Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 28, 2014

This past Monday was a special day of commemoration for my American friends, and it was good to see the out-pouring of emotion and gratitude for those who wear their country’s uniform.

In Canada, we don’t celebrate “Memorial Day” in May. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have a day set aside to salute our veterans, because we do. It’s November 11th, “Remembrance Day”. The concept is the same, except we tend to have organized services and a lot of ritual. These take place at 11 a. m., and signify “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month”, the moment when the armistice took effect, a silencing of the guns before the actual end of the First World War.

Although there are differences between our two days of commemoration, the heart of them is the same. As a child in school, I, with my fellow students sported a “poppy” on my lapel, another bit of symbolism for Canadians. During the First World War, Canadian Army physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae penned a poem, “In Flanders Fields”. This is traditionally read during our Remembrance Day ceremonies, after the two minutes of silence—which we again observe at precisely 11 a.m., immediately following the bugling of “The Last Post.”

We Canadians, being members of the British Commonwealth, really do love our pomp and ceremonies and traditions.

And yet, while we follow all these prescribed rites and rituals, supposedly outward signs of an inward grace, I wonder if we’re not, all of us, really just deluding ourselves.

Because, while it’s good to remember, and to pay homage, and to say “thank you” to our veterans and current service members, I think we both—my country and our neighbors to the south—fall down on the very spirit of it all.

We need to treat our veterans, and our military service members, better. There should be no question about their rights to health care, housing, employment, or any other benefit one might hope for in a civilized society. There should be no such thing as a homeless veteran. Ever.

These men and women served us all, and put their lives on the line to protect our rights and our freedoms and yes, our very lives. It wasn’t you and I on the front lines getting our asses shot at. It was them, these brave and selfless heroes and heroines. Some of our soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice, and some came home irrevocably changed—grievously mentally or physically wounded.

We have a sacred obligation to these men and women: and that obligation ought to be the first priority of our governments.

Governments declare war, institute drafts, and call for volunteers to fight those wars—that really, at the heart of it all, benefit those governments. When we promise those who serve that we will take care of them and then fail to do so it is as black a mark upon all our souls as there can ever be.

For while it is governments that declare war, they are our governments, democratically elected by us to represent we, the people. They do our will, and so in the end, it is we who bear the burden of responsibility.

Most people assume that the “foe” that Lt. Col. McCrae referred to in his poem only meant the enemy against whom we waged war at the time. But I wonder if perhaps that small word doesn’t have a much larger definition:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses, row on row, 
That mark our place; and in the sky 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the Dead. Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie, 
In Flanders fields. 

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw 
The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 
In Flanders fields. 

Let’s stop negating our responsibility to our veterans and the members of our military and their families. Let’s choose to honor them every day, and not just one day of the year. Put pressure on your elected officials—and take action yourself:



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May 21, 2014

I can recall so many springs in years past, when it seemed to take forever for the trees to bud. Every morning as April bled into May would find me looking out the windows, wondering when was I ever going to see green on those bare, brown sticks again?

In truth it doesn’t take long, and that was brought home to me this spring.

When we left home for New Orleans on May 11th, there were no leaves anywhere, and only a few bits of green to be seen on a few trees. Our flowers were all green leaves, with only one or two tightly enfolded buds. I knew by the calendar that it was spring, and we did have a young friend of ours come and mow our lawn once, but despite that, it didn’t feel like spring.

When we returned home 7 days later—just this past Sunday—the season of rebirth was in full bloom. The maple trees across the street are covered in green, and one of them in red, leaves. Our walnut tree, the last to get its leaves, has begun the process, and our flowers! Oh, they are splendid this year. We have tulips and narcissi and daffodils, and some hyacinths too.

 It’s interesting the way our own perception of things alters our reality, especially when it comes to time. When we were kids, time seemed to stretch forever. The summer break from school felt so much longer than just two months. Then as we began to grow older, time moved a bit faster, or so it appeared. When we get to the September of our lives, the days and weeks and months begin to travel at light speed.

And all of that is just perception.

