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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Some Thoughts

For days I have yearned to sit at my keyboard and pour myself out.

To reach into the sadness and gladness and all the profound and ordinary. To lay it all out and wrap it in words, and move it from churning into sentence and paragraph.

But I've not yet found that sweet release, and with each new try the words look cheap and profane. Too contrived to be authentic.

Let me say this, for sure.

That life is so short (see, how cheap, how ordinary, how tired these words appear?)

That kindness matters.


What doesn't matter, though I sweat and strain as though it does, is that

my kitchen cupboard doors are ugly

and the bathroom vanity is swelling.

I've grown a poochy little belly and

liver spots are cropping up on my face

I didn't pay my credit card in full.

or put the bikes in the garage before the snow.


It won't matter.

It doesn't really matter.


Here's the part where words won't help me say what does matter

because it will sound trite to talk about


It will sound contrived to talk about making sure that people are seen, and valued.

or to speak of sticking up for annoying people (because they usually annoy me, and I wish they would just go away).

It will all sound tired.

I know firsthand how impossible it is to be kind to little children at times, even though it matters.

I know how hard it is to forgive little and medium sized hurts, not to mention massive, horrific, life-altering wrongs.

It's even hard for me to tolerate the girl at McDonalds who puts an "X" in ESPRESSO when there clearly is no x.

So why would it make any sense for me to attempt to wax poetic on being kind, on caring for others, on "keeping the patient comfortable, and handing out tumblers of cool water", as Anne Lamott has been teaching me.

I can't ask you to learn from me, but I can say this. I think this is what it all comes down to- to show up. To care. To keep your patients comfortable and hydrated. To let your heart break. To not get too comfortable with your storing up and hoarding for the future. To say the stuff that's hard to say, but is true and good and Holy in some inexplicable way.

Even as you hate the colour of your bathroom and the laminate is cheap and chipping and the car has a billion thousand kilometers and the driveway isn't even paved.

Even as the kids pee on your kitchen chairs and floors and what you think you really want is for them all to go away.

Little urges and senses will come to you, and they may smell like banana bread or red wine, and you will know that its time to distribute the elements. To get off your pinchy, grumpy little self involved attitude and cut some slices to hand out with glasses of cool water or wine to share. Even if it feels a bit uncomfortable, and you're not sure your people even like banana bread.

Or maybe you'll know to just sit with your tribe and study their eyes and kiss their bald heads and nod while they tell you stories that make no real sense but that pour out of their old bodies like incense or rain.

And although you know that you're mean and self indulgent and grumpy, it will all return to you, your hands and heart overflowing. Your eyes will overflow too, and you'll be glad you always forget about make-up and that kleenex is cheap and you'll remember that life is short and precious. In that overflowing, it will matter less that your cupboards suck and your floor is broken, that you always forget to remind your kids to brush their teeth, and that your boy's room hasn't been vacuumed in a fortnight or twelve, or that your thighs are touching in weirder ways than they did when you were in your thirties.

These, I suspect, are some of the things that do matter. And on good days, it's not so hard to see that the profound is all mixed up with the ordinary, and if you blink, or spend your time sweating over those cupboard doors,

You just might miss it all.


Friday, January 09, 2015

All The New Year's Resolutions

  1. Only Ever wear stretchy pants. Ever. (when it's just barely January, and you're trying really, really hard not to hate yourself for the box of wine and bottles of wine and maybe the spiced rum too. oh- and the chocolates. All the chocolates. And then there was that beer-querita night- oy vay.)
  2. Dance Party, at home in the living room. Always. Someone once coined the phrase: "dance like no one's watching". Pfffft. In your own living room, no one IS watching. And if they happen to pass by to fetch a snack or use the toilet, they scurry with haste back to their bedrooms in shame and humiliation. Yay! alone time.
  3. Consumerism. Because thrift shops, forever.
  4. Bring back spice racks! Spice racks were the best idea ever. What happened?
  5. Learn about tire pressure gauges, so that its possible to put air in tires without being afraid of blowing one's face off. I'm terrified of losing my face right beside the Co-op gas bar, and when I'm found (faceless but identifiable because of my Ugly Legs) people will just laugh and laugh and point and say- "She didn't know how to use a tire pressure gauge?!
  6. Give up on Ideal Parenting, because clearly, I Suck.
  7. Keep redefining your identity. Because, keep 'em guessing.
  8. If you decide that you're a Lulu lemon girl, keep your eyes peeled for the $1.60 sales tags. (Altona MCC thrift shop, last weekend. Sorry you missed it.)
  9. Raise your kids right, even if you're a terrible parent.

