Monday, 29 July 2013

Monday Moanings - July 29, 2013

Carol Burnett - The Charwoman
Monday again! The day that, according to my schedule, is 'housework' day; the day The Maid in me comes out to restore cleanliness and good order; the day that, at its close, allows me to rightfully lay claim to a "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval." High fives all around!

This Maid is well schooled in all the tools and techniques of her trade. She has no shortage of buckets, brooms, rags and mops to go with her well chosen array of solvents and solutions, sprays and polishes. Most are 'Green' at least according to the label but a few are not so environmentally friendly - because sometimes a blowtorch just isn't practical! There is just one thing this poster maid from the 1950's lacks, one flaw in an otherwise perfect performance. Regularity. And not the kind remedied by bran. In point of fact, the woman cannot be trusted to show up on a regular basis and do her job!

Every Monday? Dream on! One Monday a month? Hmmm, not likely. One day, any day, once a month? Perhaps. How about a half day every four to six weeks? Deal! Or at least a tentative arrangement. Is it any wonder I have so few of those Good Housekeeping awards? Sometimes she does indeed arrive as agreed then spends the day drinking coffee and leafing through travel magazines. Can you believe it? The only warning of her arrival is the clattering of buckets, brooms and mops accompanied by a few expletives as she searches for potions not put back where they belong. If she were a smoker, there would be fag dangling from the corner of her mouth.

So imagine my surprise when this past Friday morning, the grumbling woman thumped into my kitchen, ordered a mug of coffee, then set to work. The dust bunnies gasped in horror, the fur balls scattered, the crumbs crumbled and the big drips hung on for dear life. The sugary bits burned into the stove top laughed, sure of their tenacity to outwit all the maid's solutions, but the giggles died the instant a razor blade scraper flashed in the sunshine. She brandished her weapon high, then one quick scrape here, another two or three there and not a trace was left, save for the maid's triumphant chortle. Then the chairs were wiped down and moved out; the lights turned up high for a full assault on the floor. There was nowhere to hide from this maid on a mission. The broom handled the first sweep, then the tractor beam of the vacuum sucked up the run aways. A thorough mopping up completed the operation.

And then she was gone. As quickly as she had appeared, the Maid vanished into thin air, leaving behind a pile of dirty rags and a pristine kitchen. Mission accomplished. And it was a fine mission, well executed and successful, at least as far as the kitchen. Wonder when she'll be back to do the rest of the house? I'm thinking it won't be today, or any day this week for that matter. Next week? I'd best not hold my breath. In the mean time, already I notice that baby dust bunnies have emerged from god knows where and furry bits are beginning to gather in groups again. A few crumbs have even eased their way back onto the counters, but the stove top is still shiny (we bbq'd on the weekend).

I love my kitchen.

It is the place where so much of life happens.

Good things are made here.

Good things happen here.

I think it deserves a 'lived in ' look.
And, I think I'll have another coffee and sit here a while longer.

"No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best."  (anon.)

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - July 25, 2013

There's no life like it!

Both my love and I fell in love with the deeps almost fifteen years ago. Before that snorkeling satisfied our undersea fascination, but we both wanted to get closer to the critters and the coral, so we both got 'certified'. We can lay claim to PADI Advanced Open Water Certificates and we try to make good use of the training once a year with a dedicated dive trip. We are exclusively warm water divers; no Great Lakes, Georgian Bay or St. Lawrence River destinations; no dry suits, multiple layers of neoprene, nor head shrinking hoods; just a 3mm shorty wetsuit, warm waters and 100 foot visibility.

There's nothing to compare with that giant stride off the back of a gently bobbing dive boat into clear, beautiful blue, WARM, salt water. I give the divemaster on the boat the okay sign and with my best buddy, exchange the thumbs down signal. I press the deflator button on my BCD (buoyancy compensator device) and wait for the magic to begin. It's such a marvellous feeling as I slowly slip beneath the surface. The burdens of the world, the stresses of my life lift from my shoulders before dissolving completely. Despite carrying over sixty pounds of gear and lead and wearing the most awkward and ungainly outfit, I enjoy a sense of weightlessness, a wonderful freedom that is beyond description.