Our perceptions have a hand in how we view everything around us, especially time. For example, driving to a destination always seems to take longer than driving home from it. Anticipation of a vacation or an event always feels as if it lasts longer than the sense we get after it’s over. As I write these words it is Tuesday morning, and I have been in my house not even forty-eight hours yet. But New Orleans seems so long ago already.

Usually when I travel to RT, I’m so busy once I get there, I don`t have time to stop and smell the roses. This time, I used my olfactory senses to the extreme. I was delighted that the city I finally was able to do that in was New Orleans—a city near the top of my bucket list.

We took a double-decker bus tour, and we strolled down Decatur Street. [Well, my beloved and our friend strolled, I “rolled” in the scooter I rented]. We toured the French Market and we stopped at Cafe du Monde for beignets. I didn’t go down Bourbon Street, because my husband told me it would be rough going, and it wasn’t the same place it was in decades past.

I decided to let my perception of that iconic stretch of pavement live.

There was a difference, too, coming home this time which I know really is just a case of my perceptions at work. Every other time before now, when we have gone away for a week, my daughter has moved into our house for the duration, and the last few times complete with her four puppies. Last year, when we went to Kansas City in May, it was our Tuffy’s first experience of both of us being gone for a week. He was still little, not yet six months old and handled the separation well—mostly because he had his “sister” and his buddies at his house.

This time, since she is in a larger place, she took our dog to her house and didn’t stay here in at all. She stopped in every day to see to the cat. But that was it.

And this time, upon my return, it didn’t take me days to feel like I was back in my own home. I had that sense almost immediately.

You might think that’s all in my head and I would have to agree with you. Because that is, after all, where my perceptions live.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May 14, 2014

These words come to you today from the historic city of New Orleans! We had an uneventful flight in last Sunday. Both of us are delighted to be visiting a city that we’ve long wanted to experience.

What we’ve seen so far, we love. We’ll be taking a bus tour of the city and possibly one in a mule-drawn carriage later in the week. Yes, I said mule. One of the first things I learned here was that apparently those animals are better suited to the heat of summer than are horses.

Perhaps it’s because of this particular locale, but I’ve noticed the conventioneers have been arriving earlier than in years past. My beloved and I have been in the habit of coming several days ahead of the traditional Wednesday start; we like to have some down time before the busyness that is RT.

Generally we have spent either sight-seeing or reading, and for my beloved, enjoying not getting up at four a.m. for the workday. This time, it did surprise us some to see so many checking in on Sunday. I have, as is my custom, rented a motorized mobility device, and am once more a terror in the corridors of a hotel. I do my best not to be a hazard but sometimes that speed dial gets edged away from the “tortoise” symbol and closer to the “hare”. But I can assure you that it has been several years since I’ve run over anyone.

The room we’re in is a corner room, with nice wide windows and a view of the Mississippi River. So far we’ve only indulged in one tourist experience, and we found it by looking out our window. We couldn’t help but notice a paddle boat docked not far from us. A few times a day, we’ve seen people lined up to get on board. Then, with a loud whistle, that boat pulls out, and returns a couple of hours later.

The Steamboat Natchez hosts three cruises a day leaving from here in the French Quarter and last night, my beloved and I enjoyed their dinner cruise. We booked the event as much for the experience of being on the water as for the meal and the live Jazz Band on board. We thoroughly loved the evening. My husband particularly enjoyed the fact that he could go and visit the engine room. He told me upon his return that the boat is a “diesel powered steam driven” vessel, and that while docked (which it was when he took this tour) the two large pistons were moving in and out slowly. My beloved has told me more than once that he believes he worked on a ship of some sort in a previous life.

The dining room serves two sittings for the evening meal – an early one while still docked, and a later one, on the water. That made sense, since I imagine there are some who don’t like to eat while in motion. We took the later seating, because we’ve never really been bothered by sea-sickness.

 Well, there was that time back in 2011 when we were on a cruise. Returning to port, the ship followed hurricane Ophelia up the coast. I spent the roughest part of that excursion in our cabin. My husband, on the other hand, was sitting out on the bow deck with a few similarly misguided men, as the ship cut deep and the waves splashed high on either side of the vessel. That time I was, I must admit, a tad “unsettled”.

