Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 24, 2014

I remember as if it were yesterday, the shock and trauma of going into the “Catheter Lab” at the hospital, to undergo angioplasty, and ending up being rushed in to surgery for a triple by-pass when the intended procedure went south. I awoke in recovery, intubated, and with the dawning realization of what had happened.

I came out of the hospital on Christmas Eve, 2002, with no earthly idea what would happen next. It was a slow and difficult recovery, likely made more so because who I had been—in my own mind—a woman who had always worked, always contributed, no longer existed.

My beloved told me straight off, that I was retired. I even recall how he worded it. He told me that all these years, I not only worked outside the home, but I had borne the burden of dealing with the children and doing nearly all of the housework. “That’s three jobs for more than twenty years which is enough by anyone’s standards.” When I asked him, “I’m only forty-eight. What am I going to do?” he replied as if it was the most logical thing in the world. He said I was going to do what I had always dreamed of doing, and work at being a writer.

Although I made it my goal to do just that, and to become published, I never actually believed it would happen. I knew I would write, and if I had never become published, I would be writing anyway.

Sometimes when I realize the scope of this career I now have, I am overwhelmed. My fortieth book has just been released by my publisher, and my readers number in the thousands. That’s not a boastful statement; it is a statement of awe.

I understand that even though for the first 52 years of my life I was not a published author, I was still a writer. I began writing when I was about 8 or 9, after the death of my father who, I didn’t know at the time, had also been a writer. I’ve often said that being a writer isn’t what I do but who I am. At my core, that is me. It is a definition that can be underlined by the way I view people and events; the way I think about things, which is vastly different than the way my non-writing family thinks and views things.

When you’re a writer at your core, it is to see everyone and everything through a particular prism as a part of the whole, a part that has its own unique story, with patterns and relationships, with hopes and dreams and even tragedies. You see these patterns repeated, time and time again, and are moved to try and communicate them, with the hope of touching people’s hearts.

I don’t mean to make it sound as if I am better than anyone else, because of course I’m not. I’m just me, trundling to the beat of my own obscure drummer. Definitely different, but not better.

Everything I have experienced in my life, for good or ill, has filled my well, the well from which I draw to create my stories. Yes, they are all under the umbrella of romance, and most of them, the smaller umbrella of erotic romance. But they are more than that stark definition, because they are stories about people.

I create fictional characters who deal with real life challenges. My characters aren’t perfect, though they are perfect for each other. But they are flawed, and make mistakes. What sets them apart is that they don’t give up.

Not giving up in life, I have learned through my own unique experiences, is key. And if you don’t give up, then what you end up doing, after you can no longer do what you’ve always done? That, my friends, is when the real adventure and joy of life begins.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September 17, 2014

We spent a few days this past week, visiting our friends in Pennsylvania. Over the last few years this has become an annual event for us, although we had to miss out last year. We’d been set to go but then the gentleman, who’d retired from one career, had decided to embark upon another. This trip, our daughter accompanied us—the first time for her since she went with us in 2006. We also took Mr. Tuffy, too.

We were grateful to have our daughter on hand as we had never, ever taken a trip with a pet and weren’t sure what to expect.

 There were a couple of reasons that Tuffy got to be a traveling dog. First reason, of course, was that after having seen pictures of the little guy, our friend, John, wanted to meet him. And second, we needed to know if traveling with the dog was something we’d be able to do, since it’s our hope to begin taking the coldest two months of our year—January and February—down where the weather is warmer, likely in Texas.

It’s always good when you can get together with old friends. That reunion is sweeter when the time in between is unexpectedly longer. Despite fervent use of the Internet and all forms of modern means of communication, nothing beats being face to face with good friends.

 We were happy that our favorite hotel was also one of two pet friendly hotels in the area. We’d booked a two room suite a few months ago. At the time, I did something that I thought was likely pure silliness and a waste of the few dollars extra per night: I arranged for us to have a suite with a fireplace in it.

As it turned out, no silliness at all, as the weather took a bit of a chill while we were there. It was an actual gas fireplace, and worked on a timer – you could choose five minutes to thirty minutes and it threw out quite a nice heat.