My eyes open wide to take in an entirely different world, one of liquid and colour, form and texture, activity and muted sound. Even my own bubbly breathing, which at first is almost deafening, soon fades into the hushed soundscape. I am most happy to drop down to about fifty feet and just hang out, just watch, and take pictures of course!

Chromis and hamlets flit about the coral, banded butterfly fish - always in pairs - cruise in and around the coral canals; under the ledges lobster and maybe even a green moray hide out, surgeon and doctor fish make their rounds and trunkfish, umpteen parrotfish, wrasse, grouper, snapper and so many more, abound. Turtles glide by, rays grace the scene and occasionally a shark patrols out in the deep blue. Large mauve fan coral waves a message of leisure while other corals (brain, star, staghorn, elkhorn, finger, fire) stand their ground.
It's a wonderful world!

And I think it's time to book another dive trip!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Monday Moanings - July 22, 2013

Not much brewing my pot today, but I see the Duchess of Cambridge is in labour - I'll bet she's doing some moaning, unless of course she's drugged to the hilt. Based on what we've been told about this couple I think they'd try to go the natural route as far as possible. According the Beeb, she has TWO Ob/Gyn's attending her and "things are progressing as normal." You go, girl!

There's something reassuring about the news of the impending birth of the third in line to the throne, though I'll be long gone before he or she is crowned. Still it is good to know some things will endure in an orderly fashion. I love and appreciate Canada's constitutional monarchy. It embodies a continuity of tradition informed by reason and experience. I know that's a bit of an ideal and perhaps even a romanticised view at that, but at the top of this new week, I've got on my rose coloured glasses.

It's the start of the fourth week of 'school's out' summer time, about the time when the first tentacles of boredom begin to wind their way into a child's summer fun and exhaustion begins to take a toll on parents. Ah yes, I remember it well. Sorry, I have no solutions to offer, or none that worked!

"I'm bo-or-or-ord," my inner child whines. I slap a hand over her mouth to silence that most irritating of whines. I know only too well that such a lament is an open invitation for havoc and mayhem to come and play in my yard, and I'm really not up for that onslaught. No, just let me have my neutral Monday with little to boast or moan about. There are far worse ways to start a week. I'd best get at it.

I'll leave you with some photos of Friday's storm clouds. Many areas of southern and central Ontario got hit by hail, high winds, lightning, rain and possible tornadoes. We were spared outside my door (little more than 5mm or rain) but the sky was thrilling to watch.

All photos ©April Hoeller 2013

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - July 18, 2013

Hot, Hot, Hot!
So hot that the tar bubbles up between the stones on the road;
                                                          round, shiny, black blobs of goo.
I can smell that flip flop sticking ooze, an acrid gasoline smell assaults my nostrils
     and I run away, a way back in time to childhood summers...

I confess that in the heat of July I envied my pals who spent the summer at cottages by cool shining lakes in Muskoka or Haliburton. It seemed to me that all the cool kids had places up north, on a lake with tall trees and big rocks and boats and fishing and all day swimming, and all just two hours away from home. Tales, some of them much taller than others I'm sure, of fishing derbies, water skiing, boat races, swimming competitions and campfires that lasted long into the night, enchanted me.

147 Oceanside; Mardi Gras parade 1973
BUT then came August and the annual trip to the beach. Talk about a long commute! This one involved taxis and planes and a foreign country! My mother's family had a cottage on Long Island, New York. Perhaps you've heard of  "The Hampton's" -well not there, but rather a more modest community on the southernmost tip, just east of Manhattan, called Breezy Point. Sadly the Point is now famous for the great fire spawned by Hurricane Sandy late last Fall, which turned to ashes every cottage in the wedge, the old original Breezy Point, including the cottage of my childhood. But memories are forever and there are photos too!

It was always and adventure every year to make the trek to 147 Oceanside. We always dressed up in our fancy duds because in those days air travel was fancy stuff. From Toronto we flew TCA (Trans Canada Airlines, later Air Canada) to New York's Idlewild (later JFK) airport on a Vickers Viscount or Vanguard prop job, a flight that took about ninety minutes.

Cathy, Mardi Gras Parade Day 1973
The cottage was far from grand but I didn't mind. At Breezy we had the Atlantic Ocean, with waves great for body surfing contests and getting clobbered by a big one was as thrilling as it was humbling. We had the best beach in the world - white sand that stretched for miles. On a hot day, the walk from the end of the boardwalk to the firm sand near the water's edge was ... well hot, sole burning hot. And it's not easy to walk quickly on shifting sand carrying all the beach gear - big umbrella, chairs, tarp, food basket (containing pop tins wrapped in tin foil, sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper and all full of sand anyway), and towels. We had life guards on the beach, tall bronzed men in bright red swim trunks who sat atop blue life guard stands, or sometimes underneath them in the shade, whistle at the ready.

1961 Cathy & April
1960 Mom & her girls

Three sisters on the Bayside, 1961

Pat & April with the Life Guards, 1961
Dad & I, 1969
Woosh! 1970

We had parties - fancy hat, and card parties at Christ Community Church (Auntie Lilian always won 'The
Basket of Cheer', the one full of booze), fashion jewellery parties and clothing sales (Aunt Lilian hosted and gave the profits to charity). There were friends and neighbours who were always thrilled to welcome the 'Canadian Invasion' each August. One was president of a large bakery in Brooklyn that catered to the Jewish market. When he came to visit he always brought a huge paper sack, almost as tall as eight year old me, filled with breads (pumpernickel and light rye), rolls and chocolate donuts. He was the biggest man I'd ever seen - quite tall but also quite wide - and his shoes were the biggest shoes I'd ever seen - must have been six inches wide and fifteen long. As big as he and they were, his heart was bigger. He spoke slowly, thoughtfully and everybody listened.
1967, Aunt Lilian on the right

We had doctors that made their rounds on motor scooters and delivery boys that rode bikes, front baskets loaded with bottles from the liquor store and prescriptions from the drug store. We had cops who drove
Pat & April, 1961
around in jeeps equipped with big tires to get through the sand. AND, we had a volunteer fire department (Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department), with trucks with names like 'Big Jack' and 'Sand Flea'. When the big air raid type siren went off summoning fire and/or ambulance crews, it also summoned at least half the beach residents including us. Late one night a fire started in the hardware store off of Market Street, opposite the drug store and we all trooped out to have a look. Dad carried a big red flashlight. He managed to make himself look so official that the fire crew from Brooklyn (they had to cross the Marine Parkway Bridge to get to Breezy, so were always late on the scene) asked Dad,  "Is it all right if we set up over here?" Dad reported that he mumbled something and waved his red flashlight around a bit before discreetly disappearing into the crowd.
Mom & Cathy, 1967

We had ferries that we could ride from Rockaway Point to Breezy for free, or take to Sheepshead Bay to check out the catch from the fishing fleet. From there, a subway took us into Manhattan - the United Nations, Times Square, Battery Park, the Staten Island Ferry, and the Statue of Liberty all there to behold. We had fireworks - well of course actually Coney Island had the fireworks, but we could see them from the bayside.

We had the best pizza ever at a real soda fountain store that was just beside the grocery store. We had Ebinger's crumb cake! The competition for the crumbs is the stuff of family legend. Mom bought real butter and the steak, chicken and fish (fresh from the Sheepshead Bay fleet) all tasted better. We had the best food ever at Breezy Point, or so it seemed.
Maybe it was the sand, maybe it was the salt air, probably it was the love.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Monday Moanings - July 15, 2013

I'm a bit late today getting to the blog, but you see it's been one of those 'moanings'...

You'd think after four years I'd be used to it by now, but no I dread the quarterly bloodwork of a pre-diabetic and I put it off as long as possible. For the record, in my book pre-diabetes is a bit like being 'a little bit pregnant', ie. I really am diabetic and I do need to be careful.

