call this event “A Tale of Two Testimonies.” It was, for many of us, a difficult spectacle to watch.

 Act one was heartbreaking, because to listen was to hear pain—raw, traumatic emotional pain that despite the passage of time has not healed. It’s a pain that will never heal completely. And for many, that testimony evoked memories of a personal pain that the viewer had endured. Anyone who has been sexually assaulted, or sexually harassed, or has a loved one to whom this has happened, keenly identified with that pain. Act one as it played out was real, visceral, and credible. For those with open minds—or as Another put it in a book I’m fond of, for those who had ears to hear—act one brought them, figuratively, to their knees.

Act two—for me—was the most shocking of the two. The level of anger and hate made me step back, emotionally. All I could think was, what would this hate filled, angry and belligerent person be like, drunk? Having, through the course of my life been at the hands of an angry, belligerent drunk, the image made my blood run cold. It brought back memories I didn’t want to remember.

The vitriol unleashed during act two spread out and became a contagion, infecting others, until the entire proceedings, at that point, devolved into a name calling, accusation hurling free-for-all, with the filth being aimed by angry men in one direction, and one direction only.

Now, back to that human behavior that is common to us all. There are norms of human behavior. Norms we all recognize and for the most part abide by. You wouldn’t walk down Main Street in your home town, naked; you wouldn’t defecate on the sidewalk. You wouldn’t hold a gun on someone and demand their wallet because you were short of cash; you wouldn’t try to haul another driver out of their car to punch them because they may have cut you off in traffic.

Oh, people do these things, and we see them on the news, but they are not normal acts, and they all have legal consequences.

You don’t sexually assault a person—you don’t kiss them or put hands on them without their consent. Whether you’re a student in high school, the box boy at the grocery store, the clerk at a cosmetics counter, a member of an elected body, or a member of the clergy or the judiciary, you do not do these things.

And if you’re a witness to someone behaving with as much anger, vitriol and partisanship as I witnessed in Act Two of “A Tale of Two Testimonies”, then the question you need to ask yourself is not, “is this anger justified”. Often, anger is justified, and it can even be righteous. As a mother I was on occasion moved to real, deep anger, anger incited by one or the others of my children (believe me, they all had a turn at that). Now, if in response to my anger I decided to do things to “get back” at them over the course of time, then I wouldn’t have been considered a person with the temperament to be a parent.

No, if you’ve been a witness to behavior as shown in act two, the question you need to ponder is whether or not a person possessing the kind of temperament we saw in that hearing room is the kind of person you want imbued with the responsibilities and privileges of being an associate justice of the highest court in the land.

And that’s before we even discuss if a documented liar is suited for that position. Long story short under that heading, lying under oath is a disqualifying quality, period.

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Wednesday's Words for September 26, 2018

This week heralds the first episodes of returning, and series premiers of new weekly television shows in prime time. David has always been more into television and movies than me, but by the end of the annual summer seasonal hiatus, even I am looking forward to a few hours each week in front of what we used to call the “boob tube”. We especially enjoy the Voice, which makes Mondays and Tuesday evenings times to anticipate.

I used to watch a lot more television than I do now. That really changed for me once I became published. I no longer felt guilty for preferring to read or write than to sit and watch. I’m not as stodgy as that statement might imply. In fact, what I do choose to spend my few weekly television hours watching is not, by any definition of the word, highbrow.

I will however admit to not being a fan of the modern sit-com. If a comedy show has a laugh track, well, I figure that’s a clue. In my opinion if the producers feel they must signal to the audience when to laugh, how funny can the “comedy” really be?

I enjoy clever humor, and a few stand-up comics. My husband feels the same way about the half-hour weekly comedic offerings with-laugh-tracks as I do.

I enjoy dramas that are thoughtful, especially if the plots are clever and the dialogue sparkles. I loved Castle the first few seasons it was on. The last year of that series however, when the network had new people take over as the “show runners”, was, again only in my opinion, dreadful. The one thing they got right the entire last season was not killing the pair off in the final episode.

Some networks don’t know when to quit, when it comes to their programs. And some quit way too soon. I was happy to hear that Designated Survivor is getting new life through Netflix; I don’t mind waiting until next year to see those new episodes. That was an hour a week I always looked forward to.

We enjoy Madam Secretary primarily because of the writing, and Survivor—a so-called ‘reality’ program—because it gives us insight into the infinite possibilities of human behavior, good and bad. All right, mostly bad. Hawaii Five-O easily became a favorite despite the sometimes improbable plot twists and often questionable writing. I was a fan of the first rendition of that series, a program I used to watch with my mother.

MacGyver is another case of having watched it because of the original. This new one isn’t as good as the one with Richard Dean Anderson—I get the feeling they can’t decide whether to be tongue-in-cheek, or not—but it has kind of grown on me.

And there you have the sum total of my viewing preferences. I’m not one to flick around the dial and fill my time with whatever happens to be on. That’s because I’ve usually got a lot to do every day. If I don’t have something specific in mind to watch, I tend to walk away from the thing. If I am sitting there, “channel surfing”, I can guarantee you it’s because I’m a little under the weather, and I’m looking for something good to doze off to.

David has far more programs he enjoys, and that’s fine. We have wireless headphones for the television, which are primarily for his use. That way, he can watch what he wants to watch, I can read what I want to read, and peace reigns supreme in the Ashbury household.

When we were younger, peace wasn’t necessarily a part of the equation for either of us. Now, in our September years, peace between us and in our home is very highly prized and much appreciated. 


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

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