Wednesday, November 15, 2017

November 15, 2017

In August of 2010 we returned home from a vacation that had included a visit to Disneyland in Orlando, to attend an RWA conference. The month before, we’d said goodbye to our Boots-kitty. He was an all black Persian, that had originally belonged to our Sonja. She brought him with her when she moved in here for a time. Having been an indoor cat until then, he became quite fond of the outside world while Sonja was with us, and when she and our son moved to an apartment in another city, she thought it would be cruel to suddenly deprive him his new-found freedom outside. Though we live in a town, this is a quiet neighborhood, with little traffic and plenty of cats.

We agreed to keep him, since he was already a member of the family. That was in 1997, so he was old, about 14 or 15 when he left us. A week before we came home from our vacation in 2010 it was to learn that a new cat had arrived—on her own as it were, or if you believe in such things, sent here by God when she was likely abandoned. I say abandoned, because she had no front claws. People who declaw cats don’t generally let them outside. Efforts were made, of course, to find her home and her owner, all to no avail. The area vets had never seen her before, and she had no “chip” implanted.

Now, her arrival was eerie, to say the least. She was all black, like Boots, except for a patch on her chest. Not a Persian like Boots, but she appeared to have some Maine Coon in her, and she had long hair. She showed up on our porch on a rainy day. My daughter was staying here looking after our old dog, Rochie, while we were gone, and discovered the cat when she came home in the middle of her work day. She spoke to this kitty, of course, as no one in this family would ever chase away a stray. My daughter returned to work, and when she came back again at the end of the day, the cat was still here, so she invited the kitty in.

This black cat went straight to the corner of the living room where Boots’s green cat stand had stood (and which I had removed when I came back from the vet on that fateful day because I couldn’t bear to look at it), turned to look at my daughter, and, (so my daughter said) gave her merry hell for the stand being gone. To appease the small beast, my daughter asked this interloper kitty if she wanted some treats.

 Whereupon this cat made its way to the kitchen and jumped up on the same chair that Boots would jump up on to receive his treats. For these two reasons, my grandson’s girl friend named this cat Spooky, while he named her Creepy.

Not caring for either of those names, I called her Puddy. When I came home from vacation, I walked straight to where she’d been ensconced since she arrived—inside, on the fourth step of the stairs going up to the second level. I patted her, and spoke to her, and that was it. She followed me into my office, and was the first critter to inhabit the spot on my writing desk between my monitor and tower.

In her attempts before we arrived home to locate her owner, my daughter had taken her to the vet, as I said, to see if there was a chip in her, but there was not. The vet told her at that time that Puddy was an older cat—likely at least seven or eight years old. My daughter thought that perhaps she’d belonged to an elderly woman who’d had to be moved by her family to assisted living. She said she sees that all the time in her line of work (she’s a community care giver). They tell mom they found a wonderful new home for her beloved kitty when the truth is, they simply put the cat outside and abandon it.

Puddy made her place in our family, and when Mr. Tuffy arrived a couple of years later, she tolerated him once he acknowledged her position at the top of the family totem. She was demanding at times, earning the nick-name bitch-kitty. And in the last month or so, she became very affectionate with me. She demanded to be held a lot, and I accommodated her as often as I could. I had the sense in the last couple of weeks especially, that she was saying goodbye.

On Monday, October 30th, my beloved let our Puddy out the back door as he did every morning, before he left for work. She would go out early each morning and then when she was ready, would come right back in through the cat window and yes, she could go out the cat window too, but why make the effort when one of her staff was there to wait on her?

On this particular Monday, however, Puddy didn’t return. That had never happened, not once in seven years. We looked for her, of course, and called all of the area vets, and the proper authorities. We found no sign of her, and even while I looked and called, I somehow knew we wouldn’t.

She left us as she’d arrived, and as she’d lived—on her own terms, taking in the love and affection and massive amount of Temptation cat treats as her due. I don’t expect to see her among the former pets I’ll encounter at the rainbow bridge. I believe there’s a woman with a prior claim, who’s lap she’ll belong in, and that’s as it should be.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

November 8, 2017

Today is a double birthday celebration in the Ashbury family! Today, my beloved turns sixty-five years old—and our second daughter, our Sonja, turns forty.

Both are landmark birthdays, and despite the way both of the celebrants sometimes grumble about making a fuss, or the ever constantly mumbled, “please don’t remind me”, I believe that birthdays are to be celebrated.

They are proof that so far, the bastards haven’t beaten you down. They haven’t won. You survived another year, and you’re still here, baby!

