Monday, 29 June 2015

Monday NO Moanings - June 29, 2015

Canada Day WEEK, 2015

The rain has stopped. The sun is shining, The strawberries are ripe for the picking!

Wednesday is Canada Day!

There's been some moaning about this mid-week holiday; not about the day off, nor the occasion, but rather about the timing - smack dab in the middle of the work week with no weekend within a day's reach. Well I realize it seems inconvenient and even strange to not have a Canada Day long weekend, but how about going for a Canada Day Week? I know it's not the same. Many have to go to work, but still you can get the flag out in the workplace as well as at home, EH?

Let's shake off the scales of cynicism and complaint and enjoy the privilege of living in this great land.

There are four wonderful seasons, each one offering its share of glorious days along with a few clunkers;

there are awesome landscapes of mountains, lakes, forests and prairies;

there's architecture in cityscapes that incorporate the old and the new along with green space too;

and so many diverse cultures to enrich and inspire each one of us to be who we were born to be.

I'm thrilled and proud to be a part of the colourful mosaic that is my home and native land. We're not perfect, not by a long shot; we're not without problems; we've got critical issues and controversies that need tending, but not right now. Let the problems and politics, failures and controversies take a back seat this week.

On July 1, 1960 John Diefenbaker, Canada's 13th Prime Minister, introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights in Parliament with these words:

"I am a Canadian!
Free to speak without fear,
Free to worship in my own way,
Free to stand for what I think right,
Free to oppose what I believe wrong,
Free to choose those who shall govern my country.
This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and mankind."

Be safe. Be happy. Be proud.
Happy Canada Day, all week!

©2015 April Hoeller

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - June 25, 2015

Under the Manitoba Maples

The southwest corner of our property has been guarded by two Manitoba Maple trees  for as long as we've lived here. They were probably ten to fifteen years old when we first arrived in the rural routes in 1978.

Looking south to Cherry Street, September 1978. Manitoba Maples centre & right
With chainsaws, handsaws and hatchets, my love and I cleared the land. We carefully plotted out the space required for the house and the septic tile bed. We agonized over exactly which trees had to go. I recall our contractor kidding us about our over-protective, hand-wringing angst as we considered each tree. We stockpiled what we thought was a huge supply of firewood - almost all of it red pine.

Then a hulking D-9 bulldozer pushed out the stumps and sculpted out the foundation for the house. At the time I insisted that the two sentries at the southwest corner of the lot remain untouched, much to the chagrin of the dozer operator.

September 1978, looking south; Manitoba Maple on right

The years zoomed by. The trees grew up and out. I hardly noticed.

2014 Manitoba Maples on the right
In these latter years, storms - ice, snow, wind, torrential rain - have put my beloved guardians to the test.

December 2013

Heavy in leaf and branch stretching up and out, the big trees creak and moan in the wind. A debris field of small branches litters the lawn after each new storm. The added weight of water brought on by a deluge of rain adds to their stress.

The storm this past Monday night brought plenty of wind and rain and lightning. It came in three waves, each one more intense than the one before it. Just after 1am, as I eased back into bed after settling the dog for the umpteenth time -
No crack, no bang, just a heavy sigh, exhaled outside my window. In the darkness and pelting rain, I could see nothing amiss, but my heart felt loss. Morning light revealed the cause:

Not just a downed section of a tree, but also decay - spongy, punky rot...

And one more thing, a more troubling thing: a crack along another major section, an opening that expanded and contracted with each gust of wind.

This was serious - this seriously big section of a seriously big tree stretched out over its partner into the neighbour's trees. The good news? No hydro or telephone lines and no houses or other structures are in the way, should the bough break.

Still I cried. A deluge of memories took me by storm.

Under these branches, summer picnics were enjoyed by giggling youngsters. In the Autumn, squeals of delight reverberated through bare branches as little ones frolicked and scuffed through piles of fallen leaves. Winter was a quiet time for the trees except for an occasional attempt at sledding down the minimal slope under the big one. Oh and of course that same slope offers a great vantage point from which the resident canine can survey her dominion.

And a picture perfect spot for Grade 8 graduation in 2001:

Out came the chainsaws, handsaws, loppers and rake. My love and I cleared and cleaned up the fallen, keeping a watchful eye and ear on the big crack.  Surely this tree of so many memories was doomed.

We knew the rest of the task was beyond our abilities and daring, so when all was tidied, we called the doctor, an arborist, to see what could be done.

On the phone he sounded far more optimistic than I felt. He made his rounds the next morning before 8. Surveying the old gal from every angle he murmured oohs and few ahhs. Then he announced his prescription: some minor surgery to reduce weight and the application of a brace to stablilize the tree. (Mentally I noted the similarity to the remedy for my own aging body woes - lose weight and brace the parts that are falling down!)

