Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 21, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there is one more thing you can do.

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

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

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


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Wednesday's Words July 31, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

And that was when I had my epiphany.

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

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

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


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Wednesday's Words for July 24, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wednesday's Words for July 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will happen. I have faith.

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

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


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Wednesday's Words for July 10, 2019

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings abound.


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Wednesday's Words for July 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wednesday's Words for June 26, 2019

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

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

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s hoping, indeed.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Wednesday's Words for June 19, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Wednesday's Words for June 12, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Wednesday's Words for June 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Wednesday's Words for May 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wednesday's Words for May 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday's Words for May 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wednesday's Words for May 8, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Wednesday's Words for May 1, 2019

I’ve always had this “process”, which is instrumental not only in the work I produce, but how I’ve come to perceive the world around me. It’s how I reason things, eventually. Well, perhaps I should say that hopefully, it’s eventually.

My process sort of goes like this: I have a concept, an idea, that I want to investigate, that I want to set out for consideration, that I want to solve. In the case of the books I write, this would be a combination of the moral or theme of the tale, and the plot, the steps, by which that moral or theme is introduced in the telling of the tale, and then achieved/resolved by the end of the story.

In the case of my perceptions of the world around me…. well, that’s like the well-coined Face Book comment on relationship status. Yup, it’s complicated.

We all look at the world around us and those of us who are civic minded, those of us who want to do something to make a difference, or even just understand what’s happening in the world around us, spot situations, or injustices that we feel need attention. We might contribute dollars, volunteer time, or add something in the search for a solution that might be considered working to make a difference in our world.

We’re not all given to serve the same cause, of course, because there are so many causes to go around. I do believe that it’s best to find a cause that speaks to you with the greatest amount urgency, that moves your heart until you can’t do anything but help.

One complication for me is that I have always been and will likely remain an optimist. Ah, but not just any kind of optimist I am; no, I happen to be a naïve optimist. Considering the number of challenges and losses I’ve suffered, that shouldn’t be possible, but hey, here I am.

So, when I see stuff happening that should never be allowed to happen in the first place yet not only is happening but continues to happen…well, my naïvely optimistic inner woman cries out in anguish and yes, supplication.

Me: God, can you please lend a hand and do something about this?

God: Of course I can, my child. But I gave humankind free will. And humankind must therefore freely choose to act before I can work through them.

I sort of get it, of course I do. Without the freedom to choose between being a part of the problem or a part of the solution, from where comes reward or salvation? Humanity is not a club of princelings laying around on pillows, waiting to be served up a platter of fairness and bounty by God.

God is not some cosmic bellhop to wait on us, no concierge to smooth our path. He is God, the Almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Perfect Creator of the universe!

If we, in this life, are too lazy to roll up our sleeves and pitch in, then we truly reap what we sow, and deserve nothing more than what we have. We have to be willing to move, to do, to think, to opine, to walk the walk—even if we can’t actually physically walk.

You see, I think for a big part of my life, my perception of the situation has been skewed. It’s off, it’s wrong, and that is why I’ve been by turns frustrated and depressed when the world seems to be going to hell in a hand-basket (whatever that is).

But as I get older, I begin to understand the situation a bit better. I understand that it truly is not what happens to me, but how I deal with it that matters the most in this world. I understand that I am not an island, however much that does sometimes appeal to me. I actually have a mission in this life, a purpose on this earth, and that is really why I am here in the first place. Not to be coddled or comforted, although if I work at my mission, and work at fulfilling my purpose, I certainly will be Divinely comforted.

In fact, I have had it all backwards all these years. So let me try that supplication again, this time, as it should be. As it truly is.

God: Can you please step up and do something about this?
Me: Yes, thank you, Lord, for letting me help. I’m on it.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Wednesday's Words for April 24, 2019

This last Wednesday in April, in this (still in my mind) brand new year of 2019 finds me wondering why time is going so darn fast these days. It’s very annoying. I no sooner get a good start on my day, and bam! It’s time for my afternoon rest. Not sleep, but rest.

I can’t help but recall just yesterday, when I was a child, that time absolutely crept along, so slow, it lagged behind a snail. And I have to wonder if there is a way to change my perception of the speed of the passing of the days. Really, is there anything to be done about this blight on humanity?

The only occasion anymore upon which the passage of time still feels slow to me occurs during those few nights when I have trouble falling asleep. That doesn’t happen much anymore, unless I’ve just returned to my bed after a trip to the bathroom and having gotten out of bed my mind begins working at hyper speed. The clock tells me I still have at least four hours to go until I should get up….and then that time drags out, as I lay awake, waiting for my mind to shut up so it can go back to the Land of Nod.