That sentiment isn’t as negative as it might appear, at first glance, to be. It kind of reminds me of that old joke about a man, falling from the sixtieth floor of a building, being heard saying as he past the thirtieth floor, “so far, so good”.

 I know that I tend to always give a mostly upbeat message in these essays, and that’s because despite everything, I’m a mostly upbeat person. Maintaining a positive attitude affects things more than I can prove to you; the more positive you remain, the more positive you feel, and the more positive life actually becomes for you.

That doesn’t mean I don’t know how crappy things can be, how dark, or how hopeless. I do know because I’ve been there, which is why I insist upon having an attitude of gratitude, and celebrating the bright side as often as possible.

When I do those two things, I’m saying, sure, there is a dark side to life, and crap happens. Crap happens to everybody—but I don’t care. I don’t care that there may be horrors or disasters in my future. They will happen, with or without me. I will get through them. They don’t come to stay, they come to pass. Like the song says, “if you’re going through hell, keep on going.”

Life is entirely too short to spend your time worrying. We already spend enough time working, and wondering what the future could be. Friends, you add worry to that mix, and that is a triple ‘w’ that has nothing to do with the internet. How much better to give life it’s due: go to work, do your best, then at the end of the day go home, and try to remember that life is really for learning, laughing, and loving.

I’m not sure how we will celebrate these two milestones this year. I’ve heard no news or whispers from the rest of the family, so I don’t know if the kids are planning anything for David, or not. Although he was very humbled and deep-down pleased by the open house his company hosted for him at the beginning of October, he’s never really cared for parties. I’m not sure why that is, exactly, but there you have it.

He and I differ in that regard.

Party or no party, I do know the kids will be certain to call on the day of, and visit as soon after as they can. Our kids usually don’t forget our birthdays, though they have a couple of times. We certainly understand how busy life can be, especially for those still dealing with kids. And when they do forget those things, well, I believe there’s a value in human growth and development when we make those little faux pas from time to time and experience a bit of rue. Not a bad way to keep the ego in check, either.

Since this is a Wednesday, I’ll serve my beloved one of his favorite suppers, and give him a pass on doing the dishes.

That might seem like just another Wednesday in the Ashbury household. But the difference, I believe, as it is in most things, is in what lies within the heart.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November 1, 2017

In the Ashbury household, the countdown clock to retirement is at R minus 23. My beloved’s last day on the job is Friday, November 24th. The day following is the company Christmas party, to be held at a steakhouse not far from the job site. We’ve been invited to attend, and it will be, in all likelihood, the last time my husband sees any of the people he’s worked with—some for as long as twenty-five years.

He’s never been one to mix socially with his co-workers. He never really made any close friends on the job. In fact, he really only has a small handful of people he considers to be close friends. I actually believe that’s how it is for most of us. We could all probably count the people we have met in our lifetimes in the hundreds, but close friends and confidants generally without using all the fingers of both hands.

David commented in his note this morning that he thought it was going to be harder to get up each morning the closer he drew to the end. He really is tired, and looking forward to no longer having to get up at 4 in the morning. I’ve been a witness to how difficult it’s been for him these last couple of years. He’s worked hard all our lives, even to the point of, early on in our marriage, shoveling driveways in the winter when he was out of a job. He deserves his rest.

We’ve done a fair bit of talking, as you can imagine, over the last little while, about what our daily routines will be like. He insists that he doesn’t want to waste his days away, and so will likely get up at no later than seven-thirty each morning. Of course, for him that’s three and a half hours later than normal.

I’m more of the theory that we’ll kind of release the norms of getting up and going to bed. David used to be a night owl, and so did I though we went through those particular stages at different times in our lives. My brother told me recently that he tends to go to bed and get up early, whereas his wife of more than 50 years now gets up and goes to bed late.

I won’t be surprised if we have a similar circumstance, after a while. We’ve never lived in each other’s pockets our entire lives. We’ve never been a couple who had to do everything together. We’ve always pursued our own interests, and actually enjoy the time we spend by ourselves (as in, himself and myself). Aside from the three weeks he’s had off over Christmas the past couple of years, we haven’t spent day after day together, not in the last, well, thirty-nine and a half years. There was always work, and so this is going to be…interesting.

We joke about it a little, because we are both very much aware that no one is perfect. We’ve been together a long time, but that doesn’t mean we live, sleep and eat hearts and flowers. No one does. We’re each of us very capable of getting on the other’s nerves. For his part, my husband plans to get himself a scooter, and go out a couple days a week. For my part, I plan to get up earlier, and encourage him to nap if he’s tired. One takes one’s alone time where one can find it.

