Monday, February 1, 2021

So thrilled at this wonderful 5-Star review for Cold As Ice: "An absolutely enthralling romance that is as charming as it is sexy! An intelligently-written love story full of rich characters living in the greatest city in the world."

Check out the entire fabulous write-up here:

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Wow, long time no see! Just popping in to share news about my latest story, a short in the Play On universe called Butterfly. Check it out at my blog here: And enjoy!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Wednesday's Words for December 4, 2019

December began with our first ice storm in a while, our first real blast of winter. I’d been planning to head to the next city to our northwest, to spend some time with my son and daughter-in-law. We were going to go to Bingo, which I haven’t done in a long time. But I canceled the night before, because I’d checked the weather and it didn’t look good.

When I arose, the freezing rain hadn’t started. But it did a half hour later, and it sure didn’t take long to cover everything. After the thick coating of ice, of course, came snow. Not a lot, but enough. I was disappointed to have missed the opportunity to visit, but there’s always next Sunday – good Lord willing and the river don’t rise.

So now that December is officially here, Mr. Ashbury has decided to begin working on our living room. As of today, he’s finished the mudding of cracks and has finally fixed one good-sized hole. It was situated about three inches from the ceiling on our south facing living room wall. We’ve had that hole since we had the siding put on the house back in 2006. Yes, that was many years ago. 

What happened was that as the siding installers were strapping and then siding this very old frame house, they tapped some nails just right, and bang! We discovered there had been a stove pipe hole we never knew about that had been covered over, but not covered very well. I say not well, because the plaster fell out and there was the hole, piece of stove pipe still there and all.

Mr. Ashbury believes in out of sight, out of mind. He hung a picture over the damage (which was visible above our bookcases) and called it good, as he has sometimes been known to do. Yes, he is a bit of a redneck and he’s proud of it. His red neck shines most when he “jerry-rigs” repairs. Like the time, shortly after we moved into this house when the shower rod that had been held in place by one screw on the one side lost that screw. There were two in the other, it was just the one side that needed a screw. My oldest son caught the rod and held it in place. Until his dad came, with a plastic ball point pen in hand—which he then proceeded to jam into that hole where a screw was meant to go. It was a mighty “jam” because that pen stayed there until he replaced that shower curtain rod, oh, about five years ago.

But I digress.

We had tried buying one of those stove pipe covers, but the one we got, and thought would fit over that hole, didn’t. David ended up enlarging the hole slightly to make it square, then inserting two pieces of 1x 2 into the hole and screwing it through the lathing. He was then able to cut a piece of drywall to fit, and of course, then used the “mudding” compound. Fingers crossed it all turns out—but however it looks it will be better than having to be stared at constantly by a gaping maw.

The three walls he’s going to be working on are all plaster and in fairly decent shape. So there was no need to buy full sheets of drywall to cover them over. He’ll be painting this week, and that will give us a half of the room done.

Why a half, you ask? Well, he moved the television out about four feet from the wall he’s working on, and has it covered in plastic while he’s working. The bookshelf units (all 3) are also out of place, giving him access to half of the adjacent wall. Once the painting is done, he and our daughter will work together to install laminate flooring for that four to five feet of floor that is free of furniture—and then he’ll move things back into place, over the new flooring, and do the rest of the adjacent wall, and corresponding flooring. Then, one more move of furniture toward the television…well, you get the picture.

I did not remind him that is it three weeks before Christmas.

Fortunately, we don’t as a rule do much entertaining. Our Christmas tree is a small one—barely up to my height—so we don’t need a lot of room to show our Christmas spirit. I haven’t complained one bit, either, about his decision to begin this process now.

Why? Well, there was a point in October when he seriously discussed putting off getting our new bed until the spring so that he could do the living room and then get to work on the bedroom which among other things, needs a new ceiling (it lost a part of itself back when that rain hit during the time the roof was off). But he finally saw the sweet light of reason, and we have our new, wonderfully comfortable bed.

And as I’ve often said: if I can just get a good night’s sleep, I can handle damn near anything.


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Wednesday's Words for November 27, 2019

From everything I’ve seen posted by and heard in conversations with my American friends over the last few years, I’ve come to the conclusion that today—the day before Thanksgiving—is one of the busiest days of the year for y’all.

It’s busy because so many people plan to go home for this celebration. There are more people flying and driving the Interstate system in the United States in preparation for this holiday this week than for any other.

And it’s busy because, with so many people heading home for the Thanksgiving Day feast, there are more turkeys being purchased and cooked, more yams, more green bean casseroles, more stuffing, and more pumpkin pie than at any other time during the year. That food doesn’t cook itself. Moms and Dads across America will be cooking up a storm today and tomorrow.

And lately, it’s been busy because of “Black Friday” - the big every-where-you-look retail sales events that draw in those wishing to find the perfect bargain, and those who are wanting to get a jump on their Christmas shopping.

I have a friend who does all of her Christmas shopping on Black Friday. Most of the time she avoids big cities and shopping like the plague. She loves the quiet of her rural Indiana life and the absence of crowds from her daily experience. She prefers to stay at home, really not enjoying traveling at all. But her own personal family tradition sees her and her two daughters heading off to the malls for a huge shopping blitz the day after Turkey Day.