(honour her request for a day of thrifting together, even if you'd rather be at a High End Mall with all the Cool Kids.)

10. Never pass a McDonalds without purchasing a medium coffee- one cream, one sugar, one espresso shot. And if the girl or boy who takes your order says "EXpresso" - hit them. Hard. I'm talking- classic bitch slap. Go for it. Trust me, they asked for it. There is no X in espresso.

11. Debunk the mysteries of the freezers.

Every fall, we purchase a whack-load of chickens from a free range farmer that we know. These birds take up a fair piece of space, and keep us in fowl all year. One fall when the chickens were due to die, we had a sore lack of freezer space, so Brian bought another one off of kijiji (my second love). From that day on forward, there were two: The Old Freezer, and The New Freezer. Of course, the New Freezer was not actually new. But.

What happened next may not be a mystery to you seasoned dual freezer owners.

We now have two deep freezers full of stuff, and nothing to eat except frozen dead chickens and some summer sorrel for summa borscht that no one ever makes. So, this long, cold, dark winter, I plan to eat my way through the freezers.

In my stretchy pants.

It's going to be an amazing year like no other, I can just tell. Because- all the resolutions.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Life With Really Ugly Legs

I imagine it was an undiagnosed congenital disease, since I barely remember a time that I wasn't hyper conscious that I wasn't like the other kids. By grade six, at the tender age of eleven, I was actively trying to do something about my condition. It was the year my mom required us to pack our own lunches, and let it suffice to say, that mine was left sorely lacking.

By the age of eighteen it must have been catastrophic, since it was at that time I began to puke my guts out. And not from the flu, either. More of a "home remedy" sort of approach to prevention against the fear of growing further out of control.
Often, I could tell that other people didn't notice my curse. They would comment on my skinny-ness, and how lucky I was. I needed that so badly, as I felt I had so little going for me in the broader arenas of personality or intellect. I had a serious deficit in "coolness factor" that no one could deny.
So, I went with skinny, even though I knew how ugly I was. And I puked my guts out because I had to hold the inevitable at bay. Getting fatter would only accelerate the condition.
Somehow I was always a pretty happy person, smiling and laughing a lot so by hook or by crook, I managed to get some dates. I kept smiling a lot, even when I thought the guys were total idiots, because I didn't want them to find out that I had no personality and no brain. So, sometimes they would think they wanted to marry me, since it was a pretty good deal from their angle. That's when I really had to bolt, since I hadn't even been honest about my problems, and if they knew me at all, they'd start laughing and running and not stop until they reached the sunshine coast.
By the time I met Brian, I was pretty tired of smiling all the time, and super tired of puking. So I told him all my terrible truths, especially the one about my legs being really ugly. I cautioned him that the condition was irreversible, chronic, and progressive and that he may want to consider his options, and quite possibly take up the sort of long distance running where you never, ever look back. But Brian was distracted by my breasts, I think, and kind of tuned out of the whole bit about the legs. Maybe he thought it wasn't really a big deal, just a little something that would clear up,over time.
He was wrong about that.

We're more than twenty-two years in now, and my legs are uglier than ever.


But Brian's legs are strong and beautiful, and since he has stayed married to me despite my condition, I like to think of them as at least half mine.


With his legs and mine, we even managed to compile a gorgeous family. Incredible.


A few years ago, I started to think about this word: "Enough". I'm pretty sure it was after a cousin told me that she had finally aligned herself with the truth that she was enough.

It sounded big and daring and bold to me. Outside of my reach.

But, it played on my brain, and I started to wonder about living as though I too were enough. Thin enough, smart enough, bold enough. Just for today. And to say ENOUGH! to things and thoughts in my life that were choking out the good, making the air feel thin and raw, and like I had to gasp and claw for a little place to feel safe in. Maybe there was already enough space for me.