There was more: in a month's time he'll be back to amputate the section that is beginning to split off. There is fungus growing on it/in it and rot is imminent if not already well developed.

Bottom line: the Grand old Manitoba Maple is spared. She will live on with two of her original four-part trunk structure in tact. I am truly heartened. I hope she is too, along with her sister tree by her side.
Long live the trees!

Note: Apparently taking the tree down entirely would be way more expensive than preserving it, about double the cost.
Win - Win!

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 22 June 2015

Monday Moanings - June 22, 2015

If the shoe fits...

My daughter's wedding is fast approaching. I need shoes. I hate shoes. I love bare feet. But as age has crept up on me, arches have fallen, ankles have become too mobile and the tendons can't handle the stress. In short my feet can't hack the freedom of being unshod. Shoes - good stable shoes that can accommodate the prescribed aggressive orthotic inserts are my de rigueur footing, especially if I'm going to be upright for a long time and moving around a lot, like at a wedding, dancing.

 I was not blessed with my mother's sense of style, but I have been gifted with her feet (Thanks, Mom). Short and wide, and getting wider by the year, or it could be month. What am I going to find for my feet that won't look like army boots? I went to three shoe stores one day last week. I saw a few, okay three, pairs of shoes that I actually liked.

The first had the same blue and silver colouring of my dress, a solid arch, a low wedge heel and some side support. They were also Italian, something I thought made them truly classy. My mother would have approved. As I sat on the bench I slipped the left shoe on. It looked quite fine on my foot. Then I stood up. My fully weighted wide foot screamed in protest.

Undaunted I went on to the next store. After all, if it was so easy to find a pair of shoes I actually liked, then the Cinderella pair must be just around the corner. A sleek and shiny silver pair caught my eye. I squeezed my foot in just past my big toe, then pulled it off.

Shoes from a few years ago - my daughter's on the left, mine (which don't fit anymore) on the right.

No worries. There's a huge shoe emporium just down the street. I'll go there. Now in truth I should have known instantly that any store with the adjective "Designer" in their name, would be a bust for me. But I was confident. That confidence flowed out of me at record speed as I strolled up and down aisles and aisles of tall narrow shoes. Tears of disappointment stung the corners of my eyes. Dear God, get me out of here.

As I made my way from the back of the store to the exit a pair of light grey sneakers with wide white laces cleared my blurry eyes. Just for a moment I considered them: accommodate orthotics - check; colour match - check; comfort over long hours - check. I slipped one one. Perfect - for boating or the cruising the boardwalk, but a summer garden party wedding? NO, No and no.

My job this week is to pluck up the courage to once again get out there an find a pair of shoes for the wedding. Shoes that fit me as well as the grand occasion. Wish me luck.

©2015 April Hoeller

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - June 18, 2015

No words Today

This morning I awoke to the news of the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine people were killed, nine folks who were just sitting in church, worshipping, praying, singing; six women and three men demonstrating only faith.

No doubt many will ask "Where was God?" And there will be no satisfactory answers.

From my chair in the kitchen I can say with great confidence that God was indeed there. But would I dare to believe such a thing if I had been in Emanuel AME Church Wednesday evening? And if God was there then why did this God who is love, not do anything to prevent the unspeakable terror?" Again, there will be no satisfactory answers.

It's not a time for words.

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 15 June 2015

Monday Moanings - June 15, 2015

And the rain keeps coming down...

This Monday slot is quickly turning into a weather rant. Two weeks ago as meteorological summer began, I reported the official Environment Canada forecast for the summer: hotter and wetter than normal. Later that day, the Weather Network® came out with their forecast: cooler and a bit drier.

I wondered if Mother Nature got the official memo. Well so far this month, it would appear that she did indeed receive the memos from the experts and she has chosen to honour both in her own way. She has given us folks in southern Ontario COOLER and WETTER weather.

My bones and joints have not ceased to complain. The rain barrels are overflowing and nothing needs watering. I can see the grass growing, thick and lush and long, but not dry enough to cut. Bedraggled birds hang their wet feathers on the feeders.

BUT the world outside my door is also dripping with colour!

No point in whining about it. As my mother pointed out on numerous occasions, I'm not sugar - I won't melt.

Put on the rain gear and get out there.
See if you can actually run between the raindrops.
Splash in the puddles.
Come home with a soaker.
Sing in the rain.
Have a fun week.

