Thursday, 25 August 2016

Thursday, or Thereabouts - August 25, 2016

Summer W(h)ine

The heat and humidity have left my head throbbing and my body limp. With only a few very welcome dips, the temperatures here have hung out at 30°C or more for way too many days in my book. But I have soldiered on through air thick with humidity, heat, haze and the occasional hail storm.

I have laboured to keep the garden viable with liberal doses of water. An Olympic relay of sorts, porting sloshing buckets to baskets, dumping them out and going back to the tap for refills.

Can't you just smell the basil?

Too hot to linger here...

I am so done with summer 2016, but it seems it is not done with us. Various outlooks for September through November all forecast a continuation of above normal temperatures and below normal rainfall. The drought-stressed trees are unlikely to yield a vibrant autumn display. Oh but watch out for the release of the 2016 red wines next year from Niagara. It's going to be a smokin' hot vintage.

Keep calm and Wine on.

©2016 April Hoeller

Monday, 22 August 2016

Monday Moanings - August 22, 2016

Coming of Age

What a sublime joy it is to partake of all the benefits of the mature years! I am privileged to take my place in the circle of grey temples and fallen arches, wrinkles and bottom-heavy hour glasses.

Why just this morning, while most of you were still cosy in dreamland, I was already up and out making the most of one of the truly special benefits of my age.

This occasion was so special, so very important to me that I began preparing for it yesterday.

Cloistered within the walls of my house I cleansed myself of all impurity and fasted from all but clear broth and water.

Hardly a pleasant experience, but life's special moments are not meant to be taken lightly, but rather discreetly, advisedly, soberly and in the fear of God.

And let me tell you if four 5mg Ducolax® tabs, 300ml of CitraMag® and 2 sachets of Pico-Salax® taken over a course of 12 hours doesn't put the fear of God into you; doesn't move you to be afraid, sore afraid; if it doesn't bring forth an urgency that has you begging for mercy, well then nothing will.

But that was yesterday.

Today the colonoscopy - a little uncomfortable but the drugs are fun. Make no mistake, a colonoscopy will never make it onto my list of top ten fun things to do, but it is on my top ten list of health checks.

Today's result: 2 small polyps, which were removed. While this isn't the all clear I had 10 years ago, it's still a good result.  My next colonoscopy will be sooner rather than later - not the 10 year interval I just had, but more like 2-5 years.

Fine by me.

For my new GP and I, our job together is to get me to 80, a good, confident, robust 80. Because I don't meet the criteria for the FOBT or newer FIT stool tests, a colonoscopy it has to be.

An afternoon spent with my backside firmly planted on the white porcelain throne, occasionally spewing expletives along with everything else that had ever been inside my digestive system, followed by 10 minutes for the scope, seems a small price to pay.

For all of us between 50 and 75, screening for colorectal cancer is important, no matter how unpleasant or distasteful it may be. Think of it as a coming of age kind of thing, a rite of passage into the ranks of the grey temples and fallen arches.

Live long and prosper.

©2016 April Hoeller

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Thursday, or Thereabouts - August 18, 2016

Let's go to the Ex!

The proclamation of the end of summer, the return to school and the resumption of regularly scheduled programming bellows to life tomorrow. Yes folks it's that time again - the Canadian National Exhibition, (aka the CNE or The Ex) 2016 edition, opens for the 138th time in its history.

The last time I was there was 1995.

The best part? Meeting up with my Mom - sharing the memories of bygone years with my daughter.

I'd love to go the Ex again!

I say that every year but as much as I think I would love to go to Ex, I have to concede that the CNE I want to go to is the one I went to as a child in the 1960's.

Teens and adults alike camped out for days in order to be the first through the Princes' Gates. Coming from Etobicoke in the west end of the city, our usual entrance was through the somewhat less grand, yet no less exciting, Dufferin Gate.

After a bus to Jane and Bloor followed by two streetcars, my older sister and I made our way into the fairgrounds, heading straight to the fountain, as per Dad's instructions,
"Meet me at the fountain."

The Dufferin Gate, ca. 1960

Then it was on to the Midway, passing by the Press Building, the Better Living Centre, the
Grandstand, and the Food Building.