 We didn’t, this time, indulge in sightseeing. Previous trips found us traveling all over, which I considered as doing research on the area. There’s a rich history in Northeastern Pennsylvania; coal country, the area is dotted with “patch towns”, settlements born of the mining industry that boomed in centuries past, as man sought to extract the anthracite coal from the veins that run so richly there. 

We’ve visited Eckley Miner’s Village, an authentic patch town where the movie, The Molly Maguires was filmed in 1969. We’ve been to Jim Thorpe, and the haunted jail. We got out and read the plaque near the site of the Lattimer Mine Massacre in September of 1897. We also visited the sad site of the former town of Centralia, where an underground fire still burns.

On past visits we’ve toured the Mid-Atlantic Airplane Museum, in Reading, the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, the state’s capital, Steamtown, USA an extensive railway museum, in Scranton, and two mines: The Lackawanna Mine, also in Scranton, and the Number 9 Coal Mine and Museum, in Lansford.

Here I must confess that I did not accompany my beloved and our friend John underground. The only other place where I felt a complete and total inability to accompany him while on vacation was the tour of the engine room on the USS Yorktown at Patriot’s Point Naval Museum in Charleston Harbor.

Wherever we went, our friend provided knowledgeable commentary. We’ve come to know the area, and some of the people there quite well. We could see definite signs of economic recovery since our last visit, and that was a good thing to witness.

And Mr. Tuffy, I am so proud to report, behaved like a true gentleman the entire time. He was well behaved in the car, friendly with the people he met, and very much like us, in that while he enjoyed himself, he was very happy to come home again.

He’s happy to be back to his normal daily routines, like dozing on my computer desk, as I write these words.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September 10, 2014

This week I am doing something I have never done before. I am writing the first part of these words on Sunday and then the rest of the essay on Tuesday. You’ll soon know why.

I may have already mentioned a time or two that I get not one, but two “horoscopes” delivered to my online inbox each day. Now, you need to know right off the bat, that I consider these as entertainment. I’m not an avid follower of astrology, and I don’t believe much of what I read in them.

One of the fun things I like to do each day is compare these readings, one to the other. Sometimes they are absolutely opposite. Sometimes they are close. One of the readings I get is definitely recycled. By that I mean, the company that sends them has a raft of paragraphs, “insights” that they use over and over again.

Sometimes, I wonder at the thinking behind some of these paragraphs. They are, after all, trying to convince you they can “see” your future so they can sell you stuff. Why then, would they ever tell you, “tomorrow you will receive and unexpected windfall!” Duh. It’s not unexpected anymore, is it? Which means, it likely won’t be received. I think for the issuers of these little scopes that could be considered a self defeating prophesy.

Now, here I am, reading my horoscope on Sunday, and at the end of the week’s run this particular one has a peek into the week head. Mine read:

Morgan, next week on the 9th, the Full Moon in Pisces could be the trigger for some emotional outbursts. If you happen to be on the receiving end, try to maintain your calm and wait for the drama to subside. Of course, it could be you who is letting off steam, so you will want to keep this in mind!

My immediate response was: oh, crap! Because on Tuesday, September 9th I have only one entry on my “calendar”: TV Tech due sometime today.

Yes, the TV tech. For those interested, no, our big-ass TV is not yet working; and wow! Apparently they do work on days other than Friday, because he is, allegedly, coming on Tuesday this time.

That day will be day 45 that our TV has been broken. However, we haven’t been suffering the last few weeks, because when we hit day 28 (or somewhere in and around there) we decided to go to our local Walmart and purchase an inexpensive, 39 inch television. Yes, for the first time ever, the Ashbury’s are a two-television family [the times when kids came back for a few months toting their TVs doesn’t count.]

I need to share with you a few facts about this entire debacle. We purchased the television in 2011 from a National chain store, that is affiliated with another similar chain in the United States. We purchased the extended warranty, because that is our policy, especially with expensive purchases. And this television cost more money than anything we’ve ever bought, except for the house and our cars. The set is a very popular name brand, too.

Speaking to the people at the “tech center” as well as the store (albeit it all of them sounded to be under 30), no one thought that having to wait 45 days was a big deal. Apparently, that’s ok as their replacement policy only kicks in if you’ve been waiting more than 60 days.

