Thursday, 28 November 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - November 28, 2013

I love a parade!

OMG! I'm late!
I always post by 10am and it's already past Noon!
Quelle horreur!

Today is American Thanksgiving and that means only one thing - the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in
New York City. It's a tradition of sorts for me to tune in to this mega event and if you love parades as much as I do, then this is the one for you! It is nothing short of an extravaganza of  marching bands (sadly a tradition that never really caught on in Canada), eye-popping floats and those iconic flying balloons (also largely absent in Canadian parades). This parade is a stellar performance from start to finish.

Today with a temperature hovering around the zero C mark (32F) and winds high enough to get all those flags flapping but just low enough to permit the flying balloons to do what they do best - lift eyes and hearts up, way up, the parade lead off with the NYPD motorcycle troop. I looked for Tom Selleck but - oh wait, that's another TV show. The first float was a mammoth turkey, billed as the largest bird in the parade, and then Snoopy and Woodstock flew into view. Snoopy is the character with the longest history of appearances in the Macy's parade. Yay Snoopy! Some 8000 volunteers brought us the music, song and dance acts, and the myriad of floats that all lead up to the grand finale, the entrance of emerald and golden sleigh bearing the jolly old elf himself, along with Mrs. Claus. It's enough to make anyone shout, "I believe!"

And that, folks is my excuse for tardiness, but here's the point: if you can step away from the obligations and duties of your life, especially the self-imposed ones; if you can leave behind the 'shoulds' and 'oughts' for a few hours to be amused and amazed, to be a kid again eyes wide with anticipation and bodies bubbling with joy, DO IT!

A very Happy Thanksgiving to all my American family, friends and writers.

©2013 April Hoeller (except Macy's poster)

Monday, 25 November 2013

Monday Moanings - November 25, 2013


The duffle bag and laptop case have been unpacked; the dirty laundry has been dispatched to its appointed place; the papers and souvenirs of a weekend retreat lie piled atop the kitchen table waiting for the writer to return.

She's not back yet, not really.

While we all wait for her return, here are some pics from the Turning Leaves Retreat at Fern Resort - a time when it was good to be indoors, in good company, and in the write space.

Outside, a bombastic winter artist went to work...

My heartfelt thanks to Ruth E. Walker and Gwynn Scheltema for giving me and all the writers present the time and space we needed.

©2013 April Hoeller

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - November 21, 2013

I'm outta here...

I'm going away this weekend even though I still can't see straight.
So there! 
Take that you unbidden, unwelcome blotch
 occupying centre stage in my visual field.

I've been charted, scanned, and neurologically checked out with no fault found. I've spent three weeks going round and round;
obsessing, lamenting, and worrying.
Enough already!

It's time to get on with life and so I'm spending the weekend away at a writer's retreat.

"Turning Leaves" is the annual Fall offering from the dynamic duo at Writescape, Ruth E. Walker and Gwynn Scheltema. (If you are a writer, do not pass up an opportunity to attend one of their retreats.) Who knew way back in the heat of July when I registered, how timely this retreat would be for me? I'm not going to place huge demands on myself for this escape to write, no word counts, page or chapter goals, just a gentle time in the company of supportive writers and facilitators in a resort setting.

The words will come and I and my fountain pen will be ready to write what I can for as long as I can.

Que sera, sera.

©2013 April Hoeller

Monday, 18 November 2013

Monday Moanings - November 18, 2013

You don't know what ya got, til it's gone...

How true. We take electrical power for granted. I know I do for sure, until the power goes off and then I bump into all the things that run alongside my life; all the gadgets large and small, some way more important than others. The fridge, freezer, stove, and because we live in the rural routes, the water pump - these are the more critical gadgets. We have a woodstove, so heat is not an issue.

Fotolia images © Ana Vasileva 
And so it was at 10pm last night in the middle of watching Avatar on the big TV, that electrical power, known in these parts as 'hydro' flickered twice then died. The winds were high, rain pelted down and a rumble or three of thunder sent our dog into hiding in the basement.

And just for a moment it was wonderfully quiet, that is until the beeping of power loss alarms on the less essential gadgets began. "OMG," they warn, "connection to the power grid has been lost."

So what? The candles were lit, the phones worked and I knew Hydro One crews were out there in the awful wind risking their lives to bring the lights back on.