We aren’t marching into our futures, secure and solid in our idea of what it’s going to be like for us. We’re old enough to know that few things are as imagined. But we’re also wise enough to understand that this is the dawn of a new phase in our lives. So we’ll face it the way we’ve faced most challenges over the years.

We’ll do the best we can, and try very hard not to sweat the small stuff.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

October 25, 2017

Autumn is definitely in full swing here in Southern Ontario. The good news is that our walnut tree has finally dropped practically all of its leaves. The bad news? There was a bumper crop of walnuts this year, and about half of them are still up there!

Calm days aren’t so bad. Windy days? Friends, we are living in a war zone! Those little bombs make a bang when they hit the roof on their way to the ground. Those that are on the road make a loud pop when run over by a vehicle. If it’s windy, and you have to go out the front door? You pray to be spared a walnut bomb on the noggin.

War, as they say, is hell.

As we all know, there is more than one kind of war being waged in our society these days. There was a war on poverty once, though anymore it looks like it’s morphed from an effort to ease the suffering of those afflicted by it, to an effort to simply make the lives of those afflicted harder and crueler. There’s a war on drugs, but I have no idea if we’re winning or losing that one.

People who identify along different places of the political spectrum seem to be at war, as well, and with each other, at that! That is a sad, sad state of affairs. Really, isn’t that war not much unlike the controversy between the over/under proponents on the best way to hang toilet paper?

And then there’s another war going on, one that did in fact begin raging long before I was ever born. This war I call the forgotten war. There have been moments during my life time, when it’s suddenly in the spotlight. And every time that happens, hell, I think we end up going backwards a couple of steps, instead of making progress.

That war, of course, is the one that nearly every woman alive on this entire freaking planet is aware of and even familiar with. It is a war being fought in classrooms, and courtrooms; in Hollywood, and New York. It is a war that is waged in restaurants and boardrooms, in factories and everywhere else that people—female people—work or live.

It’s a war for respect, for equality, and for the right not to be harassed, not to be touched, not to be ridiculed or made to hear rude, sexist comments. It’s a war for the right not to be raped.

Every time this war is in the spotlight, as happened most recently a few weeks ago when the New York Times published their story on Harvey Weinstein, people are all, “this is so shameful, disgusting, sick, despicable…” if you can think of a really powerful insult, it was likely hurled by someone to describe the now publicly shamed producer and what he’s accused of doing.

That’s always the first thing that happens after the spotlight has been turned on.

The next thing occurs when it becomes clear that no one is ripping to shreds the brave women who finally stood up and said “enough!”. That next thing is that more and more women dare to step forward. This time, though someone told me the hashtag is reborn and not new, the #metoo campaign exploded and yes, I published my own “metoo” post on my Face Book wall.

And then the next thing that happens is the flood of comments by many, intoned with various tones of sobriety or hope, that maybe women will now finally be “empowered” to stand up for themselves…and this is where I really, really have a problem.

Since the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 (pretty close to the beginning of recorded history) when the wise leaders of the new Christian faith tried to decide if women were beasts or human (human won, likely mainly because the Bible pretty much forbids bestiality), up to today, this war has been fought, women have stood up—and pretty much been beaten right back down again because of it. Ridiculed, humiliated, and often punished because they dared to complain, or dared to have been the victims of harassment, verbal abuse, or rape in the first place.

This time, I heard one commentator ask the right question: what causes this despicable thing to happen? I can’t recall the exact answer given at the time, but it was the wrong answer. Here’s the right one, and it’s not complicated.

The cause of this harassment is bad, inappropriate, an unacceptable behavior by some men. Period.

What’s needed to end it, is not simply for women to stand up, to speak out, because we have been doing that for all of our lives.

What’s needed is for good, decent men to stand up with us, to speak out, and let it be known that this behavior is not to be tolerated anymore. It is not right, and it should end, now. That is the only way things are going to change. Women can not do it alone. Good, decent men have to help.

I do believe, with all my heart, that there are plenty of good, decent men available to get the job done.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

October 18, 2017

Every once in a while, I do something, or say something, so stupid, I amaze myself. I figure a regular injection of “duh” in my life keeps my head from getting too swelled. Of all the things in my life I’m thankful for, my ability to laugh at myself sits near the top of the list.

This past weekend I experienced such a moment. It was almost as if the cosmos had intoned, upon my awakening last Sunday morning, “and now, for a moment of comic relief.”

