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 fiancĂ©. “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!