Before my heart attack in 2002, I used to get by with a lot less sleep than the suggested average of eight hours a night. It was not unusual for me to have no more than four to six hours a night for several nights running. And then came the heart trouble, and the triple by-pass surgery, and I began to sleep a lot more. I needed to sleep a lot more, and if I didn’t get at least 8 hours a night, I would have to have a nap in the afternoon.

I don’t quite know how or why it happened, but in the last two or three years, I’ve returned to the old ways. Just now as I was composing this, I checked my Fitbit which records such information. It’s been a month since I had as much as 7 hours sleep. That generally only happens now—getting 7 or 8 hours—if I’m fighting off a cold or am otherwise a bit under the weather.

My most usual amount of time spent sleeping is anywhere between five and a half and six and a half hours. I might doze in my recliner for a half hour or so in the afternoon, but I don’t go to bed for a nap midday. I haven’t done that for a long time. The recliner is perfect because the whole purpose of my rest time is to get my arthritic legs up.

I’m not sure what my sleep patterns have to do with my perception of the passage of time, except I suspect that I might not be sleeping as much as I should because the darn world just will not slow down. I think my subconscious is afraid I’m going to miss something important.

Time does seem to go faster the older I get. Maybe that perception is based on the very real fact that the older I get, the less time I have ahead of me. It’s certainly a more precious commodity now than it ever used to be.

You’ve heard that saying, “life, when you consider the alternative, isn’t that bad”? Well, I have been thinking a great deal about the perception of the speed of time and I may be coming to the conclusion that time rushing past isn’t such a bad thing, either, when you consider the alternative. Not the end of time, but time slowing to a monotonous crawl.

I keep busy. Not all the things I do are of equal importance. Some are vital—that would include writing and keeping in touch with my readers, and time spent with family. Some are less so—I do enjoy playing different games or watching videos on line. I’m grateful I can do both. I’m very grateful that I have a computer, and that I know how to use it, a little. I can look up almost any fact, and I do learn a fair bit in any given day. I don’t know how to correct things that might go wrong with it, but that’s what the Geek Squad is for.

I’m fully aware that there are people my age, and some older, who aren’t able to keep themselves busy. There are people who are lonely or are what we used to refer to as being “shut in”, who have little to do to pass the time and aren’t able to get out and about on their own. For them, perhaps time doesn’t speed past. Perhaps for them, it crawls.

Given the choice between one or the other isn’t my preference. I’d prefer that time passed at a moderate, comfortable rate. And perhaps, in this, I’ve finally hit upon a possible solution.

I would have told you yesterday that I do appreciate each day, each sunrise, and each moment for the gift it is.

Maybe all I really need to do is smell a few more flowers—or cups of coffee.


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Wednesday's Words for April 17, 2019

My daughter has a clear memory, and I won’t dispute it because it is, after all, her memory. I’m just confused by it. She insists that when she was growing up, I was adamant that one simply did not use a light colored purse, or wear white, until after Easter. Apparently, I made this point to her on several occasions.

That is not a memory I share—at least the part about my being adamant, almost to the point of “pounding it into her head” (her words, not mine). Now, the ‘no white until after Easter’ was indeed one of the fashion rules when I was growing up. Along with having to have a brand new, pretty outfit to wear to church on Easter Sunday. I can recall the first purse I ever owned was in fact part of an Easter outfit when I was about five or six—a white plastic purse that gleamed so bright you needed sunglasses. The outfit also boasted a scratchy coat and socks, and shoes I was not to scuff, no, not one little bit. Even as a child, I couldn’t understand what all that had to do with God. I couldn’t imagine He cared if I wore a brand-new prissy outfit or if my white shoes were scuffed, or not.

Fortunately, fashion is an ever-changing concept. I might indeed change my purse after this weekend, but only because the new black one I bought in Texas is a fair bit larger than I’m used to. And yes, I have a beige purse hanging in my closet because, while I no longer proselytize about the necessity of changing purses (if ever I did), I still somewhat practice the custom. I’ll likely change my purse sometime before summer.

Times change and fashions change, but apparently I do not, overly much.