That day I slept in until 8 am. Ideally, I like to be up by 7:30, but there are days from time to time when I’m tired, and on those days in the daily struggle of mind over mattress, mattress wins. I wanted to watch one of David’s talking heads programs with him that’s on at nine, but I do have my first thing in the morning routine to adhere to. I really am a creature of habit. I like to start the day in the same way, every day. It’s an hour of “me” time that I guard jealously.

I also, on Sunday morning, finish my grocery list and then print it out. Yes, I have a grocery list on an excel spreadsheet. I list the items in the order I hope to find them in the store, and I even have the price listed that I expect to pay. There are actually occasions when the cost at the cash register is less than the total at the bottom of my list. Not always, mind you, because groceries are, by and large, more expensive now than they have ever been. But it happens.

Now, as to my humiliating Sunday morning. First, I need to explain I have a new wireless keyboard and mouse (my first wireless keyboard). About a week after I got it, I awoke one morning to find it upside down on the floor, batteries out and my cat laying peacefully sleeping where the keyboard had so recently been. So, from that point on, I’ve made it a practice to put the keyboard up top of the two tiered letter tray that sits on top of the file cabinet each night, a place where the cat can’t get to.

On Sunday I turned on my computer, brought my keyboard down, and prepared to finish my grocery list. Fingers on keyboard and…nothing. It didn’t work. The first thing I thought, of course, was: batteries! And even though the batteries in it were supposed to last 12 months and it hadn’t yet been three, I immediately changed them. And…nothing. The keyboard did not work.

Even though keyboards aren’t very expensive, I balked at the idea of buying a new one. I mean, what is it with stuff these days? Doesn’t anyone take pride in their work? I understand the concept of built-in obsolescence. No manufacturer will have much of a business if the things they build last forever, but still. Only months? Just a few short months?

Then, my gaze landed on that tiny little thingy in the USB port. You know the thingy I mean, the one that allows keyboard and mouse to work in the first place. And even though the mouse still worked, I decided to pull that sucker out, turn off the computer, and then after I turned it on again, insert the thingy back in the port. I figured that maybe the keyboard somehow lost its connection. It could happen, right?

Nope. Keyboard didn’t work. I left the computer, feeling really put out that I would have to go into the city and buy a new keyboard. It really interfered with my unusual Sunday morning television viewing, as I kept feeling put out, thus not enjoying the sharp wit of the commentators. And then, yes! My tech-savvy daughter dropped in!

I told her about my keyboard, and asked her to please, please, have a look at it. I was hoping there was some geeky-thingy she would know about that she could perform, to fix it. She looked at me over the top of her glasses. Daughter: Mother, did you check the batteries? Me: (somewhat affronted, because, sheesh, really?) Of course, I did. I changed the batteries and yes, they were brand new batteries I put in.

She went into my office, and I returned my attention to the television. But not so much so that I didn’t see her appear in the doorway of the living room just moments later, my keyboard in hand.

Daughter: You know I love you, right? I didn’t think we would get to this point in our relationship quite so soon. Then she turned the keyboard over and said, purposefully speaking as if talking to an imbecile, I might add, “You have to make sure the on/off button is turned to the ‘on’ position.”

Duh. Color me embarrassed and feeling really stupid. Not a bad thing, as well I know, but still. Again, in my defense, this is my first wireless keyboard.

Note to self, and perhaps words to just generally live by: check to see if there’s an on/off button first. Happily, that worked.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Last Thursday, my husband was surprised by his company with an “open house” held in his honor at a local restaurant.

I had been in on the surprise, of course. It was my job to get him there, on a Thursday night at 6 pm. I was able to accomplish this by telling him we were meeting my brother and his wife at the restaurant. They had, of course, been invited, so I spoke the truth!

My beloved was extremely surprised, and touched, by this event. Attended by 40 to 50 of his current and former co-workers as well as his current and former bosses, it was an evening of laughter and reminiscences. The company reserved a private room, and the restaurant provided platters of nibbles, enough food that my poor beloved, who had been thinking about the menu at that eatery (the best one in town and our favorite), did not leave hungry. 

My brother asked me if this was a regular occurrence—if his employer regularly honored people who were retiring. I told him the truth—it might very well happen at the upper echelons of management—but for a man who was basically a member of the rank and file, this was a first. Seriously, in the years my husband has worked for the corporation, he had heard of no one being given even so much as a watch. My brother was astounded, as was I when I first received the call from the site’s admin telling me about this “open house”.