It was an opportunity to discover candlelight, and once the alarms were turned off, silence.

Just after 5am, I awoke to hums, beeps and lights announcing a house coming back online.
Morning has broken, and all is well.

Hats off to all the hydro workers who toiled through the night. Thank you.

©2013 April Hoeller

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - November 14, 2013

A Baker's Dozen - Hawaii

As my eyesight continues to play havoc with any extensive writing, (see last Thursday's post), here's a treat for you from a cruise in November 2006:

A trip to Hawaii in 13 images.

©2013 April Hoeller

Monday, 11 November 2013

Monday Mournings - November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day 2013

I am a soldier’s mother.
One day in 2010, I bade farewell, heart in my throat, words choked off as my first borne, flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, my son headed off to Afghanistan.  Like so many images of some many other mother’s sons heading off to war, he was full of pride, determination and confidence. He was in fact annoyingly merry!  “Just taking care of business mumsy,” big grin plastered across his face, “I’ll be home for Christmas.” he chirped.

But would he? As proud as I was, I was also terrified by questions and images. Just how would he return to me?  Pieces in a steel box and saluted by many? Disfigured, limbs missing with his insides protruding from a bag on the outside?  A stranger, shattered in mind and spirit by invisible wounds? I was almost paralysed by such questions.  I coped by rehearsing every scenario and then developing a care plan for each one.  That's how I filled the first week that he was gone.

In the weeks that followed I packed up love and protection into three care packages, following army guidelines and suggestions of course: pre-packaged rice krispie squares and Pringles, tuna snacks and maple leaf lollipops, wet naps and Febreeze, hot chocolate mix and a gazillion packets of Coffeemate, then two tins of tactical bacon – a highly prized possession among the troops.  All gently surrounded by twelve rolls of the softest toilet tissue on the market – also a highly prized possession in the desert. On the top I laid the Sears Christmas Wish Book. I added one thing that was not on the army list. I slipped two hermetically sealed fine Cuban cigars, his favourites, down between the toilet tissue and the Pringles, then I unleashed the packaging tape machine and went to work. S. W. A. K.

He called when he could, from Kandahar Air Field.  The army had instructions for these chats – talk about all the great stuff going on, the weather, the dog, the neighbourhood. He too had a script and though there was nothing of real substance exchanged, the important questions were answered.  The voice from so very far away sounded normal.  He sounded okay. NO, better than okay, he sounded good, intact, but also changed. I heard a man’s voice, a man who had seen much.

A few times I stood on the Victoria Park bridge over the 401 clutching my flag and my heart, welcoming other mother’s children back home.  The scene was always the same – a long black cortege winding its way along the Highway of Heroes, lights flashing, flags waving, tears flowing.  Please dear God, don’t ever let it be me in that dark stretch limo following a flag draped casket in a funeral coach. Please...

In time, my grown man did come home for Christmas.  His return, all parts present and correct, I believe as much a matter of luck as excellent training and skill.  Again I was pestered by questions in my heart that I never dared ask. What was it like? What did you see? What did you do?  Tell me what happened. Tell all!

Sometimes he talked about the stench of the place – open sewers and rotting garbage.  He talked about the heat and the cold of the desert, and the dust, dust, and more dust that got into everything. There were no traditional Christmas crackers that year or other things that might go bang. There were no sudden movements and he sat with his back to a wall. Sometimes when he got up, he reached out for a rifle that was no longer there. But he said little about his tour.  As the months passed I heard occasional snippets, half sentences: “felt the breeze as a grenade went by..., daily rocket barrage behind the wire.” and in a general discussion about first aid kits, he allowed, “Oh yeah, I strapped on tourniquets to my arms and legs before going out on patrol, just so they were there if...”

I don’t need to know any more details.  I am one of the lucky ones.  I can watch my son capable and strong, happily married and safely home, fulfil his vocation.

My heart aches for all Silver Cross mothers, fathers, wives and sweethearts. William Alexander Fraser, a Canadian novelist who first proposed this medal in 1916, wrote: “The mothers are the heroines of the bitter home trenches. They suffer in silence with no reward but the sense that they have answered the call with their heart’s blood...”

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them, all who gave so much.

