Thursday, 29 November 2018

Thursday, or Thereabouts - November 29, 2018

ENOUGH Already!
I will certainly be happy to kick this month to the curb tomorrow!

The last Thursday of this wretched November dawned much like every day before it - overcast with below normal temperature and some new snow. The graph of the energy output from our solar panels says it all:

And the comparative graph proclaims this November to the worst month in their six-year history on our roof.

This November has also dumped a heavy coat of gloom over my internal landscape. It's been a struggle to be energetic, though the occasional fresh coats of snowy whitewash do much to prevent such listlessness from becoming overwhelming.

The "in-my-face" non-stop bombardment of retail advertising that has also characterized this month has only increased my grumpiness. Enough already! I don't need more stuff in my life, or my house. I will not be thrilled beyond measure to get a good deal on one more bauble, gadget or even ugly sweater. What I wish for is less junk, less clutter, more clarity, more confidence. Oh, and more SUNSHINE would be nice.

"Your wish is granted," announce the ancients from the dark times of old...

Come this Sunday, the lighting of the darkness begins. It is the First Sunday of Advent and a single light will be kindled on Advent wreaths all over the world.

Later, when the first star of the evening appears on Sunday, two lights will brighten the night as the shamash and the first candle on menorahs announce the beginning of Hanukkah all over the world.

The light is coming. Amen to that!

©2018 April Hoeller

Monday, 26 November 2018

Monday Moanings - November 26, 2018

Some kind of virus has taken over every media platform, website, radio, and TV station.
It came in two waves:

Followed by:

There was a time a few years ago when the sales rant was a tad less virulent, the deals more real, and I was more tolerant. I happily indulged in the "not to be missed" offers. I wrapped up Christmas gifts in just an hour or so of mouse clicks.

BUT these events have morphed into something of a global epidemic, due in no small part to the older sibling Black Friday's girth. Together Black and Cyber have crept into the days between and around the namesakes. Black Friday advertising began a week ago - and don't get me started about Black Friday's invasion of Canada! Cyber Monday adverts began on Thursday.

I don't want to see or hear another word about it. I am sick of it all. My footfall has not echoed in any mall or big box store since over a week ago and I'm not going to buy a single thing on the web today. I'm not even wasting any time perusing the offers. I delete them as fast as they plink into my mailbox. And I'm not alone in my rising distaste for such overblown consumerism. Hashtags such as #NotOneDime and #BuyNothingDay have gained traction of late. There is hope...

The day after all the frenzied sales pitches has acquired the moniker of  Giving Tuesday. Charities will be out in force trying to pick up any crumbs of coinage left after the spending fury. Good on them for trying to counter the retail onslaught. And YES I will be supporting my favourite charities - Medecins sans Frontieres, my local hospital, and arts community.

But WHY let me ask, is giving always in third place after getting and more getting? It's wrong!
Giving Tuesday belongs BEFORE the hoopla of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

I don't suppose the idea will gain much traction...except in my house. It's a start.

©2018 April Hoeller

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Thursday, or Thereabouts - November 22, 2018

A clear sparkling morning outside my door this day.

At -20°C (-4°F), it's record-breaking cold, but still a spectacular day. Snow crystals sublimating out of thin bitter air performed a sparkling dance that filled me with wonder, joy, and hope.

The icicles glistened...

And the birds were grateful for a fatty feast.

 "With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."
 (Max Ehrmann: Desiderata 1927)

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American family, friends and readers.

©2018 April Hoeller

Monday, 19 November 2018

Monday Moanings - November 19, 2018

The tetherball that hangs from the North Pole has begun to swing. Just a gentle sway back and forth right now, not enough energy to complete a full circuit. That won't last much longer!

The Jolly Old Elf made an appearance on the streets of Toronto yesterday at the annual parade in his honour. A quick glance over his parade schedule in the coming weeks is enough to make me swoon. And then there are all those mall sittings! Honestly, I never have figured out how he does it all year after year.

God knows I have enough trouble just doing Christmas at my house and as the years have marched by - well let's just say it's not getting any easier! The outdoor decorations though small in number are not up yet due to the early arrival of cold and snow. I've already started stressing about the baking schedule, though I did try a new trick this past weekend. I tempered and molded chocolate for an Advent Calendar. It worked! I just have to make a dozen more candies and it's done.

Time for a reality check.
          1. There are still THIRTEEN (13, XIII) days until the first Sunday of Advent, the day when according to family tradition, the outdoor lights can get their festive twinkle on at night and the indoor decorations begin to appear.

          2. There are only TWO plus a furry paws (2, II) of us living in this house and other than the Christmas Feast attended by only adults (I have it on good authority that next year will be different...), I don't do any seasonal entertaining. So just how many cookies are truly required? Answer: nothing that can't be accomplished in the three or four days of unhurried baking.

So there! I think I'll just sit a while longer rocking back and forth in my wagon. I'll make a few lists and check them twice. Yeah, right! Who am I kidding? I'll be checking them constantly because my vintage brain loses track of things!  Later in the week, when I'm feeling inspired, I'll restock the larder with baking ingredients and make the rest of those Advent calendar chocolates.