Yes, we here in Canada celebrate Thanksgiving (a month earlier than you) and have even begun to have our own Black Friday sales. But despite that, I consider Thanksgiving to be a uniquely American holiday. Our sharing a continent as well as a language and a popular culture, and a history up until the Revolution—all of which has been entwined like a giant licorice Twizzler—means that we naturally assume some of your customs. I hope you don’t mind, since they do say that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

From where I’m sitting, here north of the 49th, it appears that Thanksgiving Day in the United States is also the unofficial start of the Christmas season. I wonder if that has anything to do with the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in New York City? Santa is always at the end of that event, which suggests a natural segue from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

I know that I’ve observed in the past that our two countries do uphold similar traditions when it comes to Thanksgiving. The ones I’ve cited have mostly been related to food. But there is another tradition that I’ve seen evidence of this past year, especially, and on both sides of our border.

I do a fair bit of lurking on social media, and there are many people who take the opportunity to write, at this time of year, about the things for which they’re most grateful. Some people take to blogs, and some just to Face Book to post one thing every day that they’re thankful for. That is one Thanksgiving tradition I hope lasts far into the future, for the people of both our countries.

It’s fitting, from time to time, to take a few moments, and to meditate on the things we have in our lives for which we should give thanks. Like most of you, I put my family and friends at the top of that list. I’m grateful for the house I live in, and the heat that keeps me warm as the winter winds howl outside. I’m grateful for the life I live. We’re not wealthy, my husband and I, but we have enough. We have some independence, and can pretty much do most of what we choose. I’m grateful for the ability to write, and for the joy I receive when I hear from those who read my books, or my essays. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’m given to reach out and touch others, to give a hand, or a hug, or a heartfelt word of encouragement.

I’m grateful for each new dawn, for each new sunset, and for every breath I draw. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, not for any of us. So while I am here, and I can do so, I will continue to be grateful.


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Wednesday's Words for November 20, 2019

I promised y’all a report on our new bed. I didn’t forget, but I did want to give it more than a week before I reported in. We’ve had our new bed now for 13 nights. It arrived on the Thursday, just three days after we traveled to the really big city (population over 5 million) and tested the Casper mattresses out.

We knew it was coming that morning. So my husband had already pulled the old mattress and box spring out of the bedroom and taken down the old bed frame—a frame meant for a boxed spring. Our new frame doesn’t need a boxed spring, which made it perfect for our new mattress. We did discover in this dismantling process that our headboard, consisting of gold colored metal made to resemble a brass-style headboard, could not, as I’d hoped, be used with the new frame. It was, in fact, and like the rest of the old bed set, done. Some of the vertical bars were broken, and so it, too, went the way of the mattress and boxed spring, to the town dump.

We did salvage our latest memory-foam bed topper which was under a year old. I washed the bamboo cover, and then asked our second daughter if she would like it. She not only was happy to take it, she loves it.

No sooner had the bedroom been cleared, and the new frame assembled than the UPS driver arrived. The mattress came, as advertised, in a box. Our daughter was on hand to help David unpack that box. They’d never done this before, but they had a plan going in. Now folks, just because I am not physically able to do the things I used to do, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t involved in the process.

I, dear friends, was the peanut gallery. And it was the most fun I’d had in a while.

They opened the box, and I reminded them not to use the box cutter on the plastic binding the rolled up tighter-than-a-spring mattress - in case they damaged the mattress. Oh, did I forget to mention to them that it was likely rolled up tighter than a spring? I didn’t forget, that was a test. We received the last bed topper via UPS, it came tightly rolled, and that was kind of fun to open. David opened it, so therefore, I just assumed he knew what to expect. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. He should have known what was coming. Queen sized mattress in a box that is much, much smaller looking than a queen-sized mattress—well, you do the math.

After considerable grunting and a little cussing, the wrapped mattress was out of the box, looking like an over-sized, cylindrical marshmallow. I helped by taking the box out of our bedroom (where this exercise was taking place).

They decided—my husband and my daughter—that they would begin to take the plastic off the mattress on top of the bed frame. They began to carefully cut the white plastic, and then realized it could be unrolled. With each tug, the mattress rolled away from them. And so, they tugged, then re-positioned the mattress, and they tugged and re-positioned. Several times. I, being clever, stood back. As far back as I could without leaving the room.

Husband: “There sure is a lot of plastic on this.”
Daughter: “Don’t they know about the global plastic pollution crisis?”
Me: I didn’t say a word, I just waited.

It didn’t take long. There always has to be a point of no return. They reached it. Yes, before the plastic was completely removed, it had been reduced enough that what remained of it could not hold that mattress from trying to free itself from its earthly bonds.

Drama was called for, so I said, “Oh my! Look out! There it goes!”

The tugging became decidedly more energetic, and slightly frantic, but of course it’s hard for people to work with alacrity when they’re laughing hard. The last of the plastic had to be tugged from around the completely unbound, almost at full thirteen-inch height mattress. At that point David remembered there were adhesive strips on the bed frame. That was worth a chuckle, too, because they had to lift the mattress and tug the protective plastic off those strips one-by-one. With the mattress still on the bed.

It took only minutes for the mattress to be ready for linens. There had been a lot of plastic, and it did go out into the trash. The box has made a wonderful dog-den for one of my daughter’s chihuahuas who loves boxes. And I have a comedic encore to look forward to. I look forward to that time, six months in the future when it is time to rotate the mattress—they recommend every six months re-positioning it, so that where your head was is where your feet will be. We’ll see how good those adhesive strips are then, won’t we?