I know the drill well - no food after 8pm (honestly it was closer to 9 last night), out the door at 7:30 the next morning to get to the lab and join the other hungry grumpy people in the queue. There are a lot of cars in the parking lot this morning - not a good sign. Inside the waiting room I take a number, #15 it says, and find a seat, one of the three remaining, beside #10. Okay so clearly this is going to take a while. I wonder if waiting is an integral part of the experience, an opportunity to let anticipation build and blood pressure rise thereby increasing flow rate. I fill the time by fidgeting and flipping through screens on my smartphone. As always promptly at 8am extra 'blood letting' staff arrive. All of us in the waiting room greet them enthusiastically. Perhaps we're anxious to get this over with; or perhaps we just want our morning coffee asap.  Why don't they come at 7:30 when the lab opens? I suppose there's a reason.

"Number fifteen, please."

It's 8:10 as I step up to the desk, requisition and health card in sweaty hand.

"Good morning." It's more of an automatic greeting than a sincere one, no eye contact, just a hand outstretched to sweep in the paper and plastic card. If the receptionist noticed the 'to be done in June 2013' notation on the form it had no impact. June, July they're close aren't they? "Fasting twelve hours?" she asks.

"Yup" says I. It's not exactly twelve hours but it is more than eleven, so I figure I'm in the ballpark.

"Have a seat and they'll call you."

Back to my flipping and fidgeting, though the intensity is now cranked up a notch - the time is drawing nigh. I note there are two new lab techs here today, ones who have never plumbed my veins before, and there is the one I know; the one who on appearance one might least want to have on the business end of a needle; a formidable Brunhilde type. BUT she's good at her job. She has never missed, never gone fishing trip with the needle under my skin and left great black and blue calling cards that last a week. I worry that my chances of getting her today are not good. I really don't want to get stuck with any newbies - who might well be very good but, you never can tell.

Heaven's glory! The vampire gods are shining upon me this day and in Brunhilde's heavy accent I hear my name. I settle into the chair with oversized arm rests and watch as she assembles the blood collection equipment: vacutainer tubes - two for me - tourniquet and the needle. "My right arm is the better one," I say, noting the dryness in my throat.

"Hold your arm out straight and make a fist, please." Her stubby fingers, sporting perfectly polished nails, red of course, probe around my inner elbow looking for potential candidates. My veins seem to have all sunk very deep into my flesh, all trying to avoid discovery. At last she seems satisfied and snaps on the tourniquet then pulls on sterile gloves. Again her fingers probe the area while in her other hand the needle sits poised and ready. "Keep your arm still now."

This is the moment of truth. I clenched my teeth and look away all the while the digging the nails of my left hand into my thigh and desperately trying visualize the calm blue waters of a beach. The needle is in but the vein has resisted. Oh gawd, I hate this part. I feel one slight movement to left. A little pain causes me to wince. "I'm sorry" coos Brunhilde and mere seconds later she says, "Now let go your hand." The second tube satisfactorily finishes filling, the tourniquet is released and needle out. Now it's my turn to work - hold pressure on the cotton ball against the puncture while she completes the paperwork. A brief check, a bandaid and I'm good to go - to the bathroom that is.

Oh yes it's time to pee into the 4cm diameter container. Peeing is not the problem. Getting it into the container is. I'll spare you the details. Every woman out there knows the challenge so why haven't we come up with a solution? Think on that.

Done for another three months, or so, I head off to the coffee shop for a cappuccino and something to eat, then over to Curves for a workout. Periodically as I move to the music, I glance at the bandaid and the white cotton ball underneath it, looking for any signs of bleeding. No issues. Back at home I rip off the bandaid to to inspect the damage - one very small red mark. Brunhilde really is the best!

And that's the end of my moaning!

Pictures? Sorry none for this event, but here's a thought for those tough moments at the blood lab:

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - July 11, 2013

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."

This William Wordsworth quotation has been bouncing around in my consciousness for a few days now, and I'm happy to report that several more pages of the memoir I'm working on have been filled as a result of that bobber in the midst of the otherwise placid lake of my mindfulness. Yay!

Some days fishing is a good metaphor for my writing process - just throw out a line and see what's biting.Today I'm honing 'catch and release' skills, which in fishing is a fine and admirable practice but in writing nets a very paltry take, unless of course you are my inner critic. My inner critic is having a blast. She can hardly believe her luck on the lake today. All I can hear is her gleeful cackle: "That one's too big. That one's too small. That one's no good. That one bites."