By the time David “hangs up his pick and shovel” for the final time, he will have completed 39 and a half years at that quarry. He was asked Thursday night, “why not put in another six months to make it an even forty years?” His answer was simple. After November, the next several months are winter, which can be bitter here in southern Ontario. He’s worked outside for all of those thirty-nine and a half years, as his is an outside job. But he decided last winter would be his last. Breathing is especially difficult for him in the cold months, even without adding in the stress of being physically active.

As if the fact of the party itself wasn’t enough, there were also gifts for him. His supervisor knew of a man who made “models” of different pieces of manufacturing equipment, and so they commissioned a model of a rock crusher. This “sculpture” has a small, engraved plaque which notes the occasion.

They also gave him a printed book, filled with pictures of his years at the quarry, all taken after it was sold by the original owner. That was a wonderful touch. There will no doubt be days when my beloved is nostalgic for the past, and this book filled with color pictures, will be a good way for him to remember a career of doing what he loved.

Prior to the corporate take over, David was the one who built many of the pieces that made up the plant—including building conveyor belts and fabricating one metal braced tunnel for one of the belts to go through. He took pride in his work, in being able to sit down with the first owner and sketch out the pieces that good man required through the years.

This book shows some of those pieces, which were still in use at the time of the takeover. It also shows him performing various duties, as well as photos of him and his co-workers posing at different times through the years, whenever the site superintendent got his/her camera out. There were photos taken at the first Christmas dinner held by the new management, and one at the dinner last year. That one is the final photo in the book, and is a picture of us both.

David’s official last day is November 24th. The next day will see the 2017 Christmas dinner at a steak house close to the site. We’ve been invited to attend, a last chance to see and speak with some of these people with whom David has spent, in some cases, many years working with.

It’s never been his habit to socialize with the people with whom he works. So it really will be a last meeting. A final good-bye, over food and laughter, before the first day of the rest of his life.


Love, Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com



http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October 4, 2017

We have a long weekend approaching here in Canada. Yes, it’s time for Thanksgiving north of the 49th. As most of my friends in the U.S. know, we tend to have a shorter growing season up here, and in most parts of my province at least, the harvest is already underway. Thanksgiving is at its heart a harvest festival, so ours precedes yours—even though the tradition we follow started in 1621 in Plymouth. In short, we plagiarized your holiday!

Time moves too darn fast these days. It seems to me that it was mid summer just a week ago, and now here we are, about to celebrate the holiday wherein we give thanks for all that we’ve received in our lives. Well, I suppose the closer truth might be that most of us give more thought to the feast we’re about to cook and eat, and to the social aspects of the occasion than we do to the actual giving of thanks part, but I do live in hope. And even if you don’t dwell on the meaning of the holiday, it does touch your mind at some point, and I believe that most people do take at least a moment or two to reflect on things they have to be thankful for.

Here in Canada, we have a lot to be grateful for. While we must be vigilant with regard to safety in these generally chaotic and fearsome times, for the most part, we don’t have to worry about armed conflict within our borders. We don’t have to fear being rousted by an armed militia that has the freedom to do to us whatever whim strikes them at any given time, or being shot by someone as we go about our daily business. Much of this world is not so fortunate.

For the most part, we have access to fresh water and clean air, to shelter and clothing and food, and if we’re in an accident, we’re taken immediately by ambulance to the nearest hospital. Much of this world is not so fortunate.

For the most part, our children attend schools without our having to shell out thousands of dollars, and those children spend their days receiving an education, and often a meal or two, so that they are able to learn without the pangs of an empty belly clouding their efforts. Much of this world is not so fortunate.

I confess that I am guilty of sometimes feeling a little smug when it comes to life here in my country, although I am always aware that things could be better. Because yes, we are very lucky here, and fed here, and educated here, and safe here—but truthfully, it’s only for the most part.

So, while I will spend this Thanksgiving Day giving thanks for all of the blessings I’ve received, I’ll also be mindful of those who don’t have as much. Because I truly believe that we, as a society, only rise to as high a level of accomplishment as the least of us is able to attain.

If we’re going to stand tall and stand firm and argue that caring for the least is not the job of government, then it must be the job of the rest of us to do so. Our own blessings are tied to our generosity toward others. That has been true since the beginning of time, and will never change. We need to understand that and embrace that, and then help those who are less fortunate in whatever way we can, as often as we can.

The proof of truly being thankful for all you have, lies in the way in which you share what you have with others.

To my Canadian friends, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury