Tuesday, 24 April 2018

A to Z Challenge - U is for Under the Waves

While I'm still slaving away on the writer's retreat...

...here's a chance for you to explore the world Under the waves.  

Come on in. The water's fine.
Remember to breathe.

Time to come up topside.
Sure glad the boat made it!

©2018 April Hoeller

Monday, 23 April 2018

A to Z Challenge - T is for Time-out and Travel

A time-out for me, and a bit of travel for you.

While I'm taking a time-out from regularly scheduled programming to enjoy my annual writing retreat, an escape to write along the shores of Rice Lake),  let me send you traveling you to the Great Wall of China, with some digital souvenirs of our travels there in April 2014.


Here's the link to the story connecting the pictures:

©2018 April Hoeller

Saturday, 21 April 2018

A to Z Challenge - S is for Sheba, Sasha & Sophie

Our lives have been enriched beyond measure by the trio of dogs that, so far, have shared their lives with us. Two purebred German Shepherds and one German Shepherd-Alaskan Malamute crossbreed.
Our first Shepherd, Sheba, came to us in 1979. Abused by the previous owner, the nine-month-old was rescued by a friend and brought to our door one night, filthy with machine grease and full of matted fur. But she eagerly shook a paw, licked my face and snuggled into my shoulder. We fell in love.

It would be nearly six years before Sheba's place as #1 in our days got shifted by the arrival of children. Sheba took them both in stride, loving and protecting both children until at 13-1/2 years it was time for her to head across the rainbow bridge.

In 1993, we bought Sasha from someone we thought was a respectable breeder. She was 3 months old.

What we did not know then was that she came from eastern European border guard stock. Sasha was fiercely loyal, emphasis on the fiercely. With us, she was fun and happy to lie on the floor trotters in the air for belly rubs.

With others, not at all friendly. But we loved her. She was just shy of 14 years when the rainbow bridge beckoned.

On December 17, 2008 we brought Sophie home from the Georgina Animal Shelter and Adoption Centre where she had been known as "Willow". She had been found wandering in a farmer's field. That she knew basic commands led the staff to suspect that the 7-month-old had been dumped by city owners not able to cope with this ball of energy.

Sophie wasted no time making herself right at home. Her eyes, one blue, one brown, stole our hearts away. A gal for all seasons, she is a lot of fun, full of beans even at 11 years old.

Thank you for your kissy-lickies on our faces, table-clearing tail wags, 
and for leaving such wonderful pawprints on our hearts.

Three cheers for Sheba, Sasha, and Sophie!

©2018 April Hoeller

Friday, 20 April 2018

A to Z Writing Challenge - R is for Retreat

Elmhirst Resort, Rice Lake Ontario

It's a busy day - a good, busy day for me. I'm getting my stuff together to head off to a writing retreat. Five days of open space, as structured or unstructured as I need; in the company of other writers or on my own, maybe even in my jammies; no meals to plan, prepare or clean up after; and all under the "care-full" wings of two very capable writers, Ruth Walker and Gwynn Scheltema.

I have a somewhat muted optimism about this escape to write. Honestly, I'm a bit anxious about it. It's been nearly a year since I even looked at my work in progress memoir. To be fair, and even kind to myself, the months have not been wrapped in utter idleness. First, there was the home renovation that turned this...

...into this:

Like all reno's this one was chock full of disruptions, noise, dust, and delays. Winter intruded before we could get the interior finished. Still, the space holds promises of light and inspiration. And the floor is done!

Then in the late autumn, my love's health took a hit for the first time in our life together, (nearly fifty years). Age plus genetics set up roadblocks along the coronary artery highway. An angiogram revealed a 100% occlusion of the left anterior descending artery (aka the widow-maker) and a 70% blockage of the right coronary artery. A week before Christmas, two stents were successfully placed to open up the arteries. We dodged a bullet, that is for sure. The man bounced back with gusto. Me? I was a little slower to return to regularly scheduled life, slower to pick up my pen to write.

Spring Thaw Writing Retreat 2017

What do I want from this escape? I want to hang out with some great people, enjoy the camaraderie of fellow writers and soothing embrace of a lakeside cottage. I want to write, to feel the joyful glide of fountain pen on crisp white paper.

Will the memoirist return to pick up the threads of the story about her mother and Alzheimer's Disease? Will the travel writer, anticipating the Norwegian fjords of the next great cruise, fill the pages with a journey of amazement? Will the former pastor give voice to the challenges of the job, the stories of faith, hope and love; fear, despair, and betrayal? Or, is there another story in the shadows, waiting to be inked?

It matters not to me which of my muses joins me during these rest-full days, or what she writes. The welcome mat is out for any and all. The pens are full. The paper fresh and inviting. It's going to okay. I can do this.

©2018 April Hoeller

Thursday, 19 April 2018

A to Z Challenge - Q is for the Queen of the Mall

Mom and I, January 2002

Today I again offer an excerpt from the memoir, a work in progress, about walking with my late mother through the tangles of dementia. In today's piece, it is February 2002. Mom is nearly 81 years old and she is recovering from a stable impacted hip fracture. It's early days and we are just beginning to discover that a hip fracture is the least of our problems.


Following her hip fracture, my sister Cathy and I took Mom to the mall every Friday, for some shopping, lunch and a visit to the hair salon. We discovered that she was quite the celebrity at the mall. Cheerful waves and greetings, “Hello Irene!” announced her wheelchair parade through the wide concourse. It felt a bit like accompanying royalty and so we dubbed her, ‘The Queen of the Mall’. If a pumpkin can become an elegant carriage, then surely a wheelchair can become the royal landau!  Mom loved it.