I'm not sure why but the Food Building was rarely if ever, a permissible stop along the way. Perhaps it was the crowds. Perhaps neither Dad (nor Mom on those few occasions that she came with us) trusted the quality of the offerings. Perhaps it was because they really didn't want us to have a taste of what we could not afford.

Candy floss - which one year ended up as a pink decoration on the back of a man's brown suit . For the record it was my sister's candy floss, not mine. Mine was blue!

Warm ice cream waffles, most of which melted before making it into my mouth, leaving sticky hands and clothes. Dad was not amused.

Sometimes a Corn dog or a few Tiny Tom donuts were the treats of the day.

Flash forward to this year's food offerings at the Ex and I think perhaps my folks restraint still has some merit. Fried butter is so very SIX years ago. 2016 is all about crispy cricket dogs, pulled pork cinnamon buns and steaklairs.

Rainbow Grilled Cheese - image courtesy of  BlogTo

Want to see more of the 2016 food offerings? Check it out here.

But who cares about the food? The rides are where it's all at!

The Midway 1966

Being all of 10 years old my faves were pretty tame: the Ferris Wheel (in later years even the double Ferris Wheel), the carousel and it's souped up sister the Derby Racer, the Dodge 'ems and something called the Polar Express. The games of chance were always a huge disappointment for me. Every year it looked so easy to get that dime onto a plate, or shoot down big yellow ducks as they moved across the shooting gallery. Every year I wasted way too many dimes. And there were tears.

In 1975 my cousin Claire, just a visitor from England, manage to get her coin (by then not 10¢ but 25¢) on the plate. I wasted my quarters - again - but didn't cry, well not really. Okay maybe just a prickling around my was sooo not fair!

Back to the 60's - I well recall the year, Dad gave my sister and I $5 to spend on rides (rides back then were 25¢) while he went off exploring some of the buildings. My sister, six years my senior, had different tastes when it came to rides. Not only did she con me into going on the Wild Mouse, she put me in the front seat of those little two-seater cars. Sheer terror! The first and last time I have ever been on a roller coaster.   
The Wild Mouse, 1965

Touring the back alleys of the sideshows was always an adventure - fun (weird people) and scary (snakes and really weird people). But it was a place my Dad loved. In the mid-1930's he had worked as a carny with the Conklin brothers at these amusement shows during the summer. It helped pay  his way through university. 

Back then freak shows were a hit - "Believe it or not!" Spectacles we would today find quite despicable today, were all the rage. 

As we walked along Dad would begin to recite the well-practiced banter: 
"Ernie and Len - Four arms, four legs, two bodies with but a single head.
Come in and see them now." 
"Sonteega the headless woman, decapitated in a train accident in Reading, England.
Doctors don't know how long she may live. Come in and see her now!"
Hoppy the Frog Boy, The Fat Lady ("My, but She is FAT") and the snake charmers were in his repertoire too, though few of the characters remained part of the 1960's sideshows. I only 'saw' them through my Dad's recitation, yet I'd go home and parrot Dad's banter to all the neighbourhood kids. They may have been to the Food Building but they never got to see the wonders of the back alley side shows. 

Let's go to the Ex!

I'll show you Ernie and Len, Sonteega and maybe some of the others...

Meet me at the fountain.

©2016 April Hoeller

Monday, 15 August 2016

Monday Moanings - August 15, 2016

Out of Reach

I will never look this good! 

I skipped out of the house this morning, brand new gym bag slung over my shoulder - woman on a mission.  I was heading to the fitness centre for the first time since March and I was so ready to get back at it after too many months of illness. It was time to snatch that really snazzy Lululemon® tote bag, a Mother's Day gift from my 2+2 children, off the back of a chair and get both of us working out.

Five minutes after leaving the house, I realized I'd left my smartphone at home. I knew exactly where it was - on the kitchen table. I almost turned the car around, but then my inner judge, a very close relative of my inner critic, swung her gavel in the air at me, "You don't need it!" With a sharp crack, the gavel smacked me down.

She was right! At most I would be gone from home for 2 hours, and most of that time I would be unavailable anyway (workout or driving). So just what would I need the phone for? Well I'd be out of reach for a whole 120 minutes. What's the big deal? Back in the days of the landline only I'd be away from the home phone for 8+ hours and life went on.