As for our new bed? What a joy it was for me to wake up the next morning without a sore and aching back. David also loves it. He, too, is sleeping better, and waking up much less sore. With the level of arthritis that I have, no bed is going to let me wake up completely pain free. When one joint flares up, well, that’s that for however long it lasts. At the moment my left hip isn’t playing nice, but that will ease off. In the meantime, this bed is proving to be all that we’d hoped it would be.

It’s low enough that I don’t have to “climb in” and high enough that I can transition from sitting to standing with no effort at all. And when I do get into it, I can move, up or down, side to side, without feeling as if I need a handle to hang on to, for support.

So far, each night has been a bit better than the last as we grow accustomed to what soon will be our new normal. Sleeping is better, deeper, and far and away more comfortable than it’s been in years.

And that, my friends, is a wonderful thing.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wednesday's Words for November 13, 2019

It’s altogether too easy, sometimes, to forget the hard-learned lessons humanity has faced throughout history. In our own lifetimes, we’ve witnessed the repetition of some of those lessons because they weren’t, obviously, learned the first or even second go-round.

We read that there will be wars, and rumors of wars, and indeed, that is one lesson that we seem fated to repeat over and over again. From the most ancient of times until today, we’ve not yet learned the art of living in society while curbing our greedy or aggressive tendencies. War is aggression, and whether we’re the one’s being belligerent or the ones fighting against the hostility, aggression and/or the thirst for power, another form of greed right up there with the craving for ideological supremacy, tends to be what’s at the heart of nearly every war in recorded history.

On Monday just passed we paused to celebrate our veterans and to commemorate the lives lost in the wars of the last two centuries—this one, and the one in which I was born. For until we as humans stop producing other humans who are aggressive and/or greedy—for power, for money or for ideological supremacy—wars will inevitably be waged. Those who had attempted to subvert our democracy in the 1930s and 1940s needed to be defeated in order to preserve the freedom they challenged. As to the first Great War—World War 1, the war for which the date of armistice was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, that began as a European conflict that, as the name implies, went global. A family feud, some historians have said, that simply got out of hand.

There might be some who believe that the transgression of the First World War wherein 15 to 19 million people died was punished by the appearance the Spanish Influenza pandemic that occurred in 1918—the last year of that war. Of the estimated 500 million people who were infected by that disease, an estimated 20 to 50 million people died. More than likely, since it was the first time there had been a great movement of humans globally, the disease was spread further and wider than it might otherwise have been.

At the time, those infected represented fully one third of the population of this planet. That’s jaw-dropping, as is the statistic that potentially 69 million people died in the four year span from 1914-1918.

It is necessary for us to remember that men and women have died, fighting those who would impose their will upon us. That’s the big picture, looking at it from thirty-thousand feet. But let’s not forget, ever, to look at history up close and personal. Let’s open our eyes, and our hearts, and see the families affected—the armchair that Father always sat in after supper as he read the paper. A chair forever after vacant and wanting. A family grieving for sons or daughters, mothers or fathers, families ripped apart, forever bleeding, forever grieving, never completely whole again, because of the fatalities of war.

Sacrifice, in all it’s horrific and holy forms, leaves an indelible mark, demanding remembrance.

We must never forget; but more, we must always remember. Not just on Veterans or Remembrance Day, and on Memorial Day. No, we must remember every day. 

When we listen to the debates of our parliaments and legislatures, we must remember. When our leaders tell us that we need to send our blood and treasure into harms way, we must remember. Let’s take the words of the British poet, Laurence Binyon, in his most famous work, “For the Fallen” to heart:

                    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
                                     We will remember them.

 As long as we never forget, as long as we strive to always remember the awful toll of war, we at least stand a chance of maybe, finally, someday, learning this lesson that history serves us on a continuous, solemn and never-ending loop. 


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Wednesday's Words for November 6, 2019

Time, that heartless being, marches on without a single “by your leave” or “thank you very much.” It’s beyond frustrating, sometimes. In fact, it can be downright scary.

My beloved and I continue to punish ourselves each evening by watching way too much news and talking-head type shows. We never knew we had these masochistic tendencies until just a few years back when all hell broke loose. Only a few years, you ask. I know. It feels like for-ev-er!

Meanwhile, our walnut tree has finished dropping its leaves and its walnuts. We can now park and walk beneath it without fear of being hit by a fat green falling missile. There are a lot of leaves to be dealt with, of course. Now if it would only dry out some, just for a few days, David would get his handy blower going and we would bag those suckers for the town to carry away.

Every year this time, we have a race between us and Mother Nature. Will those leaves get bagged and tagged before the snow flies? Or will we wake up to a deep, white blanket covering nature’s refuse? It’s such a tough question and such a close call that Vegas doesn’t even post odds on it! My husband declares he really doesn’t care, one way or the other.

Whether he blows ‘em and bags ‘em or good old M.N. dumps snow on ‘em, the immediate result is the same: they are out of sight. And that, for him, is the bottom line.

Back in 2003, my beloved and I went shopping for a new mattress. We’d always just bought what was on sale and once, in a move I am still proud of, lucked into a feather mattress that someone had put out for spring collection. It must have been a gift, and something the person tossing it hadn’t liked as it was still in plastic. Feather mattresses are different, but for us? We could not believe our luck.