Of course, the best part of coming to any RT convention, no matter where it is, is seeing fellow authors and meeting face to face with my readers—some of whom came here to New Orleans specifically to meet me.

That humbles me, and honors me—but it really doesn’t surprise me—because I have the very best readers in all the world.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

May 7, 2014

Ah, it really is spring time! How can I tell? Is it the sound of lawnmowers and the scent of freshly cut grass? Is it the flap of laundry on the line, or the appearance of little green shoots promising beauteous blooms? Is it the warmer temperatures, or the sound of birdsong on the breeze?

No. It’s Morgan, deciding now is the time to update the appearance of her living room.

I’d like to preface this next segment by reminding y’all that I am not really a shopper. If you recall, not that many years ago, my beloved and I purchased an entire living room suite from the back of a farm trailer at a garage sale. We paid, I believe, 15 dollars for a loveseat, sofa, chair and ottoman.

Yes, the pieces were upholstered in a hideous 1980s faux fuzz, of a definite russet hue, but a bargain is a bargain—and Mr. Ashbury was very proud of this bargain.

Time moves on. Over the last few years we replaced that bargain suite with two recliners, and then a year later, we purchased a sofa bed. They were all of the same fabric, a kind of pseudo suede, and from the same furniture store—a store that is now gone, having survived for all of four years.

The recliners need a good cleaning, but that sofa bed has been deceased for some time. Since my two grandchildren were using it, (which was why we bought it in the first place), it underwent a great deal of wear and tear in a short period of time. They broke the part that held up the cushions, over a year ago. In order for me to be able to sit on it and then get off it, my beloved had to put a piece of plywood under the cushions. The result was that I could sit and then get off it again, but my butt got numb in the interim.

Whilst visiting friends last year, I experienced the awesomeness of a power loveseat, and decided right then and there, that I wanted one.

Two months ago, I began to make the suggestion that it was past time to replace our sofa, and that we should replace it with a love seat. By powered, of course, I mean that it is really more like two recliners close together. After much hinting on my part, Mr. Ashbury agreed that we should begin the process of looking at them.

Now, my southern friends will chuckle when I say this about my beloved: bless his heart. He was raised by a daddy who was never once wrong in his entire life! That, of course, can be an interesting experience for a child. One of the tenets his daddy clung to, and that my beloved unfortunately absorbed, is that you must never, ever buy the first one you see.

Of anything, at any time, in any place, ever.

I had a demonstration of how well my husband absorbed this tenet when my last car was written off by the insurance company (while he was away on vacation with our daughter), and I had to work on getting another car asap. So I looked several places on line, and then arranged to see the one I wanted at the dealership I took my last car to for service. I made the appointment for the day after my husband came home from vacation.

When we got to the dealership, my beloved insisted we take two other cars for a test drive (neither of which were Buicks like the one I’d made the appointment to see, I might add) because he was certain that the car I wanted—being the first one I had “seen” could not possibly be the right car for us.

Yes, he had to concede that the ones he’d chosen were not very good value for the dollar and didn’t ride nearly as well as the one I had chosen. That was two years ago and yes, we purchase the “first one I’d seen”.

Fast forward to this past weekend. We went to a furniture store on Saturday, to look at the loveseat I wanted. Again, I had examined several on line. This one had all the features we wanted—cup holders, storage area, and a good warranty—and it was on sale! I looked forward to closing the deal. But as far as my beloved was concerned, we weren’t necessarily going to buy anything that day. We were, he insisted, just going to sit on this loveseat I had chosen, to see how it felt because, of course, this was just the first one I had seen and it couldn’t possibly be the right loveseat for us.

As I said earlier, bless his heart.

We sat, and he pressed the button and sighed when the loveseat reclined until he was practically horizontal. Then he pushed the button again and again and again, and marveled how he could choose any position, any position at all. The loveseat was so comfortable in fact, he really didn’t want to get out of it—not even with the prospect of lunch at his favorite restaurant next on the agenda.

To his credit he did not once remind me that this had been the first one we had seen and that we shouldn’t buy it. Not once. Neither did I, at that time, tease him about the same thing.

Our new loveseat will be delivered on Friday.