So, one summer day at the beach, I didn't cover up my Really Ugly Legs when I went for a little walkabout. I noticed a lady doing henna tattoos, and I decided to practise wearing a visual reminder to myself that my legs were good enough.
Thing is, my legs have taken me to so many interesting places. Have carried my body and my eyes on such beautiful adventures.
My ugly legs, so utterly lacking in coolness, have been welcomed into some Very Cool atmospheres, where the Ultra Cool people hang out, playing their instruments and chatting about the book learnin'.
Perhaps one of the greatest surprises of investigating the enoughness concept has been that these Ugly Old Legs of mine have carried me through some very turbulent waters of terror, and into the local cross fit gym. These legs have remembered how to skip, have learned how to squat, and how to do a little jog.
My gym friends don't seem to notice my condition, and if they do, we are too busy laughing and loving on each other to take much notice about my ugly legs.

Last summer, my legs went ahead and did some other ridiculous things that I hadn't thought they were capable of. Like, participating in the local Imagine run for Mental Health, and much to my surprise, managing to run four out of the five kilometres that were set out before me. Evidently, cellulite in no way impedes the ability in thighs to grow tiny muscles and just keep moving.
And equally, if not more remarkable, was that my legs began to dance. It was the darnedest thing, that will live in the legends of Blunderview for generations to come. These nearly atrophied, entirely repressed Mennonite legs, with a pretty serious case of RUL, began to dance. They danced for hour upon hour, as the townspeople stood agog and aghast at this thing that had come to pass.
For sure, there are days when my condition feels crippling and my mind and eyes can't see straight. All I see is shame, disgust, and horror when I look down at the sags and bags, cellulite, fat, veins, lumpy mashed potatoey mess that is my legs.
But if I could gather up that little girl in the chevron fortrel pants, I would tell her not to waste a minute of her precious life worrying about the state of her limbs. I would tell her to pump her legs on the swing and go really high and really far, to use her legs to explore the big tree in the garden, and to love on her legs early on so that they know they are enough.
I'm pretty sure that 50, 60, and 70 year old Joyce would like to sit 47 year old Joyce down to do some leg talk too. I imagine them encouraging younger Joyce to stay mobile, limber, to use those legs to live out her life.
They might even say- "You think your legs are ugly now? Whoa mama! Those were the good old days, cuz now we be living with Really Ugly Legs!"
And I would try to remind them, in the kindest way I know how, that our legs are enough.
Just the way they are.



Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Dreaded Family Christmas

When you're part of the Kehler lineage, getting together for Christmas is no small feat.

Folks, its all about the appearances, and the pressure is insane.

I like to get up real early to ensure plenty of time for a pedicure.

There are a number of steps involved- move the dish rack. Lay out a towel beside the sink. Position self within arm's reach of the coffee machine, ipad, and variety of foot scupting tools. Soak the feet in hot water, and begin process of removing approximately eight pounds of nasty callous. Ask Brian to bring in the palm sander from the garage. And the chain saw. Things are pretty jammed up in the whole heel situation.


Like I said- getting ready for the Kehlers is a huge, big deal. There's always the dreaded heel check. So, after scraping off the worst of it, a lavish handful or two of vaseline gets massaged in, then the foot wrapped in saran before slipping into a pair of kitten socks.

Knowing how everyone would be checking for lulu and anthropology labels, I decided instead to wear all the cats all at the same time. Because, there would be no winning. Cat leggings, Hipster cat t-shirt, cat sweater, cat necklace. I left out the earrings because they make my ears itch, and what with the Saran Wrap in my socks, I just felt it was asking too much.

And have I mentioned the cost of this Christmas charade?! For her gift this year, my mother wanted lard from New Bothwell, PLUS I had to bring a salad. Sheesh. That's well over $13.00 at the grocery store, and I haven't even started in on all the gifts. Good heavens.

Every year, we are expected to compete in this gift exchange. Simply an exercise in outdoing one another's appearance of generosity. I mean- My nephew brought the most elaborate, obnoxiously, show offy gift for our white elephant gift exchange.


How is this not supposed to make me feel inadequate. So, my brother lands up with a satellite dish, my daughter with a fax machine, my brother in law with a perfectly intact set of 8 track tapes. Not to mention my niece with all those half filled bottles of hand lotion.

The pressure!

Then there's that awkward moment when the sixteen year old gets a pipe that absolutely no one fesses up to bringing. Now how am I supposed to make Christmas morning exciting for my son after that??

They're all just here to make me look bad.

Fortunately, there are bright moments that help with the sting.

(I force a plastic smile.)

And at one point we found outselves outside the living room window singing carols around the festive sausage tree. Mother was visibly moved. May have peed just a little.

All that singing around the sausage ladder may have been rehearsal for the really, really show-offy uptown types in the Kehler clan who brought their violins and insisted on marching around town to sing carols at people's windows. All this performance and overspending has left me rearranging my saran, and pulling at my catalope tights.

It's just not easy, folks.

Thirteen dollar salads, sausage ladders, gift exchanges that give everyone a belly ache from laughing way too hard. A dear old dad who still reads the Christmas story and leads us in the blessing. A dear old mom who insists on cooking the turkey, the meatballs, the ham, and all the buns at the tender age of eighty-eight. And my six remaining siblings, who simply refuse to sweat the petty things.

Or pet the sweaty things.

Good thing I kept my feet under wraps.









Friday, December 12, 2014

Because, Broken.

There's a lot of stuff broken in the world. It's easy to see that in the Big World, what with the CIA shooting blender meals up suspect's asses with Dr's approval, the UN running out of money to feed refugees in Syria, and moms who kill their babies. And while all of that and more is horrifying, its all sort of "out there", and pretty easy to compartmentalize as "things that will never happen to me, and that I can't do too much about, -sigh-"

But the busted up world isn't just "out there" and no one is offering immunity from all the sad and broken coming into our families, friends and ourselves.

I've been ever so slightly taking it out on Brian in the form of neediness and unrelenting snuggles, snivelling and whining in his ear to please not leave me... or die... He's been largely tolerant, patting me and saying "there, there" types of things while every so patiently reminding me in the gentlest of flabbergasted terms that he's not persuing a sexy relationship with anyone at the local grocery store or during his early morning forays to the pool where he swims lengths with a hairy jumbo sized panting man.

But its all around me folks, and this isn't news to you because many of you are living it. You're figuring out how to hire lawyers and divide mortgages, and maybe kids. Or you're sitting in the hospital with your babies and feeling every shade of helpless. Or wondering when you'll land up in the hospital with your kid (or husband, or old dad, or....) Some of you, my friends, feel like there's a giant sign on your head that says "Shit here" because that's what your boss is doing. (or your son, your husband, your sister...) Everything feels tenuous and incredibly fragile, and that sense of invincibility is way gone.

We are meanwhile working hard at our day jobs because the plumbing broke and the car payments must be met. Plus there might be a mediator to pay for, or some extra dollars to sneak into a secret account for when its finally time to leave the guy that shoves you up against a wall and calls you a fat bitch. Or you accidently ran over your smart phone and need to rustle up $500 to pay back your Mastercard.

There are Pots of Gold to buy for the piano teacher, and your cousin's baby died so your'e trying to figure out how to navigate family Christmas. Dad keeps falling and not remembering and every time you say good-bye at the door, it feels like you're leaving your preschoolers alone at the top of the stairs with sharp knives, and a pot of gasoline bubbling on the hot stove.

Your kids want to know what you want for Christmas and all you can think of is- I DON'T KNOW but I need: Time, and I want a couple of trips to get out of endless winter, and, hey some version of world peace would be nice. And you feel like a first class brat for being depressed about something as mundane as cold, knowing full well that you're living a very privileged sort of existence, what with the utter lack of masked snipers in your immediate neighborhood. But a couple of trips or one would be so nice, and way more doable than helping your friends with broken hearts and broken children, and you recognize that you're selfish anyway, so may as well say it out loud.

The Christmas tree just looks weird this year, and you catch yourself thinking- why do we do these strange things? Bring in a living thing to watch it die by twinkle light?

But we do. We practise our traditions or make new ones to accomodate our missing holes and shattered parts. Like trying to ensure eye contact with the Wal-Mart employee while paying for the chocolate oranges and Disney Frozen socks. Remembering that she's a person with her own family and plumbing, her own fears and wishes, and take the time to ask if her customers are being nice to her today? Are her feet sore?

**(but I'm not nice to the people who phone me to offer to sell me things. They are not real people. They are monsters. Do Not in any case, phone me with any sorts of offers. Also- DO NOT come to my door to sell me meat off the back of your truck, or try to talk to me about a home security system. In that case, you have recinded your right to be a human. You no longer have feelings or any human characteristics, as far as I am concerned).

I'm at the awkward part of this blog post now, where I should turn this gloomy ship around and offer all kinds of hope and Bible verses, but all I've got is "love your neighbor" and some awkward, non specific version of peace and good will toward humans.

I'd like to offer concrete advice for how to heal some hearts. How to rescue the kids. How to make love last for really real next time so that nobody dies or leaves. How to fix that disorder, that cancer, that weird kidney thingie. I'd like to be able to tell all the kids that their dads won't die until they're at least 92 and I'd like to tell the old men that its ok to stop taking their pills and go ahead and die. I'd like to tell the young moms that their next baby won't die in or out of utero and that their other kids are also immune. From all the bad things.

But I can't offer any of that without becoming hopelessly cheesy and full of bull crap, even though I'll stubbornly hold onto the conviction that God is good, and that Jesus' words of loving one another with casseroles, mittens, wine, and tears are definitely the way to go. (slightly paraphrased version of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the imprisoned). Sometimes the people we love are in different kinds of prisons than the one Peter lost his head in, and I think we should visit them there too.

It's too bad that we can't save each other. Because its what I would like to do.

So, my loved ones, and the ones I don't even know but I'm rooting for anyway- Let's decide that love wins. That it rises to the top, past the scum of the ones who leave. Past the pain of the ones we've lost and the ones we're losing.

But because the pain is so real and so deep and so awful, I'll try not trivialize it with pat answers and trite words. It's hard work to keep deciding on love, even when we want to hurt each other and we'd rather crawl under the covers with a box of wine in one hand and some nice gin in the other.

Turns out that there is a pretty great verse to wrap it all up with, folks. Huh. who knew.





Thursday, November 27, 2014

Almost Entirely Random Observations on a Frigid Thursday Morning in November

Cheerios in milk. The most unholy, putrid smelling grossness ever to daily assault my early morning nostrils. Yuck. I've learned to hold my breath while cheerfully encouraging fuzzy headed babies to swallow them up.

Chairs. Not professionally diagnosed, but I'm convinced that I have a chair disorder. They follow me home and fill my space like mewing kittens. Thirteen kitchen chairs, four armchairs, two rockers and a couch. Not to mention all the chairs I've resold when I recognized things spiralling back out of control. Again.

I like my 1970's chrome, brown, yellow and orange floral chairs. They're delightfully outrageous. My chippy white wooden pressback chair. The turquoise chrome baby highchair with the glittering sparkles. (That's not going anywhere.) And the yellow highchair with partially destroyed decal. I have a serious fondness for old decals.

The golden thrifted armchair is perfect for reading, petting the cat, laying the dog across my lap, and because there's a chippy cupboard right beside it, I can also have my coffee within arms reach.

Book, cat, dog, coffee. No need to pontificate.

Behind that, kind of tucked against the wall, is my orange and black retro, crazy chair, a gift from a friend whose husband forbid her to make it part of their household. A tragic story really, but I'm glad to have benefitted from his lack of fen shui insight.

The patterned turquoise chairs were a major score, found while yard sale-ing in Kleefeld. I don't think you need me to explain that any further.

Then there's the singular item we have actually spent money on. The big granddaddy rocking chair where Brian likes to sit and read books about the Camino de Santiago, or chat with chicks online all day under the auspices of playing words with friends. A few years ago we decided to properly fix and reupholster it to a tune of five hundred dollars. No regrets, although I do break into the tiniest cold sweat when the littles pretend its tinkertown in the winter, while typically armed with serrated plastic play dough knives and lost pens.

And then just last night, I had 15 minutes to fly through the thrift shop. It was long overdue, there just hasn't been any time for languishing in thrift shops because of the litany of short and long term mission projects I've recently signed up for (that's another post.) And there, under the strains of magical music that only I could hear, was another rocking chair, sort of a long lost cousin to our own pride and joy rocker. Wooden, with dowels, perfect for repainting chippy white with undertones of turquoise and green. (colors my house craves, constantly, without balance or regard for interior design publications). The chair of Great Potential was a whopping eight dollars, and it followed me home.

My chairs are like family to me, really.

Please don't tell me that my family is too big and that I need to abandon some of them. I'll be forced to unfriend you.

Toast. It's winter again on my side of town, so it's taking me a solid six cups of black coffee to get me to 10 AM most mornings. And when the littles start fighting over the White Chair and the Cup With The Purple Lid, I sometimes find that toast is nothing short of medicinal. Especially since pre-noon tequila shots are frowned upon when raising other people's offspring. I never have found an appropriate space to list that on my resume.

And toast naturally brings me to: Pee. It's Pee Week at Joycie's house. No, we are not potty training, that's been done. This week is just sort of a break from the traditional, middle class, suburban notion of peeing on toilets, so we are celebrating unexplored oppurtunites such as: furniture, the floor right in front of the toilet (upstairs) and the floor right in front of the toilet (downstairs), and finally- the carpet by the back door. Softer somehow that the cold linoleum right beside the carpet, and more convenient than the toilet, slightly to the right.

I've found myself craving toast this week. And six more cups of black coffee.

Particularly as I sit on the (now laundered) chair and stare at the billions and trillions of toys on the floor. To properly raise other people's kids, you have to fill your basement with this plastic stuff in the shape of tractors, graders, pink cups and forks, building blocks, transformers, and toy adding machines. Then to contain the sheer mass of it all, and intend to keep it all organized, you need toy bins. I like the medium sized, brightly colored plastic ones that are easy for the kids to tidy up with One for books, one for little cars, one for play food, etc.

So you and I see it like this: Bins are for toys.

Kids see this: Bins ARE Toys.

First task at hand at play time is to invert all the bins. Dump everything onto the carpet. Step on the toys and cry because they hurt the bottoms of bare feet, (socks are for shoving behind the couch cushions) Then line up all the bins behind the couch to use as tiny ladders to launch their volatile little selves up and over. Then the toy bins morph into portable beds for all the fuzzy care bear babies. Become ideal for packing lunches for pretend picnics. Get piled high with Little Ponies and John Deeres to play "Happy Birthday!" Or turn the bins upside down, cover them in a superman cape tablecloth and play tea party. Lure a little baby into a bin and push them around the basement. Bins also make great helmets, or weapons. Depending on your convictions.

I've considered getting bigger boxes so that we can store the toys and the bins in larger boxes, but I think we all know where that's headed: choo choo train and school bus.

That's pretty much it, more or less for this Thursday.

It's cold, and random. Only four months to go.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Oh, The Blog Posts I Haven't Written

In Rattatouille, there's a scene where chef Rat tries to teach his more ratty brother how to put flavours together in more imaginative ways.

Then ever so briefly, the brother hears an visualizes a sort of flavour symphony forming in the air above hime until suddenly and abruptly-- POOF! its gone again.

Such is the tale of Joyce and her blog posts. The word symphonies begin, there are lovely little swirls and flashes and inspirational sort of background music. My fingers start to tingle, and I yearn for a few minutes to find my keyboard so I can let it all pour out of me. Until- Poof! Nope. It's gone again.

And that's why I haven't quite written about

How I Don't Even Know Who I Am Anymore: My Tiny Midlife Crisis, and

Watching My Dad Disappear, and

How I Re-Found My Sewing Machine, and

Life: How Lifelong Relationships Vaporize, and

Brunch With Karla, and

Raising Boys, and

My Body, The Ongoing Story, and

How I Made Peace With My Bread Machine, and

The Last Supper: Giving Up My Position on the Thrift Shop Board.

So maybe I actually don't even know why I am any more. Sure, I'd love to write about it, but it remains to be seen whether any swirly bits of inspiration will stick around long enough for finger to find keyboard. One can only hope.