That feather mattress was amazing, and it lasted well, but it was time for us to buy something substantial, something that would guarantee good sleep. Since I was no longer working outside the home, I told David we would get whatever worked for him.

He chose the mattress, and it was the most expensive one we’d ever purchased—over one thousand dollars! But the money had been part of a wonderful and unexpected thank-you gift from his employer who’d sold his family business to a big company, and so we got the mattress without a second thought.

After about five months, David decided it was too hard. Then began a series of different bed toppers and then, finally, memory foam pads. We fared well, replacing the memory foam a couple of times. We love that foam.

Now the thing about memory foam is that it works really well as long as the mattress beneath it is in good shape.

Finally, the day came that we realized we just weren’t that comfortable anymore. The bed let us know it was near to being done. The box spring had become broken, and when we discovered that in July, our daughter gave us her queen sized one, because she couldn’t get it up the stairs. We thought we’d solved the problem, but alas, no. The mattress was also, as the saying goes, “pooched”. And so followed the discussion—what will we do? Now that discussion began at about the same time we began to really notice those commercials for the mattresses that come in a box. The adds swore that it would be the most comfortable bed you’ve ever owned. We were intrigued and wanted to know if it could be true. They’re guaranteed for ten years which is, by the way, about how long a mattress is supposed to last.

The mattresses could be ordered online, but while I might buy some things that way, a mattress is not one of them. How do I know if it’s as good as advertised? And they’re not cheap, by the way! In fact, they’re more than the one expensive one we bought sixteen years ago.

So this past Monday we traveled an hour and a half away to the very big city of Toronto and visited a store that sells these mattresses. They had four different models set up to try, and we did. We found the one we wanted on the second try, and seriously, it was the one we’d thought we would get. How did it feel?

Here is my considered, word-smith honed response to that question: Oh. My. Goodness.

We bought the bed and they promised it would be delivered within the week. I received the shipping notice yesterday: it arrives today! I’m certain that in next week’s essay, I’ll let you know how it is.

I believe there is nothing more important, at any age but especially at mine, as a really good night’s sleep. I am so looking forward to that!


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Wednesday's Words for October 30, 2019

There are several reasons why I write.

I began writing when I was ten or so, and even then, I understood that it wasn’t something that I had chosen to do. It, had, more or less, chosen me. I didn’t fully appreciate how that could be so, until I learned my father had been a writer, though he never was published.

Another reason I wrote, was to make my up own world, after the death of my dad. The world I was in wasn’t all that great, and writing became my escape.

Before I achieved publication, I had been given a second chance at life, through open heart surgery. With that realization came the sure and certain knowledge that I had to make that second chance count. I needed to make writing the focus of my life. I learned, through application and prayer, that I had actually been given another reason to write. I was to become transparent. To share with others what I had experienced, to touch others, to let them know they were not the only ones going through what they endured in life—that they were not alone.

None of us is alone, and while knowing that is good, feeling that is easier to accomplish when we can read the words of someone who, either through essays, or through created characters in fictional stories, shows us that they’ve been there too.

That was a big build up to this week’s essay because this one is very hard for me to write.

Our wonderful Mr. Tuffy has left us. He’d been sick for only a couple of weeks, and we’d been to the vet twice, and he while he seemed to improve, he relapsed. We went a third, and final time, and had x-rays taken. The result was the discovery of a tumor. He’d lost weight, he didn’t want to eat any more, and he was—well, if not in pain, he was in great unhappiness.

Euthanasia was the second to last thing we wanted to do. The last thing was to have him suffer any more than he already was. He passed this past Friday morning, in the arms of his daddy.

This hit us both hard, but it especially devastated David. They had been practically inseparable since Tuffy came to us in February of 2013. He was this adorable, little ball of fluff that fit in the palm of our hands. Tuffy truly became our third baby. In fact, in place of a crate, we used a playpen during those first months. He was his daddy’s best friend, and earlier this year when we got our scooters, Augie doggie and doggie daddy, as I called them, made daily excursions together to the park. They had such fun, and both of them always came home with smiles.

We have, my husband and I, suffered real tragedy in our lives, with the passing of a granddaughter and then, a few years later, her daddy, our son, Anthony, in 2006. There is no equivalency here, and of course we know that. But human emotions are tricky things. And I am here to tell you, it’s okay to grieve, and grieve hard for a fur baby. The toughest part for David was knowing that the expected lifespan for a Morkie is 10 to 13 years; David had been very pleased to find that out when we first got Tuffy, and he looked forward to all that time with the little guy. Sadly, Mr. Tuffy only lived to 6 and a half of those 13 years. And, of course, his passing was sudden. From that first visit to the vet to the last, was just ten days.

The vet didn’t expect this, either, because there are several conditions that a Morkie can develop, and the professionals believed he had been suffering from one of them. When the blood tests that first day showed he had an infection and low protein, we all—the vet included—thought the antibiotics would do their work, and at first, they seemed to. But by the end of the week, we knew they hadn’t, so another process was tried, but then he began to fail. Over Thursday night he developed respiratory problems, and we returned to the vet the next morning for what we soon knew would be the final time.

