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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

September 27, 2017

Autumn has arrived. We’ve attacked the fallen walnut leaves for the third time, and will likely have to do so again before the neighborhood maples drop their leaves around the end of October.

When it was me doing most of the raking, I always figured that since I had enjoyed the beauty of those neighboring trees through the spring and summer, spending a couple hours raking was a fair price to pay. I no longer do that chore.

When our grandson isn’t on the job, my beloved is. But please don’t feel too sorry for him. You see, at a company golf tournament a couple of years ago, he won a leaf blower. So, while there is some effort involved, it’s not the heavy slog of raking—at least not until he has amassed a pile. Then he puts nature’s debris into the brown paper bags, and that can take some work. The only thing he really minds about the entire process is that he can’t do physical work like he used to.

The countdown to his retirement is in serious territory now—less than two months to go. I will admit that I am at this point used to the idea (or should that be resigned to the idea?). We’ve joked some, and I’ve told him that if I ever tell him to go outside and not come in until the streetlights are on, that he should perhaps stop and examine his recent activities.

He thought that I’d made a very clever joke—but he also knew I meant it. This is going to be an adjustment for the both of us. But then, we’ve been together more than 45 years, and through that time we’ve undergone plenty of adjustments. We’re not in the U.S. army but we’ve used their motto—adapt, improvise, overcome—for most of our lives.

There’s an old saying that the only people who really like change are wet babies, and I think there’s some truth to that.

He is looking forward to not having to get up at four a.m., to not having a boss, and to not having to interact with people he doesn’t necessarily like. It’s been slightly more than fifteen years since I last worked outside the home. I spent much of my working years employed by big companies, so I do understand his feelings on the matter.

I even know, although we’ve spent some time negotiating responsibilities around the home and the upcoming division of labor, that he’s likely going to take the first few weeks and do as little as possible. I really am all for that. If retirement is supposed to be a reward, then he should be allowed to feel as if he’s being rewarded.

You know how, as a parent, you live your life a certain way and hope that your example inspires your kids? Yeah, I don’t think that works the same way with spouses. David and I are two totally different people. It’s rare for me to blow off a day. I might not get everything done I think I need to do, because I can’t do physical work the way I used to, either. But I rarely spend more than an hour or so “doing nothing”. The only codicil to that is when I am captured by a good book.

My daily routine is what I call “multi-tasking”. Every hour of every day is filled with either writing, or housework. There are always things to be done. Dishes that missed the after-supper round up the night before, a bathroom to be cleaned, a floor to be vacuumed, and a bed to be made. Supper also has to be made, unless it’s Friday or Saturday—yes, I now have not one, but two “no-cook” days. As I said, I may not get everything done on any given day, but I work on it as best I can. I’ve learned that an hour or so taken with my legs up in the early afternoon generally eases the pain of my arthritic joints so I don’t need pain meds until evening.

I keep busy so that by the time I head to bed, I’m tired, and I can sleep. Rare is the day that drags, and I guess in a way I’ve traded the right to loaf around for a lack of boredom.

I’m honestly looking forward to finding out what my husband’s after-retirement routine, once he settles in, is going to look like.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September 20, 2017

When I was younger, “folk wisdom” was more of an element in our lives than it is today. It seemed to me, at times, that the older people had a saying for everything. Adages and common-sense approaches don’t seem to play much of a role in life these days. Instead of relying upon old saws and old folks for wisdom, we now have the Internet.

Some attitudinal habits, however, appear to hold true. For example, there used to be a saying in New York and area, back in the early years of the last century: “If you see it in the Sun, it’s so.” This saying, of course, played a central role in a very famous OPED known as, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Not to mention the inevitable holiday TV movie that appeared in 1991, inspired by it.

The concept illustrated above, with apologies to St. Nick, wasn’t about Christmas. It meant that if an item appeared in print, then it had to be the truth (think of it as an early if/then statement). And the reason folks felt a certain amount of assurance believing that, was that in those days and for the most part, newspaper reporters and editors did their level best to make sure that the stories they printed contained the true facts of a matter. The same held true for the newscasts. The Huntley/Brinkley and Walter Cronkite nightly news were programs, in the beginning, that had no “sponsors”. The major networks provided the news on their own dime. No ads meant no reason to skew the reporting. That was then.

