Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Wednesday's Words for March 27, 2019

The springtime birds are singing, and the sun is shining. On two separate days in the last week, I stepped out onto my porch, inhaled deeply, and smelled the fresh air I associate with spring.

According to Ashbury family lore, however, winter commences on October 1st and ends on March 31st. Yes, six months, because this is Canada, eh, and we take winter seriously here north of the 49th. Such has always been my experience.

There do appear to be several signs of impending spring. One might even include, just yesterday, the honking sound of geese flying north. Although that in fact can no longer be considered a sign of spring because the birds don’t always migrate anymore. Regardless of the signs, the temperatures remain quite chilly. Winter coat, scarf around the neck and gloves on aching hands chilly.

The temperature did reach its forecasted high, yesterday, of 41 and I do hope for 46 today, but I am not counting on it. Fifty on Friday they say, but I am beginning to think “they” really don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.

I’ve been feeling just a little antsy over the last week or so, and that has been a sign of spring for the last handful of years, too. My beloved has begun taking himself off to the front porch each morning, recently. He makes a cup of coffee upon his return from walking the dog, and takes that coffee—and the dog, of course—out to one of the lawn chairs to sit and sip and watch our street. For a good half hour, he enjoys that coffee and soaks up sun each day. Yes, it’s cold and he bundles up, but having worked outside for forty years, and in all kinds of weather, he misses being out-of-doors. I know he’s looking forward to the warmer weather so he can take his laptop out, either onto the front porch, or into the back yard gazebo. There he plans to write away, with no solid walls around him.

I’ve never been as wedded to being outside as he. The last few years especially, I have to be careful to keep a light blanket close, even on the warmer spring days. If the thermometer says it’s seventy-five, and there’s any breeze at all, my arthritic legs think it’s a cool breeze, and I pay the price in pain for my folly that evening. Some days I don’t mind that so much.

Some days, it’s worth it. But this time of year? Not happening. It’s not just chilly, it’s still damp. We went through a period just after he retired, my beloved and I, when he tried to get me outside with him, convinced that I needed the fresh air. I finally had to give in a few times so he could see that what was wonderful for him wasn’t necessarily a good idea for me. He really did just want me to partake of something he believes is good and healthy. I really wish I could with no consequences.

But as in everything, each of us in this life only knows what we know.

The ground is still frozen, and as the frost slowly leaves it, more moisture is put into the soil. Our yard is in need of a good raking, but it can’t be done yet. The ground has to dry a little more, the leaves and cedar seeds have to dry a little more, because David’s preferred method of raking is the leaf blower, a convenience he won a few years back at a company golf tournament.

I won’t wish the crocuses, hyacinths, or narcissi to appear too soon. I’m content to wait for the earth to prepare itself and the weather to settle down some. They’ll come in due course, my beloved flowers.

I’ve lived in this area all my life, and I’ve seen snowfall in May. We have a way to go yet before those buds should appear. I do believe I’ll appreciate the beauty of them more for the anticipation of their appearance. As I said, it’s still early days yet.

Why, counting today, by my reckoning, we still have five more days of winter to get through! And as we all know, almost anything can happen in winter.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Wednesday's Words for March 20, 2019

As I approach my 65th birthday, there is one change that I never expected, and one that becomes more annoying with each passing year. I never really liked that whole “spring forward, fall back” thing we do each spring—or should I say, each near-spring. But lately, I absolutely hate it.

Strong language for me, right?

Here we are on day ten of this annual event, and I am still having one hell of a time getting with the program. Prior to “the change” I was waking up on my own at 7:30 each morning. That’s a good time to awaken, don’t you think? Unless I have a special reason to get up earlier, I refuse to set my alarm. I’m soon going to achieve official retirement age, but I retired from the “working world” in January of 2003, and the only concession I received as a prize for my years of going to the j.o.b. was to not have an alarm blasting me awake every morning.

However, for the last ten days I have been awakening at 8:00 a.m., and while that sounds good, it’s a case of an ongoing dispute between my mind and my body. Honestly, they remind me of my two younger children, growing up. The constant back and forth bickering between the two is enough to drive me to drink!

Mind: Holy crap, it’s 8 a.m. already! I slept in again!
Body: No, it’s not 8 a.m. it’s only 7 a.m. Need more sleep. We’ll get up at 7:30.
Mind: We don’t need more sleep. We were in bed by midnight.
Body: Wasn’t midnight. Was 1 a.m.
Mind: Now, that doesn’t make any sense at all.
Body: Makes perfect sense. Need more sleep.