We’re both seniors now, David and I, and we have our own health issues. Tuffy had grown into middle age with us and was happy with the activity level we could provide him. We won’t, of course, acquire any more pets of our own. As it is, there’s a veritable herd waiting for us now at the rainbow bridge, beginning with the very first pet we ever had as a couple. Over the years? A conservative estimate would be that we’ve loved 12 dogs and likely just as many cats.

Soon, we’ll leave our deep mourning behind and focus on the endless joy Mr. Tuffy gave us. And he did give us endless, boundless joy. Helping us through this time are my daughter’s chihuahuas. Of course, they knew from the beginning that something was wrong. Pets usually do. And they’re a comfort, a soft warm body or four to remind us, gently, of the one who’s no longer with us.

Their attention to us is almost as if Tuffy, on his final day, told his best buddies to look after us for him.


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Wednesday's Words for October 23, 2019

This is a rare essay, because today I am actually writing—for a paragraph or four—about politics.

This past Monday, October 21, the 43rd Canadian general election was held. In Canada, we have a parliamentary system which means we don’t vote directly for the Prime Minister. The leader of the political party that elects the greatest number of members to the legislature (currently 338 seats total) becomes the Prime Minister.

Mr. Trudeau has been re-elected as Prime Minister, but this time with what we call a minority government. That means while his party has the most seats of any of the parties, it doesn’t have a majority of the seats of the legislature (his party now holds 155 seats). The turnout was 66% of eligible voters.

Some people believe that the best governing occurs during a minority government, because in order for legislation to be passed, and to avoid a vote of “non-confidence”, compromises must be made. A “Non-confidence” vote would effectively end the term of the government and another election would have to be called. This can be tricky because we Canadians don’t like to have our choice called into question too soon after we’ve made it. The party that forces another election often doesn’t do well as a result.

The last thing I will say about our election is this. The length of the campaigning period is limited by law. It must be at least 36 days long, but can be no more than 50. This is a good law. It means that we don’t have to endure the bombast and mudslinging of political ads upsetting our supper digestion for too long.

Also on this past Monday, the Ashbury family feasted on our traditional Thanksgiving turkey. Our Sonja hosted us at her house and as usual, cooked a wonderful dinner. I contributed a few things. She doesn’t like stuffing, so I made that for her. I also made the sweet potatoes, and three pies—two pumpkin and an apple.

Though I was quite busy in the kitchen Sunday and Monday morning, once we arrived at her place, I was able to relax and let others do the work. Three of our great-grandchildren were there—our two oldest who are my daughter’s grandbabies—and our youngest one, who is Emma’s daughter and Sonja’s granddaughter. Sonja also invited three of her co-workers, people we’ve met and dined with before. They’re nurses, as she is, and they’re bright with good senses of humor. Altogether there were thirteen of us. Fortunately, Sonja had purchased a twenty-two-pound turkey for the occasion.

A new family tradition, one that we owe to Sonja, is a game we play after supper. It’s a dice game called “left, right, center”, and it’s a lot of fun. We use dollar coins—each player begins with three. Everyone except our eight-month old granddaughter played. And as usual, it was a blast!

At one point during the evening, my husband leaned over and nodded toward our granddaughter, Emma, and her fiancé. “When you’re their age,” he said, “you always end up leaving early because of the children. When you’re our age? Again, you end up leaving early because of the children.” He had a point, as it was a very noisy gathering. Joyful, but noisy.

Our two older great-grandchildren, aged 6 and 5, were full of energy, very rambunctious and very loud. We really enjoyed being with family that night, but still definitely appreciated “listening to the clock on the wall” when we arrived home.

There’s another family tradition I feel I need to mention, one that I consider unfortunate, and this one goes back a couple of generations. When we were kids, my siblings and I, we were aware that our Mom had three brothers, but we only ever saw one of them. He was the brother closest to her in age (Mom was the youngest in her family). We were all quite close with Uncle Howard and Aunt Nora, and saw them regularly.

As my brother, sister and I grew from children into adulthood, my brother and sister also grew to really dislike each other. Despite being the youngest, I was in the midst of that. I got along with my sister—though I did have to work at it and seek Grace in order to do so—and of course, I was and still am fairly close to my brother. My sister died without them ever coming to terms, and I think that he hadn’t spoken to her for a good 10 years at the time of her death.

Raising our own children, our middle son didn’t get along with either his older brother or younger sister. After he passed, I thought that would be the end of enmity between my children, but alas, it’s not so. My son and daughter don’t get along. I very rarely have my oldest son and his family and the girls with theirs together in one place.

Yes, that makes me sad, but I know that I have no authority to change this reality. I’ve learned that you can’t make people get along with each other any more than you can make the sun rise or set. So far, I don’t see a sign of this unfortunate history repeating itself with the children of my son, or with my brother’s sons, for that matter, and that is definitely a blessing.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take all the blessings I can get.

P.S. As I mentioned last week, for those of you who are used to reading these words via the Yahoo groups, this message was posted at the top of the group page: “Attention: Starting December 14, 2019 Yahoo Groups will no longer host user created content on its sites. New content can no longer be uploaded after October 28, 2019. Sending/Receiving email functionality is not going away, you can continue to communicate via any email client with your group members.” I’m pretty certain that the way I post these words in the Yahoo groups will not be doable after this week’s essay. You can view Wednesday’s Words directly on its blog spot site. A link appears below.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wednesday's Words for October 16, 2019

This past Monday was Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Usually we would have had a nice, perfect turkey—because even up here in the True North Strong and Free, Thanksgiving Day is Turkey Day. Of course, we don’t often do things the usual way. We’ll be having the Turkey next Monday. When you have two girls working in the healthcare field, and who have varying schedules, flexibility is an absolute must.

Why, one year we had our family Christmas dinner in April!

Knowing that the turkey would be delayed, we purchased a bone-in ham for the actual holiday. The ones we get here are already fully cooked, and that’s a bonus. I do not care for the spiral cut hams. I like the ones that we can butcher ourselves. Normally, one of those hams is a lot more meat than we need, but of course, we know how to make more than one meal from a ham.

The plan was to slice the ham in the morning and choose how much we’d heat gently, for supper. The rest? Well, I make something called “ham and pickle”. It’s a sandwich filling. You simply put some ham through the food processor, then also chop up a bit of onion and some sweet pickles—I use the “sweet mixed” pickles as opposed to the bread-and-butter variety.

You chop, you mix, and you add mayo, and there you have it! A very tasty meat spread for sandwiches—and one that doesn’t last long around here. Finally, the bone and any of the juices of the ham remaining will be used either in the next couple of days or will be frozen for a future day, to make my 13-bean soup.

I owe my economy with food to my mother. She taught me how to shop and, by her example, how to make things stretch. I once read that the definition of thrift is skimming when the barrel is full, and I endorse that definition. My mother’s rules on shopping for groceries were simple: never shop hungry, and never shop without a list.

I always have a list. I use an excel spreadsheet that I edit through the week. Come grocery day, I print out my list, with the products I intend to purchase listed in the order in which I should encounter them in the store—and with the price I expect to pay right beside it. The list is then attached to my clip board. The staff at my regular grocery store are used to seeing me, buzzing around the store in my scooter, with that list in the basket.

Notice I wrote, “the order in which I should encounter them”. Every once in a while, the staff of our local grocery store moves things around. The official explanation for this ridiculous exercise is to expose shoppers to products they might not know about. I’m not anti-male, or anything like that, but I have learned that the upper management of this grocery chain is male, and because that is so, I’ve decided it is indeed the men at the top who came up with that ludicrous process and the reasoning behind it.

As if women who shop regularly at the same store every week do not know every item that is available there. What’s that you say, Mr. Grocery Store Executive? Some items aren’t selling, so you thought we didn’t know they were there? No, baby, so sorry. The fact that some of those items aren’t selling is what we women like to call a clue. You should, oh, I don’t know, live life on the edge and get one sometime.

This past Monday’s feast was accompanied by sweet potatoes, Brussels Sprouts (the girls both love these and so do we), coleslaw, mashed potatoes and a new dish I decided to try—collard greens.

The preparation for those greens was very different from the greens I’m used to, like Swiss Chard. It was an interesting recipe, and not at all difficult. Sadly, that was not only the first time I’d made that dish, it was very probably the last. I thought the greens were—okay, not good, but not too bad. But I was the only one in the family of that opinion.

I wasn’t completely discouraged by the failure my latest culinary experiment. I figure you never expand your gastronomic horizons without trying new things. Of course, that also means that by that same process, you learn what you don’t like, and occasionally, yes, tasting what you really don’t like almost makes you want to give up food forever, but this wasn’t one of those times.

For an example of one of those times? I never would have known to avoid cilantro at all costs if it were not for having tried it once.

And that right there is evidence that one isn’t necessarily the loneliest number. Sometimes it’s a magical number, one that saves you from future heartache—or in this case, taste bud abuse and tummy ache.

P.S. As I began to post this essay in my Yahoo Groups, I read a notice that the groups will be eliminating user created content. If you like these essays and wish to continue to read them after October 28, 2019, then please go to my Wednesday's Words blog spot and subscribe.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Wednesday's Words for October 9, 2019

I was off the grid for most of Wednesday last week, because right after I posted my essay, I began to install my new computer. I did have “on site” help in the form of my daughter. She plugged everything in, realized I didn’t have a whatsit cord for my monitor, and went out to the local store to get one for me. So she did all the connecting of the new machine. When I’d purchased the computer, I left it at Best Buy, so that the Geek Squad could actually "set it up", complete with Firefox and Chrome as my internet browsers, with Skype and of course their awesome antivirus installed.

But there was still a lot for me to do. I needed to install my most important bookmarks, sites I go to on a regular basis. I also had to log into Microsoft Office, Drop Box, and a few other facilities and sign in and tell this machine to remember me. Then I opened a word file and prepared to change the name of it. 

Imagine my surprise when my brand-new system, which I had purchased with my own, hard-earned money, and which would only ever be used by me told me: “You are not authorized to make this change. Please contact your administrator.” 

My administrator? Well, okay. I can do that. I took a moment for prayer and realized during that process that He was not the administrator to which the machine was referring. So I double clicked on the Geek Squad help button, and let them fix that issue, as well as the issue of everything being too small on the screen. They took remote control of my computer and made the changes needed—I didn’t follow it all, but soon discovered that mostly, for the “administrator” problem, it was a simple fix of going into some locations and noting that this computer is a home office computer, and not a computer on a company network of many.