©2013 April Hoeller (photo below courtesy of Veterans' Affairs Canada)

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - November 7, 2013

Return of the Aura

Canterbury Cathedral (deliberate blur)
I re-discovered her late last Thursday afternoon, Halloween of all days, hanging out in an article about the tracking of infectious diseases. I cast my eyes upon a page in the U of T Magazine, and there she was; a vague patch of blurriness resembling a smear of Vaseline across the text, a bit wavy, like a heat shimmer. I looked away from the page and she seemed to vanish. I looked back to the page and she waved back at me, taunting me, annoying me and yes, scaring me just a little. Okay, maybe it was a bit more than a little. I checked my blood pressure (118/75) and my blood sugar (4.9). I checked one eye and then the other - her smear campaign was clearly an equal opportunity employer who enjoyed being smack dab in the centre of my view. I smiled in a mirror and stuck my tongue out. I checked that my health card was in my wallet. 

I turned around to my desktop to have a wee chat with Dr. Google. Migraine aura without the headache you say? I haven't had a visual display of wavy lines and shimmers preceding a migraine since my early twenties and now I had one but no blinding headache? Well it's never a good thing to leave diagnosis entirely to the Internet school of medicine, so by Tuesday, with no clearing in sight and a hypersensitivity to light and sound, I headed off to my eye doc. No fault found. A thorough exam including retinal scan came up with a diagnosis of ocular migraine. 

So I'm left with my aura. I've tried to make friends with her, but really I'd just like her to leave, NOW. She's playing havoc with my NaNoWriMo project, but on the upside my inner critic can't be bothered reading over blurry writing and so is unemployed. Bonus! And I'm pretending to be on a cruise where Internet is prohibitively expensive and often very slow. Three fifteen minute sessions a day limits my time in front of a flickering screen. It's a quiet softly lit space with a pen and stacks of paper. What's not to like?
(NaNoWriMo Update: I have fallen a tad behind. 3947/6000)

©2013 April Hoeller

Monday, 4 November 2013

Monday Moanings, November 4, 2013

NaNoWriMo - My Lite Version

It all began on Friday...
Image courtesy of
National Novel Writing Month
NaNoWriMo, a whole 30 days of intensive writing, a kind of writer's marathon (check out this link for details on the official scoop). Now I'm not a registered participant because firstly I'm not writing a novel and secondly, I'm not that driven, and so I'm doing a 'Lite' version. My approach is a little more relaxed because I've learned, finally, that it's okay to give myself permission to have fun, to accept the better offer when it comes along without obligingly picking up a side order of guilt, and it's okay to attend to my own well being.

So on Friday, Day 1 of NaNoWriMo, I spent a good chunk of the day with my sisters instead of writing. We had a great day together revisiting some of the wonderful stories of our childhood. We laughed a lot, learned a story or two one or more of us didn't know and simply revelled in time together. With a bit of a stretch I could claim that this was valuable research for the memoir I'm writing, but in truth no actual writing occurred, not a single word.

Day 2 - Saturday I was snookered by a TMJ/migraine tag team that effectively blocked all incentive to write, and replaced it with fatigue and an aura of unremitting gloom, coincidentally matching the weather. Again no writing, not a single word, unless I can count a grocery list.

Day 3 - Behold! A day of glorious redemption! A full day, crisp, bright and AWAY at Writing from the Centre. Many thanks to my friends Elaine and Janis for the time, space and great food. Sunday, I put words on paper, the ink flowed from a fully charged fountain pen, (which I had to refill half way through the day!), my brain actually formed sentences and put them together into meaningful paragraphs and the coherent (relatively - as is typical of first draft) pages stacked up. I estimate the word count to be just shy of 2000, but it matters more to me that I wrote, that I knocked off an episode or two of the book and that feels good, really good!

Day 4 - Well of course it's Monday and there is no sense in moaning about it. I'm off to the gym then the afternoon is clear for another luxurious stretch of writing. I'm thinking a modest goal of 1500 words a day is doable and if I manage that on 5 days out of 7, I'll reach 30,000 by month's end, which is just about what I need to flesh out the middle section of the memoir.

So here's my goal for NaNoWriMo Lite: Complete the first draft of Section B, currently titled "As Time Goes By" by November 30.

Cover me! I'm going in...

©2013 April Hoeller