Of course, lying really is as old as time—as is blaming someone else for your misdeeds. Just read the book of Genesis if you need proof. But I digress.

Somehow, we’ve carried on that attitude that if it appears in print—if we can read it—it must be true. People, that is not so at all today! In fact, it’s truly never been so to the extent we wanted to believe it was. Just because you see something on the Internet does not mean it’s the truth. You still have to use logic and discernment to make a judgement: Is this item that I am reading actually true?

And yes, there really is such a thing as the truth.

The use of smoke and mirrors is so prevalent these days, everyone should be issued sunglasses and gas masks free of charge. Seriously. Do you know what my daughter told me a while back? It was something that totally gobsmacked me. It happened when she was sitting beside me and I was posting something somewhere on line—I can’t remember the exact place or occasion, but it was on Face Book and I was answering a question. She asked me why I had written what I had, some sort of a confession that some might consider embarrassing. I told her that what I had written was the truth. Her observation? “When you’re on Face Book, just lie. Everyone does.”

I told her that no, not everyone does, because I don’t. I’m pretty sure there are lots of others who don’t, as well. But I would rather see others adopt my daughter’s skeptical attitude than to blindly accept whatever they read as being truth.

There have always been those who would take advantage of others. There have always been those who would push their own agendas regardless of what is real or true, and regardless of what is best for the world at large. The Internet hasn’t changed that; it has, however, facilitated it. Now John or Jane Doe who might be bitter or angry because of personal wounds, perceived or imagined, can strike out, strike back, from the safety of their armchairs. If someone pays them enough money, they are happy to say anything—anything at all! Think about that for a moment. People who have even a slight bent, who would dearly love to “pay someone back” or take their negativity out on others or earn a fast buck without caring where it came from feel free to do so within the anonymity of the world wide web.

I don’t have any answers to this challenge we face. For the moment, it seems that too many people are focused on their anger, saying whatever makes them feel good—a good feeling that evaporates as quickly as the sound of those words dissipate into the ether.

All I really have are questions. Oh, and adages. I have tons and tons of adages and old saws. My favorite is what goes around, comes around. I believe in Divine Justice, or as others refer to it, Karma.

Yes, they have indeed called for more vehicles, because the line to ride the Karma bus keeps getting longer and longer and longer.

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September 13, 2017

Now that Mother Nature has taken us to school, and reminded us once more how puny we are in comparison, the hard work of rebuilding can, in the case of Texas continue and, in the case of Florida and the Caribbean, begin.

I sat in front of my television, as I am sure many of you did, a silent, praying witness to the destruction that hurricane Irma wrought on the Caribbean and the state of Florida. I couldn’t even imagine going through such a thing. As I watched I was inevitably reminded how lucky I am to live here, where I do. Rare indeed are hurricanes in my neck of the woods. I had to look it up. I knew of one—Hurricane Hazel that hit this area in the year I was born—but I wondered if there were any others.

The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 found it’s way as an extratropical storm to this area. In researching it, I discovered it did affect my own town, and that during the storm, the town’s flour mill caught fire, causing $350,000 dollars damage to the mill and 50 other stores and offices in town. I’m not sure what the modern-day equivalent to that amount of year 1900 dollars is, but for those times, it was a massive loss. But nothing, of course, compared to the number of lives that monster storm claimed: between 6 and 12 thousand souls perished. It was and remains the deadliest natural disaster in U. S. history.

Reading about that storm, that arrived in an age when they didn’t have the advance warning systems we have now, sent a shiver down my spine. In the account I perused, it stated that storm ended Galveston’s “golden age”, that in its aftermath, investors turned their backs on that city, and focused on Houston, instead.

Looking over the video footage of the last few days, of some of the Caribbean islands—St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Barbuda as well as St. Martin/St. Maarten—one wonders not only how these islands can be re-built, but if they will be. The loss to these small paradises was not just lives and buildings: a lot of the vegetation has been scrubbed away. Man can rebuild a house; but he cannot recreate the lush flora of the region. Only nature can do that, and that will definitely take time.

I try very hard not to be political in my comments. I’m not being so, now, exactly. But something happened in the days leading up to the landfall of Irma, and I really have to say something about it because, quite frankly it really got me angry. One of the more bombastic of radio personalities, one who is in West Palm beach, shot his mouth off before the arrival of the storm. While the hard-working Republican Governor of Florida was entreating his citizens to not ignore the warnings, to evacuate ahead of the event, this jerk with a microphone claimed to his audience that the hoopla over Irma was a left-wing conspiracy, perpetrated by those with a “climate change” agenda.