Now here, for a moment, I’m going to digress. A friend advised me that the Geek Squad was a form of “big brother” and has been known to report users to the police for prosecution. That had never occurred to me. I would assume he meant reports for such things as…what? Child pornography? The plotting of terrorist attacks? I had never thought about that, in fact had never considered that this could be a “thing”. Once I thought about it, though, I decided that in all likelihood, by law, these services are required to do such reporting the same way that, by law, teachers, or medical personnel must report when they see evidence of child abuse. That is as it should be. Now, I do sympathize with the whole “desire for privacy in a free society” school of thought. But that desire, taken to the extreme is the best tool ever for those who would subvert our free society. I will admit here and now that if I was in my twenties or thirties, I might very well take a course or five and learn how to do all the necessary changes/fixes/repairs to my own computer myself. But I’m 65 and I am happy to leave that task to others.

So the Geek Squad technician fixed all my issues, and by supper time on Wednesday, everything was set to go except my printer. I darn near clicked on that help icon again, but instead decided to see if maybe I could get it working on my own. And I did, so yay, one victory for the old woman.

I don't know about all y'all but this kind of exercise stresses me out more than a bit. I'm so darn anal that I like things to go according to how they're supposed to go, period. In a way, it’s the same with my car. I take it in regularly for oil changes, and small repairs. But as my car gets older, and noises crop up, I become stressed. I want it to function and function well, so I don’t have to worry, and I don’t have to go down that horrid, awful path of “what if”. Just so y’all know, I am knocking on wood right at this moment and I will not even name the byways along that cursed path, “what if”.

I also had to get a new keyboard and mouse, as mine were worn out. For the keyboard, it was missing the white on some of the keys. Now, when I’m working and not thinking too deeply about things, just letting the story emerge, my fingers are on the correct keys and I am keying away. But when I’m not doing that I sometimes have to think about where the keys are, and that can be a problem if I can’t see the markings.

The set I just replaced was a wireless set, as is this new one, and as you know it uses one thingy for both keyboard and mouse. I had retired my mouse a couple of months ago because it was double clicking every few clicks, which is not good at all. So I’d had to use a second USB in a second port for a separate, second mouse, and that caused me to have to find other ways to charge my devices. I guess there are ports on the back of the tower, but it’s the two on the front that I can most easily use.

The new keyboard of course takes a bit of time to get used to. My biggest new keyboard challenge? Overcoming my fingers’ confusion between the backspace key and the back-slash key. The former is above the latter and I cannot tell you how many times I hit the latter instead of the former until my fingers learned the correct spacing and placement.

From reading this essay, you might surmise that I really don’t like change. I would tell you you’re right, and then assert that truly, the only humans who really like change are babies wearing diapers. Change, when necessary, is necessary, and I may grumble, but then I just get on with it. If I stress, it’s not for long, and for one very good reason.

Letting any inanimate object or accompanying minutiae prevent me from being the best me I can be is a waste of time, energy, and potential.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Wednesday's Words for October 2, 2019

Mother Nature offered us an end of season special yesterday morning! I’m not sure if she intended it as a simple “fall sale” or a “back-to-school” bonanza. However, since I watched the news the night before, I knew that a lot of cities in the eastern and southern United States would be into the nineties today, and some were yesterday, too. We didn’t make it quite that high here yesterday—just into the eighties. And muggy. It was very muggy.

Of course, there was a cold front on that heat’s tail, and the sudden thunderstorm that ripped through here just before four p.m. was something. Fortunately, we suffered no damage but there were a lot of trees down in the large city just to our east. It had been sunny and hot, and we’d planned to grill outdoors and then, boom! Well, my daughter still grilled the meat in our propane barbecue despite the rain, because she’s stubborn that way.

I’ve given up guessing how any given day will go, weather-wise, until it happens. But according to the forecast, the temps of yesterday really were a one-day special event for us. She’s such a capricious bitch, is Mother Nature, that one can never be certain what might be in store. I suspect that she holds “unpredictability” as a high virtue, indeed.

This is the part of the year where, if folks are in their cars, they employ the heater in the morning and the a/c in the afternoon. I don’t spend a lot of time driving anymore, but I can tell you, the same general principle applies here, in my house.

 Our central air unit that sits outside the living room window is still uncovered. I had to use it yesterday, and I may need to use it this afternoon. Yes, the weather network says it’s only going to be in the sixties today, but who really knows? Only time will tell.

 The heat needing to be on in the morning this early is due in part to my daughter. She gets up very early, and she absolutely loves the cooler temperatures. I think she’s nearly allergic to the heat. On hot days, she really suffers. If I get up early—around six or even before—I will find her on the front porch, enjoying her morning coffee with the door open. Her stated reason for that is so her dogs can go back and forth between her and our blanket-endowed sofa. But I suspect the secondary reason is so the entire house can enjoy the mid-forties of pre-dawn mornings in the fall.

It’s nearly time to batten down the hatches, as it were. The backyard outside furniture needs to be stored, and the material covering the gazebo unhooked, taken down, and brought into the house to be washed and then put away in the attic. We leave the metal frame in place over winter, because David has decided it’s easier that way. The frame of the first gazebo we had only came down once for winter. He had such a hard time putting it back together, he vowed, “never again”.

Our fall television shows have begun, and while we don’t watch many together, we’re wedded to the ones we do watch. We have something each evening of the week except Thursday. Of course, once The Voice is done (before Christmas), that will take away Monday and Tuesday, at least for a couple of months until the next season of it begins. We like to have something to watch on Saturday evenings, so we go to our system’s “on demand” feature and watch on that night two programs that air on Tuesday.