Friends, it’s a sad state of being when you have this sotto voce argument happening within you, when part of you just wants to get that morning coffee and get the day rolling. Being the curious sort (as in, I am inquisitive about things as opposed to just being odd) I’ve done a bit of research on this, and I understand that I am not the only person having a challenge dealing with this annual transition.

It’s a universal enough problem that there have been medical articles written about it. One article stated that the rule of thumb is, it takes a person one day per hour of sleep lost to adjust to the new normal.

Did you hear my sigh? Yeah, that was my patented, “I know you’re all physicians, all well trained and smart, but you’re only talking about some “median” human that doesn’t really exist and who, if they did exist, would have very few like-beings in reality” sigh. I used to think this trouble adjusting I’d heard about was a myth. But here I am, nearly at that notable age, and it’s not a myth. Seriously, my mind is losing the battle with my body trying to convince it that it’s really 8 a.m. and we should strive to awaken earlier.

Of course, I’m not surprised. My body never has learned to listen to my mind.

I’ve tried going to bed earlier. No, let me rephrase that. I have tried intending to go to bed earlier. I do intend doing just that each night, but that’s been a challenge, too. I can report that the last two nights I’ve managed to lay my head on the pillow before midnight. But I need to try doing that little thing before eleven p.m. for it to make a difference.

I don’t go for a nap mid-day, and maybe that’s something else I’m going to have to reconsider. At about 1:30 or so in the afternoon I do leave my desk and head into the living room and my electric recliner. It helps my arthritis if I can have my legs up for a portion of the day.

So we both leave our desks, my husband and I, get comfy with our legs up in our respective recliners, and turn on the television. We watch news reports and such, and generally I might doze off for a few minutes here and there. But I don’t actually nap. Most usually I’ll spend about twenty minutes “floating” and that’s it.

I was discussing this problem I’m having with my beloved and he gave me an insight that I never once considered. He said to me, “Huh. I don’t have any problem with the time change at all.”

I thought about that and I realized, I might know why that is. For the most part, he gets up each day when he’s done sleeping, he stretches out with me at 1:30 and promptly falls asleep, snoring and all; then he gets up from his recliner at about 3 or so and goes for a two-hour nap in bed.

When he awakens, his supper is nearly ready, and when it is, he eats it. He does do the dishes after supper, and he does stay up until two a.m. or so each night. But as near as I can tell, that is the only truly structured part of his day. So maybe my real problem is I need to learn how to be a retired person, because looking at my own routine, I realize I’ve got a foot in each of two realms—structured, working day world and pseudo-retirement world. Yes, one foot in each and they are slowly but surely drifting apart.

One of the things my body has never listened to my mind about that little thing called balance. No matter how hard I have tried, I simply don’t have much of that ability.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wednesday's Words for March 13, 2019

It always amazes me how very quickly life can go back to pre-vacation “normal” as soon as the bags are unpacked and stored upstairs once more.

One thing I try to do now—now that time seems to be moving so much more quickly than it did even ten years ago—is to cherish each day, regardless of the circumstances. I try not to wish any time away by staying, as much as I can, in the moment in which I find myself. That doesn’t mean I don’t anticipate the days to come, but I don’t make the future my focus. Taking things one day at a time seems to help me hang onto that day just a tad longer.

And even doing that, the memories made during those eleven days when I was outside my own country, have already dimmed slightly. It’s a conundrum, in my opinion: plan a trip and prepare for it for several months or more prior to departure (in this case, WWW in San Antonio was on my appointment book for 2 years); leave on a jet plane, or by car; enjoy each day of the time away; actually sit back and relish the moments. Then come home and get sucked back into the routine that you forgot, while you were away, was something you love.

When I am having less kind thoughts, I chalk this need for a balancing act up to humans being mostly a fickle lot. The grass is always greener, and blah blah blah. I think this quality is human nature, but one that is neither good nor bad; it just is. Maybe our “fickleness”—our letting go of some of those memories so quickly—harkens back to the beginning of human society. If the cave woman let her head stay on yesterday’s party, she wouldn’t see the saber-tooth tiger about to pounce on her today.

I spend a lot of time watching people. I find them endlessly fascinating, of course, and it’s also research for me, all part of the way I spend my days. You can’t create relatable characters if you don’t understand humans and their foibles. You can’t express emotion in words if you don’t learn how to read facial expressions and body language.

