Monday, 18 June 2018

Monday Moanings - June 18, 2018

A time to sew...

This takes every morsel of my concentration and determination, every ounce of my courage and fortitude. When it comes to that branch of the domestic arts and sciences that has to do with fashion, fabric, needles, and thread, I have little more than rudimentary skills and even less desire. But I do have a sewing machine, a 25+-year-old Kenmore that was bought when money was scarce and babies needed flannelette blankets, clothing repairs and rooms needed rod-pocket curtains. It was the best we could afford at the time.

If it’s a straight line with a straight stitch I can usually accomplish it, but only after spending a minimum of 30 minutes making friends with the machine again, figuring out how to load a bobbin and place it in the bobbin case, prepare the needle and top thread, then picking up the bobbin thread. Phew! And my palms begin to sweat just hoisting the machine out of the closet. And a straight line? Surely you jest!

After putting off the task as long as possible the day comes when I must tackle the sewing job. The trekking pants I bought at a store that does not offer petite (aka short legged gals) sizes must have three inches trimmed off the legs. With just eight days until we head out of the country, today is the day.

Actually, yesterday was the day, but the thread I pulled from my late mother-in-law’s sewing box was so old – I think it was one she brought here when she came to Canada in 1953 – that once set up in the machine it broke every few inches of stitching.  So off I went to the shops this morning to buy new thread. Now I’m ready, again. The pant legs are pressed and hems pinned, the bobbin is in place and I’ve managed to thread the top needle – only swearing twice (okay maybe six times) – and now the top and bottom threads lie daintily out behind the gleaming needle. My clammy hands flutter over the stretchy fabric while my right foot hovers over the presser foot…

                    ...April is sewing.

For the record, it took the sum total of six hours to accomplish this sewing feat including travel time to the shops and a quick lunch with a good friend, (lunch is included because procrastination is the road to success, isn't it?).

I'm sure a practiced seamstress would have suffered a fit of apoplexy had she witnessed my efforts and final higgeldy-piggledy sewing line, but still, when all was said and done, three pairs of pants were ready for packing and no one is going to study the hem of my pants! If they do, it says more about them than me.

©2018 April Hoeller

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Thursday, or Thereabouts - June 14, 2018

Feeling a bit restless, I took the furry beast out for a hike in the forest this morning. It was a lovely tromp along the dirt paths, through the long grasses, and by the streams. Truly an over the river and through the woods kind of trek, without the snow and sleigh of course, (Well I should ruddy well hope so - it is June)!

The play of light and shadow, the waft of warm and cool, the fragrance of earth and flower, all accompanied by birdsong was calming, restorative, and stimulating. In short, it was idyllic. There are few things that can't be solved by a walk in the forest.

It helps to have a beloved dog lead the way too!

©2018 April Hoeller

Monday, 11 June 2018

Monday Moanings - June 11, 2018

It's a beautiful day in the neighbourhood, a magical combination clear skies, warm temperatures, and very low humidity. It is a perfect summer day, one that I am enjoying to the fullest. All too soon, like tomorrow, the humidity will return, dulling the blue skies and heaving her damp blanket over all. I can moan about that another time but, not today.

Today, I have already worked myself up to a good sweat with a kick-butt workout at the gym, and then treated myself to a leisurely lunch out with a good friend. The garden is looking grand in its new and improved design. I'm happy and proud to say that all my efforts have paid off.

And now as I sip a soothing macchiato, my mind takes me back to summers of my childhood. As a kid, I loved the summer. Happy days of wind in my face bike riding and hot days cooled in the backyard pool made summer an absolute delight. We didn't have a heater so a pool freshly filled in June began at 16C (or less!) and crawled its way to a blistering 23 by mid-August. Those were the days of Fahrenheit, so "Arthur" our pool thermometer actually registered 74. One banner year I recall 'Arthur' made it all the way to 78F.

Me chillin' in the pool, 1978

For years, in the early part of June, while Dad was at work, Mom and I added buckets of hot water to the pool. When my Dad came home, he splashed his hand in the pool and announced, "It's warming up nicely!" Mom and I just smiled. It was our little secret.