My desktop computer began making noise a few months ago, telling me that it really is getting old. Electronics have always had a kind of built-in obsolescence, and while I don’t care about that so much—I really don’t need to have the latest widget or the spiffiest whatsit—I do care that the thing works when I turn it on. I work as an author at home, so this wonderful device aids me in earning my nickels and dimes as much as it provides most of my entertainment.

I might have been able to take it in somewhere and perhaps have had it fixed. We tried to figure out how long I’ve had this. I recall deleting downloaded files from 2012. That makes this machine old for its kind. But as I was considering sending it for repairs, the local electronics chain-store posted a sale. I couldn’t resist a deal that was nearly half off—and of course, the purchase of a new computer is a tax deduction for me. It goes without saying (though I just have) that a new keyboard is also in order as this one—only a couple of years old—is missing the markings on a few of the keys. It’s a wireless keyboard and mouse combo—and the mouse started blessing me with “double” clicks a while back. It had already been retired.

Winter is coming, and probably will arrive faster than any of us would like. I’d caught glimpses of predictions as to just what kind of a winter we can expect here. As I was composing this essay, I decided to do a Google search to find a definitive answer. Or rather, as definitive as an answer can be when it comes to weather prediction. One article, posted by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) has already dubbed the oncoming season a “polar coaster”. Enough said.

Regardless of the actual weather we may receive, I tend, as you may recall, to count winter as being October 1 to March 31 inclusive. No, we don’t get measured, distinctive seasons anymore, and haven’t for some time. So, yes, October to March. I’m one of those anal types who likes to have something in black and white, even if it comes under the heading of self-placation.

This means, of course, that beginning yesterday, the countdown to spring has begun!


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wednesday's Words for September 25, 2019

Autumn has arrived, it’s in the air—and in the enormous scattering of leaves on my porch, porch steps and sidewalk. We have a walnut tree at the north west corner of the house, and it is always the last tree to get its leaves, and the first to lose them.

Once the walnuts have formed, its as if the tree says, “there, my job is done. Time to go back to sleep.” The tree has grown a great deal since we’ve been in this house. The first decade or so of our years here saw us spending a lot of time, in good weather, out on that porch, reading and chatting.

I read somewhere years ago that living plants and trees benefited from human conversation. I’m still fanciful enough to believe our presence and discussions encouraged that tree to grow.

For the last few years, our youngest grandson came weekly to cut our lawn, but last spring he moved to a town about a half hour from here. He lives with his sister and her fiancé, and they are getting along like best friends! That is such a joy, as they were forever at each other when they were little. He has a car now, but he also has a part time job that he worked all summer and has maintained now that he’s back to school.

A half hour’s drive each way was, we believed, too much to ask of him. Therefore, this past summer, the girl next door has been coming over each week to cut our grass. She does a very good job, and we’re all pleased. Fall inevitably brings with it outside jobs to be done, so we’re hoping the grandsons can be corralled into helping a couple of times. Though we are now a household of three, not a one of us should be climbing on ladders with leaf blowers in order to clean the gutters.

Monday afternoon brought an unexpected treat. As much as I don’t look forward to the chilly weather of fall, generally speaking, I was delighted that a cool, fresh breeze sprang up. My daughter and I opened both doors, as the one thing I really love is airing out the house. Both doors have to be soundly propped open, so neither one may slam shut as a result of that cleansing breeze.

Not long after opening the doors, the clouds rolled in and burst open. We closed the back door momentarily—the front was protected by the porch. It didn’t last long, and when it was done the scent of fresh rain perfumed the air. We re-opened the back door so we could capture all that clean freshness. That morning and a few days before had been humid and close. This was crisp and clean. According to the weather network, we’re in for a mini heat wave the first couple of days of October. I’ve also read our winter may be colder than normal.

In this part of the world, it’s probably a good idea, weather-wise, to live in the moment.

We have ceiling fans in our living room, kitchen, and in my office. Wonderful devices, those fans. Our thermostat, likewise, is amazing. To go from heat to central air and back again—something that yes, I have done this month—is a simple matter via use of a touch-screen. I recall years past when, once the decision was made to light the furnace, that was that. Of course, we never had central air, so fans were most welcome and well used.

I much prefer the ease of comfort we have now. Too much cool isn’t merely uncomfortable for me. It comes and leaves aching joints as a memento.

I do miss all the canning we used to do. Making dill pickles, green relish, and chili sauce were good fall activities. I made bread and butter pickles a few times but that was quite a bit of work. August usually witnessed a spate of jam making. Strawberry would be the first, and then blueberry, peach and sometimes even cherry. I’ve done none of that this year at all. Everything depends on these capricious joints of mine. What a pain! And yes, pardon the pun.

I’m still working on me, and my attitude. I really wish I was one of those spry sixty-five-year-old women who is active and vital with boundless energy. I’m not. My biggest challenge is to understand there some things I can change, and some I can’t. I know it’s a question of mind over matter. You know that pun, I’m sure.

If you don’t mind, then it really doesn’t matter.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wednesday's Words for September 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Wednesday's Words for September 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Wednesday's Words for September 4, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 28, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 21, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there is one more thing you can do.

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

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

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


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Wednesday's Words July 31, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

And that was when I had my epiphany.

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

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

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