My hair is very long now. Longer than it’s ever been in my life. My long hair is not a fashion statement, it is a testament to the fact that I don’t apparently seem to have any rats’ butts left, and thus can’t give any to anyone for anything. I just can’t be bothered going and getting a few inches lopped off my hair. I don’t like short hair, because I can’t make it neat. Bedhead, which I get every morning when I have short hair, has only one cure, and that’s water. Who wants a wet head every morning? Not me. I like my hair long enough so that I am able to put up without a thousand hair strands sticking out. My hair is well past that standard, now. Every morning I take about thirty seconds and use a scrunchy and a clip to put my hair up. It looks neat, nothing sticking out ala Albert Einstein, and that’s all I care about.

Despite the fact it’s now fashionable to wear colors and shades that are quite bright and in my opinion clash, I don’t do so. I’m sorry, but yes, my brain synapses that are connected into the part of my brain that denotes the concept of “eye-bleeding sights” have been completely formed, they’re solid, and you will never see me wearing orange and red together; nor pink and red; nor blue and green, which, according to an old saw, “should never be seen except, of course, in the washing machine”.

The fact that it doesn’t appear to be mandatory that women leave the house with their hair neatly groomed, smooth, and tidy-looking means hey, my “messy bun” original updo with a clip thrown in for good measure is just fine. I can’t tell you how relieved I am about that because, quite frankly I’m not. I really don’t care what others think. It’s what I think, at least when it comes to my appearance, that counts. I find it interesting that my inner curmudgeon, which has been emerging occasionally for some fresh air lately, doesn’t extend that same tenet to others. Sometimes, when I’m watching live television, I can be heard grumbling words to the effect of, “somebody ought to tell that woman about the modern inventions of combs, brushes and hairspray”.

The fact that I will think these things let alone say them out loud does not bode well for the kind of little old lady I may end up being when they have to put me in the home. I’m a bit concerned about that, because I really don’t want “miserable old bitch” to become a part of my name at that point. But I digress.

Springtime is unfolding, with a few fits and starts, but unfolding, nonetheless. We’ll soon be headed to the garden center to purchase our pansies, and indeed all the perennial flowers in my gardens are poking their little shoots up, checking to see if the coast is clear, or not.

Spring truly is my favorite season. It reminds me that life is a cycle, and that no matter how dismal the winter, or how discouraged we may become thanks to cold temperatures and ice, green shoots and tree buds will ever, in their own good time, appear.

The constancy of nature proves to us that in the end, there is something in existence much greater than ourselves. Knowing that, is, for me, a great comfort.

To those who observe it, I wish you a Happy Easter. To those who observe Passover, chag Pesach samech.

To everyone everywhere, may joy and laughter be familiar friends in the days and months to come. 


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Wednesday's Words for April 10, 2019

This past week I overcame my intermittent tendency toward procrastination and performed a task that I’ve been meaning to do for the last month. I registered for my Canada Pension and Old Age security.

When I turn sixty-five, in July, I will have reached the “official” age of retirement in this country. Official, not mandatory. And as a person who reaches this age in July, I can look forward to my first monthly payment at the end of August.

For the last dozen years, I have been earning money from writing. Every quarter, I’ve received my royalties from my publisher. Always on time, never late, and never wrong. Though my publisher, Siren-Bookstrand is considered “small press” there is certainly nothing at all small about the level of their professionalism, or their integrity. I have been blessed and highly favored.

I never have focused on the fact that I would someday receive a monthly amount based on all the years that I worked outside the home, contributing to the CPP (Canada Pension Plan). There were a few years when my children were small that I was a stay-at-home mom. But as they came to school age, I went to work. From roughly 1984 to 2002, I was gainfully employed, primarily in the field of accounting. I took some accreditation courses, though I never pursued a college or university degree. I’ve also contributed to the CPP these last several years, via my “self employed” royalty earnings.

Through my “working life” I took pride in doing the best job I could. More than once a colleague told me I treated my “job” as if it was a “career”. I’m reasonably certain I frustrated the poor woman by receiving the intended insult as a compliment. To me, that’s what it was. I couldn’t, at the time, see the point in not doing my best, in not working as hard or efficiently as possible. All these years later, I still can’t. I can look back on the positions I held and know I did my best and earned my salary.

While I enjoyed the various work through the years, I did have challenges getting along with coworkers from time to time. I’ve never been one to play games, or gossip. I could take a lot of B.S., too, without rocking any boats. However, I finally had to lodge a complaint with a company CEO about my supervisor, who believed it was quite acceptable for him to be rude and demeaning toward me—and in front of most of my coworkers.