While she was being primped and coifed, Cathy and I made our own stroll through the concourse. Nobody greeted us with waves and smiles, but a few had stories to tell. Mom’s beloved pharmacist  was more than eager to help the Queen, and told us that on several occasions in the past six months or so, he had convinced Mom to let him sort through her BIG RED shoulder bag, loaded with all kinds of pills – blue ones, red ones, white ones; pink and yellow and green ones; some prescribed, most not. Each time he threw out the junk and counseled her at length about which drugs to take when. On a few occasions, he told us that he drove Mom home because she seemed so very confused and flustered.

The cosmetician at the pharmacy was also happy to meet us. We learned from her that several times over the past months, the Queen had come into the store looking somewhat disheveled – buttons done up wrong, sweater twisted, pant leg caught up in hosiery and the like – and that she had taken time to redress her. She also tried to discourage Mom from making purchases of the same items bought the week before, but every week, Mom insisted that she had to have the Vichy cream and the red lipstick and the blue eyeshadow. As always on our visits, she asked us how Mom was and then in a more serious tone inquired, “Now, how are you doing?”

I must have looked a little ragged, though I thought that I was doing great. I worked a full schedule, never missed a beat, and I devoted every Friday, my day off, to Mom. Though the number of troubling revelations was increasing, it was happening at a manageable pace with plenty of time for each new piece of information to be digested, categorized, rationalized and strategized. But at night when the day was far spent, the busy world was hushed, and the clock struck 0-dark-30, I lay wide awake, sometimes for hours, tormented by the dementia demon hissing in my ear...
“She’s got it, you know...
She’s gonna shit her pants and wet herself...
She’s gonna become a drooling, smelly, gorked out old soul sprawled in a gerichair.
Soon she won’t have a clue who you are.”
Back in the Mall, Cathy and I crammed ourselves along with the Queen in her wheelchair into a public washroom. She balked at using the handicapped stall. “I don’t need that!” she barked. Then she refused to take her bulky winter coat off, but instead impulsively stood up, stepped forward and stumbled over the footplates. She sagged back into the wheelchair. “Oh, I’m going to wet my panties if you two don’t do something!” She began to cry.

I crouched down to move the footplates out of the way, then looking up at her, I took her hand and gently pleaded, “Mommy, please let’s get your coat off so you can move more easily.”

She snatched her hand out of mine and snapped, “Oh all right, but hurry up.”

We got Mom into the cubicle and she latched the door. With a sigh of relief flecked with sorrow, I slumped my back against the door. It was only then that I saw the woman at the sink washing her hands. Our eyes met in the mirror, her face, lined with wisdom was brimming with compassion.

Her gentle words, little more than a whisper traveled the space between us, “All you can do is love her.”

Mom at 18 years old

©2018 April Hoeller

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

A to Z Challenge - P is for Pen and Paper

image courtesy of Laywine's

Almost all of my writing begins with pen on paper, as opposed to fingers on keyboard. There is a highly favoured writing instrument for this activity - a fountain pen. Not just one, but three lovelies await my write hand.  The oldest is Montblanc No. 22 that my husband bought for me some 50 years ago. It's quite light in the hand and was one a line of 'economy' pens that Montblanc made in the 1960's. It has stood up well, but as it is no longer my 'go to' pen, it rests quietly on my desk, an emblem of fine writing.

Montblanc No. 22

Fifteen years ago, a Parker Sonnet, made in France, was added. The perfect weight of this pen in my hand, the fine balance; the perfect tapered thickness of barrel between my fingers, the lush coolness; the satin smooth flow of specially blended ink accompanied by ever so soft scratching sounds as letters become words at the tip of a golden nib; all work together to make writing the most natural, most soothing, most pleasurable thing in the world.

Parker Sonnet

Two years ago, I set off in search of a third pen to join the lineup. I discovered Laywine's  - Purveyors of fine pens, papers, and writing accessories in Toronto.

OMG if you love writing by hand, if you long for the feel and flow of a good pen, then this is the store for you, (but perhaps not for your credit card). Not only is there a magnificent array of fine writing instruments, there are also journals and stationery, many specifically crafted for the fountain pen of your dreams. Add to this, an eye-popping selection of inks from around the world and you know that you have arrived in handwriting heaven.

After having been asked a host of questions about my writing habits, the salesperson presented me with several pens to test drive. Weight, balance, ink flow, nib size were all tried before I settled on Lamy 2000, a piece of impeccable engineering.

Lamy 2000

Enough already with the drooling over a pen!  What about paper? The fountain pen comes with a history and character that only some papers can bear. The paper must be smooth enough to allow the pen to move unimpeded across the page, thick enough to resist bleed-through and plentiful enough to encourage whole truths. The store had just right paper too, of course, and even a number of paper-perfect journal books.

And now to write -

Balanced perfectly in my write hand, my fingers cradling the smooth slim body, I gently press the tip to the page. Words are delivered to paper with just the right amount of ink and the page receives them with grace, spelling mistakes and all!

©2018 April Hoeller

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

A to Z Challenge - O is for Owl & Others

Barred Owl
...and Other birds that grace the land outside my door.

Some, like the owl, are large...

Cooper's Hawk
Pileated Woodpecker
Wild Turkey
Juvenile Cooper's Hawk
Ring-necked Pheasant

Others are small but more frequent visitors...

White-breasted Nuthatch
Black-capped Chickadee

Indigo Bunting

Slate-coloured Junco

Northern Cardinal - Female
Northern Cardinal, Male
Hairy Woodpecker
Baltimore Orioles
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

And the omnipresent, rain or shine, snow or sleet - Fred and Ethel the mourning doves:
Mourning Doves

"And what matters most is not whether we hide or fly or even where our journey takes us -- but what guides us home and where we come to land."
(closing monologue from Call the Midwife Season 7, Episode 5)

©2018 April Hoeller