You can understand, then, why when I read that horoscope this morning (Sunday), I said, “oh, crap”. Ah the suspense....will the Ashbury television be fixed, finally, on Tuesday, or not?

The punch line:

9:15 am Tuesday September 9th: I received a call from the tech. He wanted to know if I could help him bring the part into the house from his van when he arrived as it was fragile and weighed 30 pounds. Because otherwise he would need to have another tech meet him here, and that might have to be rescheduled. Yes, I pulled the phone away from my ear and looked at it before I put it back to my ear and said, “Sure, I’m game. I’m 60, I’ve had triple by-pass surgery and I’m half crippled with arthritis and walk with a cane. But I will give it my best shot.”

1:15 pm Tuesday September 9th: the tech arrived, and two minutes later a second tech showed up to do the heavy lifting.

2:00 pm, Tuesday September 9th: I waved goodbye to the two techs, our 54 inch big-ass TV now working.

I did ask if this was something I could expect to have happen again in another three years? The answer was that no, the manufacturer had improved the quality of the panel, and this would not happen again.

When they weren’t looking, I knocked on wood. Not very high tech but in my opinion, very effective.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

September 3, 2014

The last few days have actually been hot and humid here, but nothing like some of my friends south of the border have been enduring for weeks, now. This year you could almost say we are the frozen north, as we have had a much cooler than normal summer.

This past long weekend found Mr. Ashbury with not just the usual three days off, but four. They had an equipment malfunction at his place of employment late Thursday afternoon, one that would not be repaired before Tuesday morning.

He was glad for the extra time off. While he still loves what he does, he’s looking forward to retirement. He’ll be sixty-two this November. In addition, he has COPD. The latter is the reason we’re looking at heading south for at least a month this coming winter. We’ll try to do two months the year after that. Cold weather is not great for his breathing, because the colder the air, the smaller the oxygen molecules.

But then, neither is the hot and humid weather of a normal summer good for him, either.

This past weekend, since he had four days off, he decided he needed to do something by way of house repairs. Our old, worn out hardwood floor in our entrance hallway finally “sprang”. With the wear and tear, and the humidity over the many years, the nails holding the hardwood in place, over time, rusted out to the point of disintegration, and we had a bouncy little popup near the door that happened about a week ago.

So early Friday morning we headed to the local hardware store where he purchased the aspenite sheeting, the very thin mahogany sheeting to go on top of that, and a box of tiles to finish the job.

My beloved had replaced the kitchen floor a couple of years ago, a vastly larger project, with not that much difficulty. This smaller job was a bit more taxing, not only because of the progression of the COPD, but mostly because it was such a small, awkward space in which to work. Being by the front door, he couldn’t set up his saw and work table in the back yard—that would be too far to carry the heavy wood. So he had to manage it all on the front porch, a cramped work area to be sure.

But over the course of the four days, he prevailed, and we now have a nice tiled floor right inside our front door.

 It was interesting, as always, listening to him as he tackled this project. He can sometimes come up with very colorful phrases, especially if things don’t go quite the way he wants them to. This house of ours is old, and nothing is square, or even close to level. Each new job is a challenge for him. But he has more patience than he had in his younger days which just might balance out the lack of stamina.

Of course, there are some things in this house of ours that likely never will be repaired. We have an upstairs that he and our late son created when it was time to replace the roof. Up until then, the upstairs was essentially an attic, but finished to make a bit of a living area – long and narrow and only about five foot high. When we first moved in, two of our kids had their bedroom up there. A few years later, it became our bedroom.

When it came time to do the roof, by adding just a couple of feet to the existing wall, they were able to create a place that in fact doubles our living area. But it still needs gypsum sheeting on the walls, and the flooring there is just sub-floor. But in the summer, with fans in the windows, it was sufficient to hold what was needed to make temporary bedrooms for our grandchildren.

They no longer need to come here overnight, and that area has become mainly storage space. It was originally designed to give us a large master bedroom area, but that just isn’t ever going to happen.

But that’s okay. Having enough room to store the accumulated minutia of four decades worth of marriage cannot be overrated.