 The CEO, in his endearingly arrogant fashion, told me it might make my life easier if he fired the offending cad, but then he’d be out an accountant, wouldn’t he? I don’t think he was expecting my response. I didn’t want my supervisor fired; I didn’t want “compensation” for the mistreatment I suffered; I didn’t even want the cretin to be punished. When Mr. CEO asked me, then what I did want, my answer shocked him. I told him I just wanted the harassing behavior to end. Period.

The job I have now suits me better, not only because I’m doing what I love. It suits me because I no longer have any coworkers. I am my own boss, and in that regard, I have no complaints.

Despite being on the verge of collecting my pension, I have no plans to stop writing. As long as people are willing to buy my books, I will write them. I really do believe this is what I was always meant to do. Could I have started earlier? I don’t know. I think things happen when they’re meant to.

My first novel was published when I was four months shy of my 53rd birthday, at a time when I could no longer work outside the home. That was in March of 2007. Once I’ve finished this essay, I’ll focus again on my current work-in-progress, which will be my 60th title for my publisher.

I consider myself very lucky. Yes, there have been true tragedies in my life, but here I am, able to earn my way doing what I love, what I was always destined to do. We’re not rich, my husband and I, not by any measure. Our house isn’t fancy, it’s quite plain, and I must confess, perhaps not as spotless as it could be. But we’re careful with our pennies, our needs and our wants are modest, and we remain grateful for our many blessings.

We enjoy our routines, and our days speed by.

I have more stories yet to tell, and more readers I hope to touch. I have friends and family, and still, at my age, a bit of a curiosity about life and a thirst for knowledge.

All and all, I believe that I am living a most splendid life.

Love, Morgan

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Wednesday's Words for April 3, 2019

I’d like to know who it was that gave winter a standing ovation. As in all stage productions, you give the star a standing O, and the next thing you know, they’re back in front of you, with an encore performance.

The last time this happened, my husband blamed our daughter. She’d jumped the gun on spring, you see, and got her patio accessories in place. This time, however, she swears it wasn’t her fault. The canopy and sides for her gazebo are still in her basement. That’s one suspect down, and about a million to go.

We awoke on Sunday morning to find a couple of inches of accumulated pollen everywhere! It was one of those wet-snow productions, where the white sticks to every single tree limb and twig, no matter how thin. If I hadn’t had faith, that by the time I needed to post this essay that the kaka would be all gone, just a bad memory, I might have been truly disheartened.

My beloved got up on Sunday morning (a fair bit later, after I did) and trudged from the bedroom to the front hallway. We both have a habit of looking out the window of that front door first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. I heard his sigh. I told him not to worry, it wouldn’t last.

He told me he knew that, but it was still depressing.

Of course, by the end of the day, Sunday, the sidewalks and the road were clear, and only a little snow remained on the grass and on my car. But yes, I could concede his point. That new dump of snow just when we were about to start April felt like a bit much. I had to remind myself that I cannot discount the possibility of snow in this part of the country until after the 24th of May. This morning, looking out the window, I see now white kaka on the ground. I’m not standing and cheering. Don’t want another encore performance.

A cheery sign of spring, as I was driving through town on Monday, was provided by one of the variety stores that always sells hanging baskets. They had a nice selection of pansies out. I love pansies. Their little faces look so happy. They’re always smiling. The ones I’ll get in a week or two from the nursery just on the outskirts of town will be hardy enough, I hope, to withstand a bit of chill. Plus, I plant them in window baskets that I then hang off my porch railing. They’ll be about five and a half feet off the ground, so hopefully they’ll fare well when we get more frost. I might be tempted to cover them lightly if there is a frost warning. If I wait until closer to the middle of the month to get my pansies, I shouldn’t need to worry about it. But of course, that’s not a given.

I’m not as eager this year as I usually am to get my fingers in the dirt and my flowers in the ground and box. I’ve sort of been fending off a cold for the last few weeks. Stuffed up on some days, but most days not. It just seems to take a lot more energy than usual for me to get things done.

 I suppose I really need to try and get my ashes to bed earlier than I have been doing. A couple of nights in the last week, I was in bed just after eleven, and one night, just a bit before. And then I forget that I’m trying to do that and the next thing I know, it’s nearly midnight and I’m still at the keyboard.

I continue to be staggered be the crap weather my friends in the U.S. have been having to deal with. Honestly, it doesn’t seem as if you folks ever get a break. Here, the weather is downright idyllic in comparison.

So I’m going to clap only politely, no standing O, for the disappearance of latest little dump of snow. And I’m going to assume that we’ve seen the last of it. By the end of the week we should be basking in 60 degree temperatures.

The only problem with crossing my fingers at my age is there’s always a danger they’ll atrophy and stay that way.