The write fish has got to be out there, somewhere. I check my tackle and recast the line, aiming for the quiet pool just beyond the reeds, just over the rock ledge, that ... perfect ... spot. Ahh but alas, perfection is the inner critic's splash park. No wonder she's having so much fun today!

Time for me to exchange my pen for the camera, for today the breathings of my heart inspire me discover wordless images of beauty and wonder, joy and love. And that's about as perfect as anything gets.

Let's go for a walk in my garden.

Now let's head over to the York Regional Forest - Hollidge Tract

And back home again for a good roll in the grass:

All photos ©April Hoeller 2013

Monday, 8 July 2013

Monday Moanings - July 8, 2013

Ever had one of those days when what you thought you were going to write, what you had mapped out, annotated and all but written, falls apart? I'm having one of those mornings. I had planned to write something about how two accidents this weekend coloured my thoughts in the drab hues of lament; how a plane crash in San Francisco and train wreck in Lac-Megantic underscore the fine line between happiness and horror, security and vulnerability, life and death; how accidents always disrupt, disturb and destroy our neat, comfortable lives.

But then I saw this video by Sandra Meroz about Lac-Megantic and it says so much more than I could say, and with so much more eloquence. Thank you Sandra Meroz for creating this very poignant montage. Any moaning I might have done this day would be an affront to the people of this small Quebec town.

My heart goes out to you, the people of Lac-Megantic as you struggle to live again amidst so much destruction and loss, so many questions without answers. May there be many hand holds and hugs for you in the coming days and weeks.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - July 4, 2013

Independence Day 2013
Our big sister to the south celebrates her 237th birthday today. Happy Birthday, Sis!

January 2004
My mother was born in Massachusetts in 1921 and grew up in Connecticut. She loved her homeland all her life, treasured her US passport and never let it go - much to my father's chagrin. He wanted her to adopt Canada, and though she lived here from their wedding day in 1944 until the day she died in 2010 some 66 years later, she spent every one of those years as an American citizen.
Dementia took many things from my Mom but not her national identity and pride. In fact these became the certainties in her day. She wore the Stars & Stripes over her heart. More than a few times during her years in long term care, the precious pin went missing and then there was hell to pay. Mom would get so upset that we soon learned to have a few spare pins in reserve, ready to 'sub in' for the lost one.

"Hey Mom I found it! Here's your flag."
Eyes filled with tears, "Please pin it on me, dear." Relief flooded her face. She looked so grateful, so profoundly happy and 'at home'. The door of her room at the nursing home sported "Old Glory" too. Fortunately that flag never went missing!

August 1963
We made a big deal out of "The 4th" during the latter years; cup cakes festooned with red, white and blue, balloons and stories, lots of stories from Mom's childhood years. The staff at the home, God bless 'em, made the day special for her too. One staff member always called Mom, "Miss America" and sometimes "Miss New York. Mom may have been raised in Connecticut, but she was a New York City kind of gal, at times laying claim to apartments in the Empire State Building and Tower #1 of World Trade Center, and an operatic debut at Carnegie Hall. It is grand to live in one's dreams.

So a very Happy Birthday to my mother's homeland. Thank you for being the land of her birth and worthy of her hopes and dreams all her life.
And yes, God Bless America!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Monday Moanings - July 1, 2013

NO Moaning allowed today!
It's Canada Day
I am Canadian!

Today is for fun, food and family. 
On the menu today:
crostini with garlic scape pesto
Canadian Cheddar & Oka cheeses
balsamic glazed steak with rosemary, grilled to perfection on the bbq
potatoes with oregano butter
grilled zucchini, asparagus, peppers and mushrooms
Ontario Strawberries served over vanilla ice cream on grilled pound cake (homemade of course!) and topped with whipped cream.

And the wines: Peninsula Ridge 2011 Beal Vineyards Cabernet Rose & Thirty Bench 2009 Small Lot Pinot Noir

Today is for leisure, laughter and love.
All will be surrounded with pride and gratitude.

Thank you Canada!
Happy 146th Birthday!

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