I will, of course, keep an eye on that Christmas tetherball, but this week I'm going to do more soothing than fretting. It's a good strategy for the entire season of merriment, but it is also best to begin with just one week at a time.

©2018 April Hoeller

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Thursday, or Thereabouts - November 15, 2018

The View from Here
Outside my door:

And the forecast:

As a typical November spreads her blustery lament across the landscape obliterating any chance of sunshine, it's a good day for mugs of Chai, warm thoughts, and flights of fancy.

Be careful out there...

©2018 April Hoeller

Monday, 12 November 2018

Monday Moanings - November 12, 2018

It's been a while since I had a really good moan on a Monday, so I'm making up for lost time, or so it seems. I'm having trouble mustering up the energy to even enter the weak today. And YES I did use the right homonym! Did I mention that I'm a tad cranky, irritable, out of sorts? All that too describes me today.

I'm not asking for encouragement, a pep talk (please spare me) or even a hug - okay well maybe a hug would be okay,

...or perhaps a scratch along my ears and neck.

Just don't try to butter me up.

Here's the bottom line:
There are days when I'm just not up for the challenge and today is one of them. 

When my children were in elementary school, if I sensed either one of them approaching overload - a gradual but certain progression into indifference with occasion tantrums - I declared a mental health day for them, having ruled out all other causes (tests, real illness).  Morning would arrive, I'd see those listless eyes, a little body going through the motions, no protest, no emotion, and I knew it was time for a mental health day. Such days were made of blanket forts in the living room complete with favourite stuffies to cuddle with, colouring books, maybe a video or two, a grilled cheese sandwich, homemade soup, and an afternoon nap. Pure luxury.

On a very few occasions I called both kids in sick to the school, but that was sometimes more about my needs than my children's. Let me call a spade a spade here, and admit that I used my kids to justify my need to take a day away from work. It sounded so much more noble to say that I couldn't come into work today because both kids were sick than to say I wasn't feeling well enough to come to work today. And besides, I know we all benefited from our joint or separate mental health days. Kids went back to school refreshed and renewed, I went back to work energised to make up for any lost time.

I AM smiling!

So today, I'm calling in sick. I've got some crayons if colouring strikes my fancy, a video or two to lounge through, both set in warm climates, the carcass of the roast chicken from last night's supper is simmering its way along the road to soup, and there will be an afternoon nap. Pure luxury!

There's just one problem: how do I explain all the cuddly animals in the living room?

Have a great week, y'all hear?

(All photos were taken at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, November 8, 2018.)

©2018 April Hoeller

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Thursday, or Thereabouts - November 8, 2018

Forty-eight hours of enlightenment, inspired guidance, skilled encouragement, camaraderie and laughter, all at a lakeside resort serving up excellent meals (none of them requiring my prep, serving, or clean-up!) and a cosy chair by the fireplace  - what's not to love?

Even though the sun was unable to make a full commitment, the great day star did gift us with a few brilliant cameo appearances.

Saturday brought a mixed bag of weather - rain, sleet, and wet snow. Still, we were spared a full blast of winter, unlike the Turning Leaves retreat of 2013.

Turning Leaves November 2013
Turning Leaves November 2018

In short, even the weather was set up to encourage writers of all stripes to gather indoors, learn a thing or two and WRITE. The Writescape team of Ruth E. Walker and Gwynn Scheltema truly do know how to craft, not just a good, but a great retreat for writers and the 2018 edition of Turning Leaves was no exception.

For this, Writescape's Tenth Anniversary, bestselling author Andrew Pyper was the guest author and workshop leader. He led us deeper into consideration of the often muddy midpoint of our works in progress. In the memoir I've been writing I've been struggling for substance and clarity on just this section. I had a beginning and an end but no idea how to connect them in the middle. Using Andrew's workshop insights, I discovered that I actually did have a midsection written pretty much in full. Thank you, Andrew! I now need to put some more flesh on the beginning but I can no longer whine that the middle doesn't exist. Score!

Andrew Pyper

But that's not all! I went on this retreat deliberately leaving the storage box, the one full of all the notes, partial manuscripts, and reference material for the memoir, at home under my desk. I wanted to allow a new muse, one that has been tapping on my shoulder for some months now, a chance to write. It took until Sunday morning for her to get my pen moving, but once the words were flowing on the page she did not and has not stopped! At first, I thought the piece was going to be at most a few paragraphs of free-writing, but now at nearly 3000 words, I'm thinking it's at least a short story and maybe even a novel. I can't quite discern a more specific genre beyond fiction at this point, but it just might be that some of Andrew Pyper's penchant for horror rubbed off on me. What I do know is that I'm adding to the story whenever I can and when I can't I'm thinking about the next scene and ones after that. Score - Again!

Oh! There was also a six-line poem that emerged from my pen tip Sunday morning. That was a huge surprise. Other than an off-colour limerick from time to time, I've never written any poetry. Score #3 - a hat trick!

I am indebted to Gwynn and Ruth for providing such a fruitful experience and for offering the opportunity to meet and learn from Andrew Pyper. I'm also grateful for the community of writers, both familiar friends and new, with whom I shared this time. It's amazing what happens at a writers' retreat!

For now, I'm back home and writing.
Life is good.

©2018 April Hoeller