Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Wednesday's Words for May 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wednesday's Words for May 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday's Words for May 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wednesday's Words for May 8, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Wednesday's Words for May 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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