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.