My sister (right) and I, ca. 1957

©2015 April Hoeller

Friday, 12 June 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts (unless of course it's Friday) - June 12, 2015

Graduation Day

Me with Mom & Dad, June 1979
It was a grand day. The weather was warm and sunny; perfect for a graduation ceremony at Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto. The platform party entered with grand regalia and ceremony. A lump formed in my throat and my eyes stung just a little. I've been here before.

As is the custom, the Chancellor formally convened convocation with these words, “In concilium Universitatis Torontonensis vocati sumus”.

A Vice-President of the University presented the graduates, with these words,
"Praesento tibi hosce scholares ut admittantur ad gradus varios, testorque eos quoad omnia quae statuta requirunt aptos et idoneos esse."

Most distinguished Chancellor: I present to you these scholars that they may be admitted to the various degrees, and I bear witness that, as far as all things which the statutes require, they are fit and suitable.

The Chancellor replied,
"Ad profectum huius provinciae et populi Canadensis cum sociis omnibus ego auctoritate mea et totius Universitatis admitto vos ad gradus varios, licentiamque vobis do omnia ea faciendi quae ad illos gradus pertinent."

To the benefit of this province and of the Canadian people with all their allies, I , by my authority and that of the whole University, admit you to the various degrees, and I grant you the licence of doing all those things which pertain to those degrees.

Latin, an ancient language full of history and tradition. I for one hope they never stop using these few sentences at Convocation. They are a solemn reminder of our ancestry in the pursuit of knowledge and excellence - Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, Socrates, Origin, Pliny.

At this convocation yesterday, it was the graduates of Rotman School of Management who were presented to the Chancellor. I was impressed with the address given by the Dean of Rotman, Dr. Tiff Macklem. He offered these life lessons learned from his friend and colleague, the late Joe Rotman who was the benefactor of the school of management:
Have the courage to set high goals and be ambitious.
There is no substitute for hard work.
Don't be embarrassed or apologize for making money.
Public service is not just for public servants; it can and should be a part of every career.
The power of leadership: if you can get others excited about ideas, engage them to make those ideas better and mobilize them from thinking to doing, nothing is impossible. Leadership is the central force that mobilizes people to create something of value that did not previously exist.
Then the graduates were personally presented to the Chancellor beginning with the one and only Doctor of Philosophy then continuing with the MBA's and Master of Finance graduates. An hour later, the Chancellor, Michael Wilson, offered additional life lessons in his closing remarks.

I hope all heard his comments on the importance of integrity, courage, including the courage to ask for help, and self-care. I hope they took to heart his counsel to embrace opportunities to collaborate, to broaden one's knowledge by reading, and to be bold. I hope they heard him say, ..."don't let the fear of failure stop you. Failure is a part of life. It's a way to learn."

I'm sure all were thrilled to hear him say, "Concilium dimissum est."

I believe that education in all it's forms is always invaluable and any benchmark achievements are worthy of high praise and great rejoicing.

So with full hearts and great pride we celebrated with our son-in-law to be, his fiance (our daughter) and his family. We've always wanted a doctor in the family!

(Through the magic of modern technology, one can watch the entire ceremony here, all 89 minutes)

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 8 June 2015

Monday Moanings - June 8, 2015

I awoke this morning to heavy rain, the same rain that had disturbed my slumber much of the night. I finally gave up on the sleep idea and rolled out of bed just before 7. I need neither eyes nor ears to know it's raining - my head, my joints and bones broadcast the weather report, both current conditions and a 24 hour forecast, often with greater accuracy than the weather office. This morning was no exception. Rainy days and Mondays always get me down...

Once up and vertical - okay, so maybe not quite plumb bob vertical but good enough - a resistance to movement joined the aches of the night. Head and shoulders, knees and toes protested progress into the new day. My disposition was in serious danger of spiralling down the glum-glum drain and were it not for a long overdue coffee date with a good friend, just might have done exactly that.

We lingered over our flat whites, nibbled on warm banana bread and caught up with each other. When we left some 90 minutes later, the rain had stopped and the skies had brightened. I popped into the grocery store on the way home. With liquidity of movement my hands guided the cart up and down aisles and round corners with ease. Head and shoulders, knees and toes now working in concert with only a hint of protest. Then I decided to take the scenic route the rest of the way home, along country roads dripping with green. Why just two weeks ago dry brown threatened to overtake emergent growth but now field and forest are exhorting a grandeur of green; thick, luscious green. It's a miracle I tell you!

Good friends and good coffee are reliable remedies for most of what ails me and a good rain refreshes my world. The week looks much brighter now; full but manageable. I'd best get at it.

Oh, and thanks Vaughn for the coffee this morning.

©2015 April Hoeller