The words I pen are my life’s work. I am convinced they’re the reason I was put on this earth—at the very least, they’re the reason I didn’t die when my angioplasty procedure in 2002 turned into an emergency triple bypass. Knowing this, I seek always to get better at penning those words and communicating the story—or the message—that I believe someone needs to hear. I used to say that everywhere I went, everything I saw, everyone I met and everything I did—in short, all of my experiences—went into my “well”, and it is from this well that I draw to tell my stories. So if I didn’t go and see and meet and do, my well would run dry. I still believe that. My most recent challenge in this life has been to expand the definitions of going, seeing, meeting and doing. If the purpose is to inscribe knowledge upon the hippo-campus, then any knowledge one obtains through any medium qualifies. I still want to actually leave my home (occasionally) to physically go, see, meet, and do. But as that becomes more challenging, I have to improvise. So far, that plan is working. I just have to keep getting up each day, remain curious about the world I live in, and keep learning.

Oh, and I have to keep writing, too.

Life throws challenges our way on a regular basis. That is life’s job—and it does its job pretty damn well, let me tell you. Our job is to dig through the copious piles of crap life tosses at us, looking for that pony.

The memories that I know will remain with me of the trip so recently taken are the times I spent with good friends, sitting quietly and listening and sharing ideas. Life for me, at its core, is about connections.

It’s people that matter, more than anything else, because people—helping other people, touching other people—are the entire reason we’re all here on this earth.


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Wednesday's Words for March 6, 2019

We had a wonderful time on our trip to Texas. There were a few anxious moments as we traveled, wondering if we were going to make connecting flights, but it all turned out well in the end. I enjoyed meeting so many of my readers face to face for the first time, and making new friends as well, who will hopefully become new readers.

After the book event—Wild Wicked Weekend, excellently organized by Cate Beaumont and Trish Bowers—we traveled to an undisclosed location to visit with good friends. We had a tour of the Hill Country, and spent some precious time together, time to reconnect and talk of big things and small. Time for which I am very grateful.

The afternoon before our flight out, I was fortunate enough to have lunch with my publisher, Amanda Hilton. It had been nearly five years since we were face to face. I am so grateful to be published with Siren-Bookstrand. I first met Amanda in the late spring of 2006, when I pitched a book to her during the Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention. That was twelve years ago, and the book in question became my first published novel.

I’m now working on my 60th title for Siren.

Ms. Hilton was accompanied by a woman with whom I communicate each time I have a book ready for publication. How wonderful to have a face to go with the name!

And then, too soon, it was time to head toward home. Even in the anticipation of the trip back to my everyday world, there was an opportunity to see something new. For all the traveling we’ve done, and the flights we’ve taken and the several times we’ve landed in New York City, we’d only ever been to La Guardia airport. This time, coming back from San Antonio to Buffalo, our lay-over was at JFK International Airport.

Of course, we were excited about that. We were going to be visiting one of the most famous airports in the world. The glitz! The glamour! Alas, the…disappointment. It began as soon as we landed. We waited on board the plane for all the other passengers to get off, before we deplaned. And when I got to the jet-way it was to discover there was no wheelchair waiting for me. There should have been, as I was on their “list”.

After several minutes, one of the flight attendants went up the jet-way (which turned out to have three levels), found a wheelchair, and brought it down, so I could at least sit. The amazing Delta Airlines flight crew attempted to call the gate, but the phone in the jet-way wasn’t working. They waited with me, and after another ten minutes, they took me up to the terminal proper themselves. There was another wait then, but at least I was no longer in the cold jet-way.

Fortunately, we had a couple of hours until our flight to Buffalo, and eventually someone did arrive to assist us. We were able to grab a lunch, and then we settled in at our gate to read as we waited for the final flight of this trip.

It was good to have one more over-night in Buffalo after a long day of traveling. The hotel we chose across from the airport had an on-site restaurant, so it was easy to settle in for the evening. Having gotten up at three a.m. so we could get to the San Antonio airport on time for our early morning flight, we were exhausted by nine-thirty that night.

Now we’re home, unpacked, and reunited with our fur baby, Mr. Tuffy—and in the way that I’ve always found curious, back to normal so soon after our twelve-day excursion. All that’s left for me to do is to ruminate on the places we visited, the events we experienced, but most importantly, at least to me, the people we met.

We all have our lives, our minutia, our routines—we all take our life’s journey one step at a time. But among the choices we make and the moments we experience, the going and the doing and the sitting and the thinking, it’s the connections we make that matter the most. When we open ourselves up to meeting other people, to listening and sharing, we’re doing what I’ve long believed we’re all meant to do here in this life and on this earth, to one degree or another: we touch others.

For a space of time, we interact, and share, we lend our life force to those around us, we give, and if we’re lucky, we receive back that communion of spirits, that interlude of interaction. When you look into someone’s eyes, when you take their hand and open yourself to their presence, to their thoughts and their heart, when you acknowledge them, you’re giving a gift that is priceless, yes, even beyond gold or precious gems or fame.

Because this connection, one human being with another, is the most real and significant thing in the world—and the one thing that has the power to change lives.