Oh but this is a smartphone! What about all those text messages? Get real - I'm in no danger whatsoever of overworked digits or walking into things while glued to text on a screen.

At the risk of showing my age,  real conversation means real listening and there's a phone for that. Or better yet, get together in person.

Well then, what about all those bleeting news alerts ? OMG - I might not know about some tragedy, some atrocity, the latest political lunacy or maybe even a flash of good news, in real time. So what? I can play catch up in my own time and there's a radio for that.

When did it become so essential to be connected all the time, to not just have smartphones, but to wear them - everywhere, all the time? I know there are situations that demand such vigilance. For years while my mother was in long term care, I carried my cell phone (no smarts about it!) everywhere - yes including the bathroom.

She died six years ago. Now I'm retired. There are no business deals or critical incidents that need my immediate input. There isn't anyone out there who truly needs me to be available 24/7.

What is so wrong with being out of reach for a while? What is wrong with choosing when and where to be available to receive all the news and images, information and advertising, email and spam?


I'm reminded of a story about adult children and their older parent. The mom lived alone in a house without a phone (imagine that!?). The adult children concerned for her safety, convinced her to get a landline. After it was installed the kids called several times but there was no answer. They rushed over to the house, to find mom sitting in her chair knitting. "Mom, why didn't you answer the phone?"

"The phone is there for my convenience and when it is convenient, I'll answer it." she said without so much as looking up from her wool and needles.

My lesson of the day - more of a reminder than a lesson:

My smartphone is there for my convenience, 
and when it's convenient, I'll use it.

In my own time, I'll respond to the beeps, clicks and ring tones. And yes, I will take it with me when heading out for a bit, but I won't panic if I leave it behind. When the mood strikes me, I'll use its amazing power to explore the world. Otherwise, I'll be at the gym, or writing, or day dreaming, or cooking, or just exploring the real world outside my door.

It is good for the soul to be out of reach from time to time.

©2016 April Hoeller

Monday, 8 August 2016

Monday Moanings - August 8, 2016

Summertime and the living is...

...sputter, sputter, whine, whine.

It's too hot without any change in sight, at least not this week:

 "Another impressively dry and very hot week ahead for Southern Ontario. Dew points between 20-25c will create high to extreme humidity readings peaking on Thursday/Friday. The heat and humidity will begin building through Southern Ontario Tuesday, and peak Friday. Temperatures will soar into the low-mid 30's Thursday and Friday feeling like 40-47c for many once you factor in the humidity!" 
Ontario Tornado Watch Forecast 

"Impressively"??? Not in my books! I've got my cranky pants on and darn little can even get close to being impressive. But you've heard this song and dance over and over again this tepid season.
So what else is new?

Well my inner critic is alive, well and very happy! She's having a whale of a time and getting high on her own fumes too. According to this mouthy broad, there is no end to the list of my shoulds and oughts, incompletes and outright failures. As if that litany of criticisms were not enough, she knows that if she casts such charges within the dark cloak of aging, she can really cut me to the quick.

Her sorcery distorted the bathroom mirror this morning. Some old lady's face stared blankly back at me. "Your not one of the cool kids anymore," the critic cackled, "you're just an old fart!" And I took the bait -  hook, line and sinker, especially the sinker.

There are times to shut the inner critic up, drop kick her out of earshot and this morning was surely one of them. But of course it was too late. She had landed the blow.

There are also times to let the herald of negative self-judgement rant, let her barrage of outlandish insults pile up in some insignificant corner as crumpled up rejection notices. Sometimes there is a kernel of wisdom buried within that heap of complaint. For me that wisdom is about acceptance: I'm not thirty anymore. Dammit, but I'm just not.

But don't think for a moment that this all means I'll be pulling up a rocking chair and doing some knitting (stitches too tight, too loose, dropped stitches - I hate knitting!) anytime soon.

Some of my days are made for pull-out-all-the-stops action.
Some are made for do-nothing quiet.
Most of my days are a bit of both in dynamic proportion.

All of my days are made to be enjoyed, savoured, and celebrated.

And I think  my inner critic has had more than enough face-time this month.

Environment Canada has just issued a Heat Warning... AGAIN!

So, I can be found doing one of two things - either watching the Summer Olympics or planning our next great adventure, and perhaps even both at the same time!


©2016 April Hoeller