I am all for free speech. I may not agree with what you have to say but I will defend your right to say it.

That stated, I believe making such a statement, under the circumstances, should be equated to yelling “fire!” in a packed theater. Many people believe every word this jerk says; it is therefore my hope that if any of his listeners, heeding his words, came to serious harm or died, he should be held responsible.

And you’d think, that, having given that “opinion” from his lofty on-air platform that he would have stayed in West Palm Beach, knowing there was only a little breeze coming his way, not the monster storm cited by the Governor and everyone else. Right? Ah, no. The cowardly lyin’ evacuated. I wonder if he headed west, to, say, Marco Island or perhaps Naples?

Sorry. That was a bit barbed, but nothing angers me more than those who make money by spewing trash, regardless of the side of the political spectrum they’re on. I’m old fashioned and na├»ve.

I believe if you have a platform, then you should use it to uplift, not tear down.

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

September 6, 2017

And just like that, the summer is over!

We spent all of this past summer right here at home—or, rather, in our home province as we did have that one long weekend at KallypsoCon, just down the road from us. It’s the first time we’ve done that in several years, as we usually go to Pennsylvania the first week in August. That trip is a combination of research of the area for a future novel, as well as touching base with friends.

My point is that our going away even for a week, I thought, affected my sense of the speed with which the summer passed. Some summers we’ve been away from home—out of the country—for at least two, and sometimes for as many as three, weeks. And at the end of those summers I always felt as if doing so made the summer seem to go faster.

Now I can say that no, summer just passes very quickly, period.

In front of our house we have a walnut tree. Now, these aren’t to my knowledge, the kind of walnuts you can eat. They’re good for squirrel food and that’s about it. Each year, this tree is the last to get its leaves, and the first to lose them. As soon as the tree has grown those green nuts, the leaves begin to turn yellow and drop off. This is a process that lasts at least a couple months—and it started a week or more ago. Sometimes, at this point, our grass is a bit on the brown side and bristly to the touch. This year we’ve had a fair bit of rain, so the grass has remained green. It needs to be cut and for that, we’ve a grandson on tap. The days are gone when either my husband or I can manage this task. If our yard was flat, well, then we could. However, it’s anything but, and the uneven and hilly terrain is too much of a challenge for us.

Yesterday, Mr. Tuffy was once more able to growl and bark at the kids who line up for the school bus right at the corner of our property. There are actually two groups of students awaiting transport—one more or less in front of our house, and one in front of the neighbor’s. We both have a corner property on the west side of an intersection.

I don’t let the dog out onto the porch until after the kids are gone, because they don’t deserve to be barked at in person. So Tuffy has to be content with barking at them from the back of our love seat or from atop my desk, until after the buses have collected the children. The last one arrives about 8:26am.

I also tend to keep him inside in the morning during spring to fall, preferably on my desk, until I “see what sort of a day we’re having”. I thank my beloved for the need for this subterfuge. You see, on the weekend and holiday mornings, when David is home, Mr. Tuffy has coffee with daddy. Just a few drops in the bottom of his cup, but it’s tradition. Have I told my husband this isn’t good for the little guy? Of course. My beloved argues a few drops a couple days a week won’t really hurt him and he might be right. However, it’s my responsibility to see to it that no cup is on the porch the first time he goes out each morning. During the good weather, my husband awaits his daughter there, and leaves his half-done coffee when she arrives.

So, Monday to Friday I have to get out to the porch and scoop my husband’s morning coffee cup and deal with it without the dog being any the wiser. And in case you think he wouldn’t know? The first thing he does the first time he gets onto the porch every day after I get up, is to run to that single table we have there, looking for daddy’s coffee cup.

Once he sees it’s not there, he forgets all about it.

Some of you may be wondering, “but Morgan, don’t you drink coffee in the morning? What about your cup?” I think my answer may be an example of canine-thought, but I’m not sure how that helps us any. Yes, I do have coffee, at least three cups a day. But since I have never put my cup down for the dog, he doesn’t expect it of me.

As I said, I think there’s a message there somewhere. I’m just not certain what it is.

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