My Mom, 1971
Mom - the hostess with the mostest at summer pool parties. , 1971

I had another childhood summer secret. I hated thunderstorms; they scared the living daylights out of me, especially the night time ones. Lightning lit up my bedroom, casting scary shadows across the walls. But the thunder was worse. Those ear-splitting, room shaking, gut vibrating booms were beyond my worst nightmare.

I recall lying in my dark bedroom, hands cupped close to my ears. A flash of lightning gave life to the shadows and I began a countdown, my small voice quavering in the dark, "One and one thousand, two and one thousand, three and one thousand, four and one thousand..." until the crash of thunder stopped the count. Each group of four in the countdown, that is every four seconds, between lightning seen and thunder heard measured one mile of distance to the storm centre, or so my Dad the weatherman said.

As the number of seconds between flash and bang decreased, fear increased - exponentially. I never cried out - at least not that I remember. I took it to be a badge of courage to make it through the storm (there's got to be a morning after?). Instead, I counted and shuddered, and counted and moaned, and counted and whimpered, drenched in sweat under blankets and pillow. Truly, the end of the world was at hand.

Well, we don't have a pool here now, and I'm not so terrified of thunderstorms. In fact, I love a good thunder boomer, a ringtail snorter of a rang dang doo, as the character Charlie Farquharson would have described it. Nothing can beat that rambunctious, flashy splash of refreshment. Honesty demands that I confess to a few vestiges of thunderstorm terror in the dark hours.

A low rumble in the distance rouses me. A flash of light dances around the room and the familiar countdown sequence so deeply imprinted on my being begins again. My gut clenches involuntarily in memory of stormy nights past. Most often I just roll over and fall back to sleep but every once in a while the storm is big enough, flashy enough, noisy enough to fully waken the old fear machine.

I tug the pillow tightly around my ears, stretch out my leg until toes touch a sleeping husband for reassurance that I am not alone. In the darkness, a whimper is heard. Surely not I? Hot panting breath hits my not quite buried face, then a cold nose nudges my cheek followed by a heavy paw on my arm.

"Just thought you should know mummy," seventy-five pounds of hyper-vigilant canine warns, "truly, the end of the world truly is at hand."

©2018 April Hoeller

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Thursday, or Thereabouts - June 7, 2018

I'm done with all the pollsters' prognostications, media soundbites, backtalk, nastiness and fearmongering. I'm done with all the noise!

I have cast my ballot.
My vote is in.
Que sera, sera.

Tomorrow I have every confidence that the sun will come up as usual. I trust that I too will rise with the new day and go about my business as usual - with one exception - I will absent myself from all social media and newsfeeds. I'm unplugging from the too many beeps, squawks, alarms, and vibrations good or otherwise.

I have no room in my head for post-election rants, no desire to hear any "shoulda's, woulda's, or coulda's" from politicians or political commentators or backseat experts. I do not want to hear or read any bombastic diatribes or any cranky pants whining from any corner. Neither do I want to hear grandiose exhortations about glorious things to come. I want to hear of neither cheers nor jeers.

I want calm. 
I want space. 
I want silence. 

So tomorrow you will find me in my garden probably talking to the pansies, dahlias, and any other blooming thing I find hanging around.

If the weather does not cooperate, then I'll be inside baking bread...

...starting the packing lists for our next great adventure (just nineteen days to takeoff), and generally putzing around. If you want to connect with me, pick up the phone and give me a call or email me and I'll get back to you when I'm feeling refreshed.

Have a great weekend, folks. 

Whatever the weather, there will be wine!


©2018 April Hoeller

Monday, 4 June 2018

Monday Moanings - June 4, 2018

After some four weeks of official election promises, position and policy statements, accompanied by the now typical, yet lamentable attack ads, three days from now we get to exercise our franchise and elect the next provincial government of Ontario.

It blows my mind that in my glorious and free Canada, voter turnout is so abysmal; 68.5% voted in the last Federal election (the best turnout since 1993), 52.1% in the last provincial and roughly the same (or less!!) in the last municipal election. My Dad instilled in me very early on the importance of voting and the responsibility of every Canadian citizen to cast a ballot on election day, be it federal, provincial or municipal.

Many times I accompanied my Dad to the polling station, long before I was old enough to vote. I loved those walks with him. They took on the tone of a pilgrimage to a holy site. People there spoke in hushed tones, no jokes, no laughter, polite smiles only. I learned that voting was a solemn, serious thing. There was no question as to If one would vote, only for whom that ballot would be cast.

I never learned who Dad voted for, despite repeated efforts to get him to reveal his choice. Such inquiries were always met with a sermon about the secrecy of the ballot being a hallmark of a true democracy.

Back in the day, I'd watch Dad from my assigned place along the wall just inside the door of the polling station, which more often than not was in someone's home. A ballot in hand, or sometimes the ballots were already in the booth, he drew aside the curtain of the booth and stepped inside. Then he turned and with great care and deliberation slid it back in place, concealing his presence and vote. A minute or two later the curtain was swept back with a wee bit of a flourish as he emerged, then marched over to the grey metal ballot box and pushed his ballot through the slot. Two taps of his palm on the box assured, at least to him, that his vote was in. With glowing heart, the free man voted.

The polling station of the 21st century is a far cry from the neighbourhood living room my Dad knew, and it lacks much of the ritual that accompanied my father's experience. I just know he would scoff at the cardboard privacy shield set up on a table in a community centre. Still, come Thursday, I too will mark my X then stride over to the ballot box and push my ballot through the slot. I too will give the box two taps of my right hand.

We don't enjoy the same level of trust and respect in our politicians that my Dad enjoyed and that is a profound loss, but not only do we still get to speak freely about that, we get to vote. This democracy of ours is far from perfect but it sure beats the alternative.

I vote to honour all those thousands 
who fought and died on faraway battlefields so that I might live in freedom.

I vote to honour the suffragettes 
who argued in the high courts and chained themselves together so that I, 
a woman might have the vote.

I vote to honour all those millions of men and women 
who yearn to have the freedom I enjoy.

I vote, a free woman, a Canadian with a glowing heart.

Now here comes the rant:

I don't care if you don't like the choices on offer; 
I don't care if you are fed up with politics and politicians; 
I don't care if you just can't be bothered...

Voting is still a solemn, serious exercise of freedom, true democracy in action.
Voting is still a responsibility of citizenship.

If you are a Canadain citizen living in the province of Ontario and have not already cast a ballot at an advanced poll, on Thursday, please VOTE!

©2018 April Hoeller

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Thursday, or Thereabouts - May 31, 2018

There is nothing like garden dirt -- dark, cool, clumpy yet yielding, earthy. Just add flowers. Planting flowers can turn any frown upside down. Talking to them as they grow brings me smiles and chuckles along with a very special memory.

One day a long time ago when we were children, my Dad was out planting annuals in the back garden. He loved gardening when he had the time to do it, and if he could amuse his three daughters at the same time, well that really was a red letter day. So on this one morning, my sisters and I with noses pressed tight up against the bedroom window screen, watched Dad plant pansies. For our entertainment, he talked to his little plants in a voice, not unlike that of the late Jonathan Winter's character, Maude Frickert.

An old reedy, wheezy voice with a bit of a southern drawl wafted up to the window, "Well aren't you just a little cutie. Let's just get you set up right in here. Oh, such a sweetie. Now, what about your other little friends here? They want a special place just like you. Oops, don't you worry about those little wormies. They're your friends too."

We hung on every word, suppressing giggles and jostling each other. What neither we nor Dad knew was that our neighbour, hidden by the fence, was also crouched down in her garden not two metres away from Dad. Then we saw her face appear as she stood to peer over the fence to investigate the chatter. I well remember her squinty quizzical eyes focussed squarely on her neighbour's back.

Dad kept right on talking to the flowers, "Oh look at you, such a pretty yellow dress."

He must have felt her stare. He oozed his head around to look toward the fence then turned back. His chin dropped to his chest and he hung there shaking his head. He seemed to be muttering something, probably an expletive or three.

Words from the other side of the fence penetrated the air. "Well they are pretty aren't they?" 

We slid from our places at the window, hands clutching our mouths, giggles bubbling up inside us.

So yes, I talk to my plants, and not just the pansies.

They all are good listeners and together we enjoy many a lovely chat come sun or cloud. There are no little faces pressed up against a window screen watching me and no neighbours listening in, but I'm never alone. My Dad is always right there beside me chatting away. It's a family tradition!

Dad & Mom 1971

©2018 April Hoeller